Saturday, March 31

Top 9 Things I just don't want to think about but do

9) How long before another South Carolina elected official ends up a subject of the Daily Show or Entertainment Tonight.

8) When a windshield bully will strike again and force me to make my insurance company pay for a new windshield for me. Those windshield bullies are everywhere. The radio ad tells me so.

7) President Palin

6) The average I.Q. of the United States Congress

5) What Mormons drink at a Tea Party.

4) How the world would react if Lt. Governor McConnell presided over the State Senate in his Confederate officer uniform.

3) How many people who the public helped to educate now want to attack public education

2) I hope President Obama is better at picking winners and losers in international affairs than he is at picking basketball.

1) Just what part of a chicken is considered the nugget?

Medicaid Applications : Factors To Consider While making Medicaid applications

It is obvious that any time a patient walks or is driven into a medical facility, there are expenses involved and adequate plans must always be made in order to settle them so that the bills do not become an impediment in ordinary day activities upon the patient recovering from whatever is the reason behind the visit to the facility. It is in this respect that one needs to understand how to fill Medicaid applications.
Medicaid Applications : Factors To Consider While making Medicaid applications
Taking into consideration the fact that one can never tell what bills are likely to accumulate from an illness until they are fully recovered; many people find themselves in serious trouble when a simple complication that they assumed would be resolved in no time at affordable costs end up becoming a protracted medical problem that ends up costing too much.

It is with such cases in mind that the government came up with schemes to help victims overcome such situations and the unforeseen expenses that are a common feature in medical practice. It is however important to note that this is absolutely different as compared to Medicare which is some kind of an insurance open to all.

The most important factor to note when you need to process this forms is that the scheme is available to a select few. The groups that are eligible include the following groups namely children, disabled persons, expectant women, persons with dependent children and elderly citizens above the 65 year age bracket.

The other crucial factor that every one looking at the possibility of applying for the same is that each state has its own requisites when it comes to this particular plan and it is therefore important to check out what the prevailing conditions are before you take up the forms and start scribbling away.This is an important factor since each federal government provides specific guidelines based on a number of factors that they think should play an important role in the process. Therefore each applicant must consider the state in question and take time to verify what the terms of eligibility are before engaging.

Just a tip to all those who are interested or are considering benefiting from the same, a major factor that is taken into consideration when determining eligibility from the plan is the assets as well as income sources of the individual as well as the expenditure. It is at this point worth noting that it is only by monitoring the expenditure that they can be able to determine whether you are an adult with dependent children or not.

Another major thing to note is that the Medicaid applications form is always available online and can be downloaded and printed or even filled up online and submitted making it easily accessible to all. It is however significant to note that the information provided in the form should be accurate since there are higher chances of failing if the information you provide is not substantiated meaning that some are false. It is also important to note that in some cases the aid comes with a number of benefits too.

VUI is not paid by anyone

Voting Under the Influence is among the most critical blogs of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Haley remarked on her facebook page that blogs daring to criticize her were being paid to do so.

VUI can not speak for other blogs. But, we are not paid by anyone. In fact, no one involved with putting this blog together gets paid by any political interests. We simply see things as they are and present things as we see them. Everyone involved with VUI makes their living through other means. This endeavor is out of love and concern for this state.

Perhaps that notion is foreign to Haley (R-Rich and friends), but there are some people who love this state and its people and put themselves out there, not for personal financial gain or personal political gain, but just to do the right thing, to call it like it is.

Further, this is America. Blogs like VUI have a right to criticize, to question, to be a thorn in the side, so to speak, of those with power. That is the American way. It is disturbing that Governor Haley seems to contend that such voices should be silenced if they are aimed at her. That notion of Governor Haley's is even more outrageous when one considers that she benefited not only from the campaign contributions of the Howard Rich gang and the Georgia port folks, but from paid bloggers singing her praises.

Perhaps that is Haley's new definition of conservative government. Government should be limited unless it can be used to silence critics. Perhaps there are some paid critics, like there are paid champions of Governor Haley. But, VUI is not paid by anyone to blog our opinions, period. Not one penny. And, we say that Governor Haley and her staff are immature, ignorant of how government works, irresponsible and arrogant. As the second President of the United States, John Adams, once stated, "facts are stubborn things."

And, the dadgummed thing about facts, you can not buy them. They are just there for the world to see.

Thursday, March 29

Another of the SC GOP House Brat pack

South Carolina State Representative Thad Veirs resigned and is out of the House. But, that does not mean there are not more brat like representatives from Howard Rich.

Today's brat in the SC House is Rep. Eric Bikas (R-Rich/Haley) Apparently, Bikas and Representative Josh Putnam were "dressed down" for "dressing down" in the House Chamber a couple of months ago. Putnam, (R-Rich-Haley) apparently decided he would dress better and show up to work. Bikas went home and stayed.

Fair enough. If a member of the South Carolina General Assembly feels that he in good conscious can not be a part of the body, then he has every right to resign. That said. Rep. Bikas and the Rich-Haley pitchman Will Folks go on about how the Speaker treated Bikas, etc. as justification of sorts for Bikas sitting at home the past two months and drawing a pay check from the people of South Carolina. Bikas even flipped flopped on whether he would return his pay to upstate television station WSPA. Yet, Bikas is a product of so called South Carolinians for responsible government.

There lies the problem. Since a billionaire with kooky ideas and his friends decided to take over the small state of South Carolina, South Carolina has elected officials who are incredibly irresponsible and short sighted. Further, though they claim to be for limited government, the efforts to use taxpayer money to subsidize private entities has never been higher. That is big government at its worst, picking winners and losers in the private sector.

And, far too many of those elected in the wave of out of state cash and well paid wordsmiths have been long on ego and short on sense. But, even more sinister is their arrogance. Rep. Eric Bikas stands as a shining example of it. Bikas refused to work for the people for two months out of his own petulance, and is arrogant enough to think the people should pay him to do so. Bikas sums up the Rich/Haley crowd and shows what is wrong with South Carolina today.

Wednesday, March 28

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month, held every April, is sponsored by National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to increase public awareness aimed at reducing the stigma that often prevents individuals and families from seeking help.  In 2012, NCADD celebrates the 26th Anniversary of Alcohol Awareness Month with the theme, “Healthy Choices, Healthy Communities: Prevent Underage Drinking."

NCADD's website includes materials for local groups to conduct alcohol awareness activities including an "Organizer's Guide" that contains sample media releases, proclamations and other pubic information materials. 

A Prevention Services Task Force, appointed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides information about alcohol policy -- what works and what does not when it comes to preventing underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption. 

Tuesday, March 27

Medicare, Medicaid, And Social Security.Difference between these three terms

Medicare, Medicaid, And Social Security are all closely related and mostly confused terms used in conjunction with each other.They are some what different from each other.

Medicare, Medicaid, And Social Security.Difference between these three terms
Social Security :

This is the US federal program that makes income payments to millions of Americans. To qualify, recipients must meet the minimum requirements for having worked and contributed to the system, or they must be beneficiaries of people are. They must also meet age or disability qualifications. The traditional retirement age was 65 years old, but now that has been raised to 67 for many people who are still of working age.

For example, if you worked for the required amount of time, and contributed to the system, you should qualify for benefits. However, a spouse of somebody who qualified may also get benefits upon the death of the spouse.

The program is paid for by taxes levied upon current workers. Beneficiaries who are retired because of age or disability contributed to the system in the past, but their taxes paid for people who got benefits then.

To be clear, taxes you pay now are not really going towards your future benefits, but to current benefits. However, the people who get money now did contribute in the past, so they probably have some "entitlement" to the program.


Medicare and social security seem to go together, but benefits are not always collected at the same time. This is the US health insurance program for seniors and disabled people. The basic program only pays a portion of health costs, but it does cover things like doctors, hospital stays, and prescriptions. Many people supplement these benefits with private Medicare health plans too.

This is also paid for with taxes. It is probably fair to say that current taxes pay for current benefits. If recipients are retired, they have paid taxes in the past to support the care of past beneficiaries.

Medicaid :

Medicaid is different. It is a federal and state shared program that provides health insurance for qualifying beneficiaries with very low incomes and few assets. These people might be disabled, children, pregnant women, etc.

Some people are called dual-eligible. This is because they qualify for Medicare and Medicaid. An example may be a low income senior citizen who meets the qualifying criteria. Medicaid pays the tabs on a large percentage of US nursing care.

The program is supported by federal and state money.

France's "Universal Health Care" What is it?

WHO ranks France as #1 in healthcare efficiency and U.S. #37

November 8, 2010, I wrote a piece about "health care in France...", more of a chronicle of our personal experiences with obtaining healthcare in US and subsequently obtaining healthcare in France.  

Once again, debates are heating up about "Obamacare" and what that means. Currently it is with the Supreme Court.  My friends in the U.S. have asked me questions about the French healthcare system, since I am in that system.  So, the following is a more generalized overview of what "socialized medicine" or "universal healthcare" looks like in France...

I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of how the French health care system works, but I believe I can you a general overview.  The universal healthcare in France began in 1945 and is afforded to all legal residents (and currently illegals as well). In other words, no-one can be denied healthcare. Like "Social Security" in the US, it is funded through employers, employees and taxes, or, in our case, premiums paid directly to the state. The fallacy is that the government dictates health coverage; untrue. The state's primarily role is to govern costs through mediation of e.g., union/employers, number of medical facilities/equipment to support the population etc. as well as cost for reimbursements, amounts doctors can charge (assumes they are sector 1 doctors—see below). And, there are two types of hospitals: The public which is about 65% of the hospitals, and private (profit and non-profit oriented). You can choose which to go to, for routine visits or even for an emergency.  If, however, you feel incapable of going to ER, we have what's called "SOS Medecin" which provides 24/7 medical doctors to visit you at home. Sort of like "doctors on wheels."  I have used them and the system is extremely efficient. Your call is answered quickly, and they will tell you what time to expect the doctor. Mine came right on the dot.  The prices are very reasonable, and of course you will be reimbursed based on your insurance program(s).

Doctor's on wheels (24/7)

As a non-EU but French resident you can enroll in the universal healthcare if you choose; however, you can also choose to go private and not use the universal healthcare system at all. In either case, there are no pre-existing condition exclusions and no health history is taken to enroll.The latter although more costly, is still affordable compared to US costs since they are European based insurance companies and do not have all the costly overhead as they do in US.  But legal residents are required to have some form of health insurance (illegals probably don't but they still are covered fully in emergency situations, like Medicaid is supposed to in the US).

So, as for doctors, there are basically 3-types of doctors. Sector 1, 2, and then private:

• Sector 1 doctors agree to only charge the fees approved by the government (e.g. the 'usual and customary' fee US insurance company imagine). So their charges are fixed. For example a general practitioner charges 23€ per visit, and the patient is reimbursed 70% (16.10€) by the healthcare insurance. The prices will vary depending on their specialty, e.g., Dermatologists I believe charge 30+€. Note: if your primary doctor refers you to a specialist, reimbursement is higher than if you went on your own.  But you are free to see any doctor you want (without the referral you will still be reimbursed but at a slightly lower rate).

• Sector 2 doctor are basically "freelancers" and can charge whatever they want. People in the national healthcare system can go to them; however, the reimbursement to the patient is still fixed to the approved tariff. These are usually specialty doctors such as dermatologists, ENT etc. So, for example they can charge 100€, but the government will only reimburse 16€ or whatever the reimbursement rate is for that specialty.

NOTE: you can get a 'mutuelle' (supplemental) coverage, which covers the difference between what is reimbursed and what you pay out-of-pocket. So, for example, you pay whatever premium (or deductions from your paycheck if you work, note: premiums are based on your income, but always affordable or free for the poor), then you can pay a private insurance carrier “mutuelle” e.g., 100€ a month to cover the difference. For example, if you get your eyes checked, then get glasses, it is 100% paid for through the reimbursement through your paid premiums and supplemental.  Just like AARP's supplemental insurance and medicare in the US.  The poor get a 'complimentaire' or free supplemental and thus their medical care costs them nothing.

• Private doctors. They are typically independent, and may or may not take private healthcare. For example, the American hospital in Pariswill accept private insurance and in most cases US healthcare insurance, but their fee structure is extremely high in comparison, so only worth going to if you have really good insurance.  The universal healthcare system might reimburse you at a very, very low rate for these private doctors.
Note: Labs also follow these rules, there are 'usual and customary' tariff labs and also private labs.  Most all labs (and most general practitioners) follow the government mandates (fees) unlike trying to find a US doctor who accepts Medicare or your particular insurance (PPO/HMO).

Pharmacies also fall under the government controlled costs. I can tell you from experience with both US and French pharmacies, even without insurance, it's much, much cheaper in France for the exact same medication. So, basically the choices are yours to fit your needs. Under the universal healthcare system, the government does not dictate what kind of treatment you can have. That decision is made by you and your doctor. For example, in January my doctor recommended a brain scan for “tinnitus”, my doctor simply wrote a prescription. There was no waiting for an approval and I got tested within a week of making an appointment. A prescription pad is very powerful here. In US, I would have to wait for an approval and oftentimes, wait a long period for the actual tests which can only be taken at certain labs. FYI..., been there, done that!

The only involvement the government will have is more “reminders” and free treatments. For example, I got in the mail a reminder last year that I need to get something similar to a Colonoscopy because of my age, which the government pays 100%. Another example, flu shots reminders are sent and are typically free. This is because the universal healthcare system believes in preventive medicine, rather than reactive medicine, which is actually more cost effective.

So, this is it in a nutshell. Again, very generalized. I'm sure you can get more detailed info through "google" research.

Although I am a strong believer in "Universal Health Care", mostly, I want to relay what I know through my experiences, and clarify any fallacies, such as government making health-care decisions (e.g., death panels). 

Monday, March 26

Marijuana legalization is not a sure thing

I keep hearing people say that marijuana legalization is a done deal in Washington.  As an Elway poll shows, this is simply not the case.  In fact, support for legalization slipped between July 2011 and December 2012.

Growth and development information on the Seattle Children's website

The Seattle Children's website includes a Growth and Development page that provides links to muliple health and safety resources.  Among them are:

Staying Connected During the Teen Years contains articles for both parents and teenagers. 
-- For teens: Why do I fight with my parents so much?  and Talking to your parents - or other adults
-- For parents: A parent's guide to surviving the teen years and Kids and alcohol

The Winter 2012 edition of the Good Growing newsletter includes articles about mental health warning signs and the importance of parents and their teenage children having a "bail out" phrase. 

Several videos about health-related topics including one about teenagers and depression

Friday, March 23

Partners in health : organic Vitamins

Why supplement one's diet and why choose organic vitamins over non-organic or lab-produced?

First off, let's consider that almost everyone lives a hectic lifestyle. Never before has anyone seen such volume of activity by any human being than the era we are in right now. Necessarily, this entails a fractional treatment with other activities your forefathers had the luxury of doing before such as eating healthy. 
Partners in health : organic Vitamins
The rigors of today's living have made people slaves to fast food, instant meal replacements that are just so prevalent today. In fact it has been shown in studies that the food you eat right now does not provide the same volume of nutrients of the same type of food 30 years ago. Imagine eating a banana 30 years ago is not the same as eating the same size or serving of the same banana variety today in terms of nutrient value. Because of this people have turned to supplementation to augment the lacking quality in our nutrition.

Bear in mind however, that not all types of supplementation are good for you. There are just a huge plethora of supplements out there that promise one thing and do another. That is why experts agree that organic vitamins, minimally processed, are the way to go. Not only are they akin to the natural state of vitamins as designed by Mother Nature but also they are more nutrient-dense than lab created vitamins. One such product in the market is Oceans Alive Marine Phytoplankton organic vitamins. This product is a result of extensive research of European Scientists in originating a perfect supplement derived from nature's marine phytoplankton reserve. This supplement is a result of a process using bio-reactors which allow natural photosynthesis with the help of the sun to raise a significant number of marine phytoplankton.

Using Oceans Alive Marine Phytoplankton supplement will help you reap the benefits of better brain function, superb cellular repair, cancer prevention, improved heart health among so many others. The list of positive effects of marine phytoplankton consumption could amount to a full textbook but the ease of consumption is now within reach with Oceans Alive organic vitamins. Do not be left out and let your family's health depend on guesswork. You deserve the best supplement out there and with Oceans Alive organic vitamins, you just made the right decision.

Teacher support can delay alcohol use among middle school students

Emotional health factors, including anxiety and depression, stress and social support can predict early substance abuse in youth, according to a study conducted through Seattle Children's Research Institute and researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle University.  Students who felt more emotional support from teachers reported a delay in alcohol initiation.  Those who reported higher levels of separation anxiety from their parents were also at decreased risk for early alcohol use. 

A hidden cost to private school busing

This blog made reference to possible increased costs to the taxpayer because of role unions might play if the state school bus fleet is privatized. Charleston County served as an example. Yet, that is the not the big hidden cost to the taxpayers that is not mentioned in all the talk about choice and freedom.

In the bill, the State Department of Education will turn over facilities to school districts. That might sound good to some who do know understand the way things work. Those bus facilities have enjoyed being exempt from DHEC standards on things like gasoline and oil spills because they are owned and operated by the State Department of Education. They are facilities that sit as potential money pits with the environmental issues that have already happened.

The problem is school districts are not exempt from DHEC laws and regulations. School districts will simply be given “junk” at a big cost if the bill to privatize school bus services comes to be. Literally overnight, local school districts will be strapped with cleanup costs that taxpayers will have to pay for.

It is a puzzling thing. It shows how Nikki Haley and General Zais and their supporters in the General Assembly do not think things out. In their zeal to supposedly limit government and give choice, they will create more government cost, either through unions or environmental clean ups or both. Let us be frank. More expense through a state tax or through a local school property tax is still more cost for government. The cost of cleaning up the now exempt facilities alone will hamper public school districts in a way that is unprecedented.

Now, if Governor Haley and General Zais just simply loathe public education and kids getting a shot at decent life through it, let them come clean and say that. After all, they seem all too eager to grab every dollar from education. They will not admit it. Instead, they will both rake in big campaign dollars doing the bidding of donors with self-interested notions, all the while not doing the homework , so to speak and not realizing that what they support is something that will actually cost taxpayers more money overall. Who knew that Governor Haley and her supporters in the legislature would fight so hard to bring us higher taxpayer costs via unions and environmental costs? But, hey, they will get their contributions.

There lies the real problem. For whatever reason, South Carolina elected a Governor, a Superintendent of Education, and some members of the General Assembly who seem dimwitted in thinking things out about how their policies will really affect this state. The campaign cash created them. It blinds them. It created pundits who walk lockstep with them. People who voted to make government cost less have ended up with leaders who will make government cost more. The only difference is the added costs will go into the pockets of folks who put them in office.

South Carolina was rated one of the most corrupt states in the United States recently. And, that is no surprise. Our leaders are not for limited government, they are for big government that benefits theirs. The school bus issue is just another example of it. They hide behind words like choice and freedom, but as the second President of the United States, John Adams, once said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Wednesday, March 21

Top 9 reasons Romney has for his primary opponents to drop out

9) I love to fire people. Isn’t that the GOP way?

8) Come on Tea Party folks, I don’t have any Black or Gay friends. Yee-haw ya’ll.

7) Money. Money. Money. I got more money than Donald Trump and better hair than he does.

6) I made it clear I do not care about poor people.

5) Like most American workers, I too am a son of a father born in Mexico.

4) Come on who do you want as national weatherman during a big hurricane? I got Weather Channel charisma.

3) Why are these people still here? I mean, I got the money, the looks, and the organization, do you really think some quack doctor or some fat white guy from Georgia or some guy who thinks sex with his own wife is a sin can beat Obama? Good grief what do I gotta do? God help us, they all drink caffeinated beverages.

2) I am Mormon. Resistance is futile.

1) My Etch-a-sketch is better than yours.

Apparently SC's Flounder does not take rejection well

SC Representative Thad Viers, the "Flounder" of South Carolina politics, is leaving the political scene. Flounder resigned his South Carolina House seat as news broke that he is about to be indicted for harassing an ex-girlfriend. A few weeks earlier, Viers ended his campaign for the United States Congress.

This is not the first time that Viers has had an issue with former love interests. A few years ago, when VUI first dubbed Viers "Flounder," he was dealing with issues related to his ex wife's boyfriend and threatening phone calls.

Apparently, Flounder does not take rejection well.

Add that to the rumored partying around Columbia, and you get the perfect representative according the Nikki Haley- Howard Rich crowd. They love the guy. But, then again, maybe they do because they don't want to deal with how he would handle the rejection. But, that crowd spent tens of thousands of dollars keeping Viers in office to to their bidding. Flounder defines their idea of a public servant. South Carolinians for responsible government indeed!

Some parting advice.....

Tuesday, March 20

Family Health Plus

Family Health Plus is a government health insurance program specialized for adults who are at ages 19 to 64 and have income or resources too high to be eligible for Medicaid Family Health Plus is available to single adults, couples without any children, and parents who only have limited income and are residents of New York State and United States citizens or even who fall under one of many immigration categories.
Family Health Plus
Family Health Plus provides prevention, comprehensive coverage and primary care, hospitalization, prescriptions and many other services. There are minimal co-payments for some Family Health Plus services around New York. Health care is provided through cooperating managed care plans in the Area.

Family Health Plus is available to all single adults, parents with limited income, and couples without any children, who are at age of 19 to 64 and are residents of New York State and United States citizens or even just fall under one of many immigration categories. If a person has health insurance through a federal, county, state, municipal or even school district benefit plan, then that person is not eligible to enroll.

If a person has employer-sponsored health insurance that is available through other types of employers, he may be eligible for help to pay for premiums, coinsurance, deductibles, and co-payments through the Family Health plus Premium Assistance Program.

There are limitations with the amount of assets or resources that one can have and still be eligible to enroll in Family Health Plus. The value of an individual's home will not be counted. However, the amount of income and assets or resources of everyone can still be eligible for Family Health Plus depending on how many people are there in the family.

Family Health Plus program is provided through the Managed Care Plans. Individuals must select a participating health plan when applied for Family Health Plus. Every effort has to be made to help individuals pick a plan that includes current physician. In choosing a health plan, it is necessary to have a regular doctor; get regular check-ups and see specialists if needed. There are also plans that offer dental care.

Coverage of the plan has includes the following:

* Physician services offered
* Hospital care for inpatient and outpatient
* Prescribed drugs and smoking cessation products
* Laboratory tests and X-ray
* Optimal, speech and hearing services
* Medical equipment
* Emergency room, emergency ambulance and other services
* Mental health, alcohol and chemical dependence services
* Dental care services
* Reproductive health services and family planning
* Radiation therapy and chemotherapy
* Diabetic supplies and other equipment services

Friday, March 16

Ron Wilson revisted

Long time readers of this blog will remember we called out then Anderson County Councilman Ron Wilson as a different kind of RINO, and we outlined his racist ties that were never refuted. All kinds of things ensued, including death threats on our founding Editor, Brian McCarty, and some twisted media stories.

That is politics. That is life. But, what is happening now is just plain ugly with Mr. Wilson. Various news accounts, along with the Attorney General of South Carolina, accuse Wilson of swindling millions of dollars from investors.

It is alleged that Wilson, and his business took people's money to buy precious medals and did not do that, among other things. VUI is not shocked at the allegations. This blog, and its owner are sorry for the folks who invested in the business that seems to have lost their life's savings. And, we hope, should the allegations prove true, Wilson gets the full force of justice from the state and federal governments.

But, after what we went through with this guy, we are not shocked. Not shocked at all. It seems par for the course, so to speak.

Sunday, March 11

Remove US forces from Afghanistan now

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, then President Bush and his national security team looked at the options for attacking Afghanistan, the home of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks. There were no good plans in the Pentagon. And, for good reason, the United States national security apparatus had made a decision during the Reagan Administration that putting United States boots on the ground there was not a viable option.

The country needed it, so we did it. Then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's "limited" war with the United States sending operatives to help the so called Northern Alliance against the Taliban was ordered. The search for Bin Laden was ordered. Frankly, it had to be that way. The American people demanded it. American honor demanded it.

Now, American honor demands leaving that God forsaken land that has taken down world powers before. It is complicated. It is difficult, but in the end we have no business having boots on the ground there anymore.

When the forces of the United States first overthrew the Taliban, the United States was supported by the world and viewed as liberators. The Taliban's harsh regime was replaced by an American backed government that allowed things like girls going to school and other measures accepted by world standards.

But, the United States stayed. We told the world we wanted to get Bin Laden for what he did to us. That seemed reasonable. We increased our military footprint, under two Presidents, both Bush and Obama, and our presence in the lives of people who are literally on the other side of the world.

Then, we found and killed Bin Laden in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. That started the feeling of Afghans about just what the United States was up to. But, we got the bad guy. Then the United States did not leave. Instead, the United States remained in Afghanistan, in force. That was the start of the problem we faced in credibility, not only with the Islamic world but with the entire world.

The people of Afghanistan are used to someone with power lording over them. When a people have spent most of their lives submitted to a powerful military entity, the Taliban, then is liberated by a stronger power who does not leave, then feelings develop that one oppressor has simply been replaced by another.

Add to those feelings of the past few weeks and the last few days. A incredibly stupid General ordered Korans burnt because a few prisoners passed notes in them. Then, a rogue United States Army Sergeant walked off post and killed civilians, including 9 children. Then that rogue Sergeant tried to burn the bodies.

That rogue Sergeant is a despicable human being and a disgrace to the United States and to the United States Army. His heinous actions have sullied the honor of the United States and the Army and the service and sacrifice of all those who have honorably served. If General George Patton was alive, Patton would shoot him on sight.

That said, no apology from various Generals, Secretary of Defense Panetta or President Obama will do in this case. The United States needs to leave the business of Afghanistan to the people of Afghanistan. If what rises up there decides to mess with our people again, we hit them. But, the United States is not an occupier, not an empire. The act of stupid Generals and rogue Sergeants can not happen if we are not occupying someone else's country.

The Navy Seals took care of the guy who masterminded the attacks of September 11th, 2001. The United States made it clear to the world, that we will relentlessly hunt down and bring to justice anyone who attacks us so. Now is the time for us to pull out of Afghanistan and show the world we are not angry occupiers of other nations.

If we stay in Afghanistan, it will get worse there. The people there will not trust us and they will plot against us. Already rumors are there that it was more than just one rogue soldier who did the killing of civilians. We stay there, and we play into the hands of the Islamic extremists who try to portray us as against God, occupiers, evil, etc. Further, we seem like like the bully on the block to the rest of the world instead of the keeper of the peace.

So, for the honor of the service of our military people, and for the honor of this country, and for the future security of the United States, I urge President Obama to remove United States forces from Afghanistan now.

Friday, March 9

Ard's resignation could shake up McConnell and the State Senate

This blog, and others have accepted as conventional wisdom that when, and I suppose to be fair at this point, if, Lt. Governor Ken Ard resigns due to his campaign finance scandals, State Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell will maneuver not to take the job, as the South Carolina constitution prescribes. It makes sense. McConnell is far more powerful in his current position than he would be as Lt. Governor, except for one thing, the Lt. Governor can be automatically elevated to Governor.

That elevation is no remote possibility in the chattering classes around Columbia. Those who are Haley supporters spread the word that Mitt Romney will be pick her as his running mate. If that is the case, and if gas is five bucks a gallon in November, Haley leaves Columbia to become Vice President of the the United States, leaving whomever is Lt. Governor from the time of her resignation until January of 2015 as Governor of South Carolina.

Those who are more critical of the Governor see a different end. Haley does have some ethical questions out there, and those are amplified by her critics. If Obama is re-elected, is not far fetched to think that some sort of federal investigation might happen on some matters, again, forcing Haley out. As one staffer puts it, it seems like Agnew and Nixon right now when one takes that side of things.

The bottom line is a good many folks are talking about Haley not finishing her term, which makes the choice of the next Lt. Governor, should Ard resign as predicted, all the more important. The odds of Haley completing her term are better than average. Fans and detractors could be just fantasizing in their murmurings. But, the rumors about Haley, good and bad, flying around adds to the intrigue that will choose the next Lt. Governor of South Carolina.

Then there is the State Senate make up to consider, should McConnell maneuver not to be Lt. Governor. It seems Democrats would support Republican State Senator John Courson as the stand in Senate President to be elevated. Maybe some of them really like Courson, but Courson's personality holds a State Senate Seat that Democrats could win should he become Lt. Governor. On the other hand, some Republicans seem to contend for Democrat Nicki Setzler, who holds a seat that but for his personality, Republicans could win. A possible compromise contender is Republican Larry Martin, who is in a primary fight with former Rep. Rex Rice. But, the seat is safely Republican. On the compromise note, Harvey Peeler would be an interesting choice, and would join his brother Bob as the first brothers to hold the office of Lt. Governor.

Further, should McConnell step aside for the stand in, we are guessing his re-election to President of the Senate will not be automatic, unless some deal is cut. Other blogs, and some folks in Columbia say Hugh Leatherman of Florence might challenge McConnell in that re-election.

Don't be shocked if Glenn McConnell, a man with a lot more insider knowledge of this state and its political players than this or any other blog, does not weigh the odds with his knowledge and just takes the job of Lt. Governor, gambling on something more and a shot at history. The calculations of that gamble might include the rumors that McConnell's re-election to the post of President of the Senate is not guaranteed after a stand in Senator is elevated to Lt. Governor. It could come down as an outside shot at being Governor versus a shot at being just a Senator from Charleston.

Wednesday, March 7

Nikki Haley and Mick Zais Pro Union afterall?

Governor Nikki Haley made a national reputation of taking on labor unions when she fought the National Labor Relations Board in regards to its stand on Boeing locating a plant in South Carolina. State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais seems to take a shot against the SCEA, the equivalent of a teacher's union in South Carolina, every chance he gets. So, hardcore real Republicans cheer both as fighters against unions.

But, their shortsighted stand on school bus transportation has union folks licking their chops. Haley and Zais, for various true believer and money reasons, support the bill in the South Carolina House that will sell all the school buses in the state fleet and make districts provide their own transportation or preferably contract with a private company for bus transportation. As their public money for private school tuition scheme, it is not well thought out.

First, public bus drivers in South Carolina can not be unionized. Charleston County decided to privatize its district buses and was met with unionization by the Teamsters, which drove up the cost of those buses. They could afford it. Other counties around South Carolina can not.

VUI will dig deeper into the public school transportation issue. But, this post is about unions. Under the Haley-Zais plan, unions will have an open door to take over your children's transportation to and from school. A private company doing that can be unionized by the Teamsters. They can strike for higher pay, better conditions, whatever, and at whatever time, and leave you scrambling to get your children to school.

As it stands now, your child's transportation is ran by the public. The buses are going to run everyday school is in session. Their trips to and from school can not be held hostage by a Teamster's Union Boss who makes a decision a thousand miles away.

But, that is the kind of thing that happens when two politicians who really do not think things out and have no beliefs other than their own well being push for things they are talked into by well paid lobbyists and groups. The truth is, privatize school buses, and you will have union battles all over this state as well as increased local school taxes, and kids finding themselves unable to get their constitutionally provided access to public schools, which will lead to more taxpayer costs with lawsuits and the like.

Who knew Haley and Zais were so pro union and so much for raising taxes and government spending? They might claim they are not, but their support of this bill shows that they are. Actions speak so much louder than words.

The "Fight of the Century"

It has been years since the sport of boxing was iconic in American culture. But, 41 years ago, on March 8th, 1971, boxing was the center of the cultural world. On that day, in Madison Square Garden, Joe Frazier, a native of South Carolina, met Muhammad Ali in the ring. It was billed "Battle of the Champions" and the "Fight of the Century," and for good reason. No fight like it had happened before in sport of boxing, and no showdown perhaps had happened in all of sports.

Joe Frazier was the recognized heavyweight champion of the world and was undefeated. Ali was undefeated as well, and had been the heavyweight champion of the world before he refused induction into the United States Army on religious and conscious grounds. That led to Ali being stripped of his titles. That led fight commentators and fans to see Ali as the true champion, since he had never lost his title in the ring.

The circumstances surrounding Ali's political stands created a cultural clash. It was billed as establishment versus anti establishment. It was billed as working class ethics versus elite liberalism and views. Some in the Black community billed as Uncle Tom (Frazier) versus a real Black Man. Added to all that, Ali was press friendly, smooth in his talking and his hyping. Frazier was gruff. It was a true cultural battle. The working class folks, especially working class whites, backed Frazier. The press and the so called elite backed Ali.

The fight would prove one of the ages. It would go the distance of 15 rounds. Frazier would win a unanimous decision, in part because of his performance in the late rounds and his knockdown of Ali in the final round. That would be the high point of the career of Joe Frazier.

Frazier would lose the heavyweight championship to George Foreman, yes the grill guy. Ali would then add to his legend by defeating Foreman with the "rope a dope" strategy in a fight billed as the "Rumble in the Jungle." The questions about Ali's toughness caused by the late rounds against Frazier would never be raised again as Ali took all the powerful Foreman had and simply made Foreman too tired to fight on. Ali's strategy would be praised and used by others in sports. Ali would also defeat Frazier twice in future fights, lose and win back the title again and become one of the most adored athletes in the world.

The relationship between Ali and Frazier was strained. Reports say when Ali lit the torch at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Frazier was still bitter about Ali. The two did reconcile of sorts, and Ali attended Frazier's funeral.

VUI mentions the fight 41 years ago to lament the fact that the sweet science of boxing has no such figures today. Once a boxing match was the center of the cultural world, a place where the clash of ideas could be reduced down to two men fighting in the ring. Now, boxing is just a sideshow, filled with clown promoters and boxers with no personality. But, it was not that way 41 years ago. That day, the whole world was watching.

Le Louvre Bouteille -- Restaurant Review

Address: 150 Rue St. Honoré
Nearest transport: Louvre-Rivoli (ligne 1)
Hours: Closed Sundays
Reservations: recommended

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  1 - Star.................................................. (Pre-fix menu)...............................................1 - Bell

I went with 2-foodie friends. And, I have to say, we were all very excited to go because the Chef de cuisne Cyril Roquet is well known in Paris and a lot of it had to do with his participation in the Masterchef contest, a French cooking show. 

The restaurant is in a great, convenient location, “Rue St. Honoré” I have to say it was nicely decorated and the upstairs room was really lovely. And, the tables and seating were well spaced, so you didn’t feel like you were being packed in.  We all complained that the menu was hard to read.  One wall had a long mirror, on it was the written menu.  Unfortunately, the mirror had a glare, and depending where the light shone, it was either readable or not.  We were all able to decipher the menu, in part because depending where we were seating, we could see parts of the menu and we shared the information.


Two of us had the “Velouté corail rutabaga huile d’argan.” Smooth scallop coral with rutabaga and "argan" oil, garnished with a little yellow edible flower. We all commented that this was the first time we’ve tasted scallop corals in a soup.  Although it was tasty, it was served just lukewarm. We all agreed it could’ve been served warmer.

I had the “Oeuf crème champignon croustillant coppa.” A poached egg with mushrooms/polenta and crispy bacon.  When the dish arrived my first thought was, what an absolutely ugly dish, how amateurish?  It looked like sand that had a poached egg on top, surrounded with what looked like canned sliced black olives and grated hard boiled cooked eggs, and garnished with a little mâche. I have to say this dish not only looked bad, but tasted just awful. The polenta was not cooked, so it had a gritty sand taste. The only saving grace was that the poached egg was cooked perfectly.  I could not finish the dish it was so bad.


After we finished our entrées we waited, waited, and waited some more for our plats.  Even by French restaurant standards, this was way too long of a wait in between courses.  It finally came.

One of us had the “Tournedos fumé au thym, sauce moutard, pommes grenailles.”  A steak dish with thyme and mustard sauce with whole potatoes.  My first impression when the dish came out, it was totally out-of-proportion.  Even for meat and potato loving people, this dish was out of whack. Clearly you can see that it seemed the potatoes were the star of the dish. It looked ridiculous. I tasted it, and again, although tasty it was lukewarm.

Two of us had the “Margret de canard croustillant, bouillon Thai, frite de polenta.” Crispy duck breast, accompanied with a Thai bouillon with a fried polenta.  The crust they were referring to was phyllo dough the duck was encased in, otherwise known as “brick” in France. My friend loved the dish, but I have to say the duck skin was extremely fatty and inedible. And, although the breast was tasty, it was extremely rubbery. The accompanying bouillon seemed like an afterthought. It was almost as if he didn’t know what to do with the leftover duck, so he made stock out of it, with a bunch of stringy leftover meat at the bottom of the glass, put some lemongrass, hence, the Thai influence, and some mango balls. Although the broth was good, it just seemed out of place to me. And, because of the stringy meat at the bottom, it was very unrefined and seemed very amateurish.

We decided we came this far, let’s order a dessert and a cheese plate to share. I wish I could give you our impression of what we ordered; unfortunately, we waited, waited, and waited some more and the restaurant started emptying out.  We even tried to get the wait staff's attention, but failed. Frustrated and defeated, we decided to ask for the bill.

The bill came and they charged us for the dessert. My friend told the waiter, who also happens to be the sommelier and I believe is also the business partner of the Chef, that had he paid attention to us, he would’ve known that we never got the dessert, and that’s why we were leaving.


I wanted to like this restaurant so much, because of the location, the ambiance, and the nice staff, albeit pretty “clueless”. To me, reviewing a restaurant has to be sincere.  I did not like this restaurant at all. The food had more misses than hits, and although the wait staff were charming, they were totally clueless of restaurant timing. We wondered if the lukewarm food was a result of the staff not getting the food out in time.  None-the-less, the prices are reasonable, you get what you pay for.  I realize they’re relatively new, but I would prefer to pay a few extra euros to have a better dining experience.  With 2-bottles of 2009 Réserve Bordeaux and 2 glasses of Chardonnay, we paid a total of 95€ for 3-people for lunch.

Would I go back? Although I wish them much luck and success, and hope they improve, I probably would not go back! There are just so many other choices.

Two Senate legends, on opposite sides, are stepping down

Two South Carolina Senate legends have announced they are stepping down and not seeking re-election. The men are politically polar opposites. State Senators Greg Ryberg of Aiken and John Land of Clarendon are wrapping their careers up.

Frankly the South Carolina State Senate will be less without them. Ryberg was a conservative to the core, always arguing the conservative cause, right or wrong. Land had the role of the liberal, always arguing the liberal cause, right or wrong.

What made VUI respect them both? They did their own homework. Neither were ran by handlers. Both frustrated the powers that be in their respective parties. We believe both were intellectually honest. One might think this or that idea of either man was a bit crazy, but they offered real ideas, thought out, and they fought for them. Having the two of them duke it out in the South Carolina State Senate was the very embodiment of the deliberative body in action.

Both had that detractors. They both had personal attacks. Some said Land was this and that, Ryberg was this and that. That is politics. Indeed, that is life in any great endeavor. There are always those who try to tear down people greater than them. That is human nature.

But, let's pause that stuff for a moment to think about the contributions of the two great champions of their own causes who now are calling it a day. The state of South Carolina will be lesser without them, not because one of them was right or wrong, but because they both were men who did what they thought was right and through that fight, made the Senate and the rest of us think on things.

As such VUI offers the same compliment to both Land and Ryberg. They thought for themselves, and they fought for what they believed. Good wishes and a thank you to both of them.

The political train wreck that is SC right now

The State newspaper reported in two separate stories that some folks are rallying around the accused.

First, the State reported tacit support from both Republican and Democratic politicos from the Pee Dee region of the state for one of their own, Lt. Governor Ken Ard, who has admitted to misuse of campaign funds for things like personal items and family vacations. Ard is under investigation by the state Grand Jury, and rumors abound he is about to be indicted.

But, if the story from the State is correct, those folks in the Pee Dee think such a misuse of campaign funds is a much ado about nothing and that Lt. Governor Ard is a good guy. The Pee Dee is legendary, for shall we say interesting politics, but the effort to make Ard look like an honest and earnest man who just goofs up on paperwork seems a longshot to VUI. Seriously, while South Carolina, and especially those in the Pee Dee play fast and loose with the rules, things like vacations and women's clothing items are not likely to past the smell test, even in South Carolina. Further, if Ard was a Democrat, he would probably be wearing an orange jumpsuit by now. And it would not have a Tiger Paw on it. Just saying.

Then there was the story about how Governor Nikki Haley voiced support for embattled South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Chairwoman Caroline Rhodes. Rhodes is accused by members of the South Carolina Senate of lying under oath to them in hearings on February 1st, about The Savannah Port Gate. The Savannah Port Gate being what we at VUI dub the dirty deal done to sell out South Carolina to dredge the Savannah River to give Georgia a good port and take away from our port at Charleston.

Frankly, Governor Haley had no choice but to give Rhodes some cover. After all, Savannah Port Gate is Haley's deal. A lot of good folks were strong-armed into it. Haley has money and support riding on it.

Add to all that the publicity the Laurens County Republican Party is getting for its sexual purity pledge. If published reports around the internet and the nation are correct, the Laurens County GOP will only accept candidates for office who did not have premarital sex and who did not engage in extramarital sex. Some contend that the measure was aimed at Republican Sheriff Ricky Chastain, who admitted an affair. Whatever the reason, it adds to the making of the image that South Carolina's leadership seem out of step and silly.

And, we at VUI could live with out of step and silly, but corrupt we can not. Add the rallying around the accused and the silly, and well, the mess that this state is in now is clearly illustrated. We are a long way from the vision of what Carroll Campbell would want for South Carolina. For that matter, as a bone to you history buffs like VUI, we are a long way from what the likes someone like Coley Blease would tolerate. South Carolina is a political train wreck right now.

Sunday, March 4

Parting ways with the SC GOP

I have spent my entire life as a Republican. I worked to elect Republican candidates for offices from the local level to President of the United States. I was Chairman of the College Republicans as an undergraduate. I served as an executive committeeman, and as counsel to Republican parties.

I choose now to part ways. It is not an easy thing walking away from a party you spent your entire adult life trying to help. But, in the end, my conscious can not allow me to continue to be a part of the Republican Party in South Carolina.

I am still for limited and well focused government. I am still pro-life in that I believe abortion should only be used in exceptional cases, such as rape, incest and the mother’s life in danger. I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and I think that guns are tools only, and that people commit crimes, not tools. I am no big fan of gay marriage, but perhaps civil unions are okay. I am for the Fair Tax. I grew up admiring men like Carroll Campbell, Ronald Reagan, and Barry Goldwater. I am proud that I actually worked for Congressman Joe Wilson at his law firm. Nothing about that changes.

But, I cannot go along with what is happening in the Columbia today. The South Carolina Republican Party is a bought and paid for special interest group. Governor Haley, Lt. Governor Ard, both are corrupt and indefensible, but Republicans walk lockstep behind them. I will not. VUI laid the facts out. People do not care. Fair enough.

There are things that government should and should not do. It never should do the bidding of a billionaire from New York and his friends with crazy ideas. Indeed, if you look at what they demand, Carroll Campbell, Ronald Reagan, and Barry Goldwater would all be labeled RINOs.

Because I dared to believe that, I was labeled a RINO. I was told by race haters and the young paid punks I was not welcomed in their Republican Party. It would be a pure breed. Never mind I was working to elect Republicans when most of the people who are paid by the crazies to take over this state were in middle school. But, that, however, is just part of the problem I have with the South Carolina GOP.

The other part of is good old fashioned hate. Maybe it’s the rise of the Tea Party, or just a revival of old feelings, but there is a movement based on hate out there. People hate having a Black President of the United States, so they buy into bull manure about things related to his birth, his objectives, etc. I have never seen a President of the United States so disrespected in my lifetime, and frankly, I am disgusted by it. I might not support President Obama for re-election, but he is the duly elected, by God, President of the United States. This race thing, that is covered up with arguments about freedom is bull crap. I see through it. I cannot be a part of it.

Closer to home, we have a Governor who campaigned on openness who is not open. We have a Governor that will dole out the big bucks, at taxpayer expense, to those she favors. The Governor will even sell out South Carolina, via the Jasper port deal, when her campaign coffers are filled. In the words of former Senator Hollings, we have a “cash and carry” state government.

That is not the GOP I worked for. That is not the ideal that I gave so freely of my time. So, from this point on I and my blog are Independent. Sure, Democrats, there will be Republicans we back. Get over it. And, Republicans, you get one less RINO, I guess. I and this blog are going to call them like we see them, and our limited fortune and efforts will never go again to people who pay so much to say we are not wanted and seem filled with the stupidity that just comes with ignorant hate of others.

The war on public education

In a previous post, VUI alluded to the campaign finance fix that legislators seeking re-election are in and how that will impact their stands on public education. But, it needs to be made clear, that here in South Carolina, there is a war against public education. It is well funded. Talented people are paid big amounts of money to espouse anti public education points of view. Big money is poured into to political campaigns to elect a General Assembly that goes after public education.

There are problems in public education. Some teachers do not belong in the classroom. Too much money is wasted on administrative costs. But, instead of doing the hard work of tackling those issues, more and more Republican members of the General Assembly and their pundit backers, seem bent on finding ways, both directly and indirectly, to use public money for private schools and private businesses related to schools. It is not a solution to whatever ails South Carolina public schools, instead it is a bought and paid for stand that will do more harm than good.

And, if you doubt that the stand is bought and paid for, just look at the money. Millions have flowed into the South Carolina politics. Candidates have been funded almost solely from out of state sources. Groups have been paid for. Bloggers have been bought. The video poker lobby pales in comparison to how the private education and related business lobby has bought South Carolina politics.

The General Assembly will take up two measures that will show just how bought South Carolina is. First, there is yet another effort at tuition tax credits and public scholarships for private school tuition. Second, there is an effort to make the public schools use private companies to operate school buses. Those private companies are dumping dollars in South Carolina. They all wrap themselves in looking out for the children and parents and use words like choice. But, the hard cold truth is it’s about business and making money. Money is made to espouse the issues. Money is contributed to politicians and money is on the line with things like school transportation contracts.

To make matters worse, those who defend public education and public bus transportation for students seem to be like deer caught in the headlights. They often argue for the status quo and do not think to argue for needed reforms. They also fail to argue the better points about such things.

Let’s be frank. Before there was widespread public education in this state, and public provided transportation to that education in this state, the literacy rate was horrible. The economy was agrarian, and most people lived tough lives, except for the plantation class. Public education changed that. Young people learned and got skills, and the lived what became known as the American Dream, not only in South Carolina but throughout the country.

The numbers and the facts are there for anyone to find. Look at South Carolina in 1895 and South Carolina today. Is there any doubt that more people have meaningful jobs and lives, own property, and are happier? Public education created that world. It made America one of the strongest economies the world has ever known.

Indeed, one great irony is that the legislators and the pundits who do the bidding of the crazy billionaire and his buddies now are mostly products of public education. They got their learning, so to speak, from the help of the rest of us, but now they want to degrade that, and work to undermine that, all for the money.

There is also this to consider. On some school bus Monday morning, in some rural place in South Carolina, might be a little boy or girl, the son or daughter of a maid or manufacturing worker, who loves science. That little boy or girl gets a shot through public education to work hard at their studies and might someday find a cure for cancer or find the next great electronic device. He or she might perform the surgery that saves your life. We pay for public education as a people, not to fund so called educrats, but to make our society better, to give each and every young person the same shot at the American Dream we had.

Indeed public education is the one thing that is proven over decades to actually do that. The war on public education seems to be one manufactured by people who choose their own financial interests over the future and by a handful of rich folks who wish the plantation style economy was back.

Saturday, March 3

Speaker Bobby Harrell the PAC Man ushers in Mr. Rich

South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell is one of the most powerful politicians in Columbia. As such, he had little problem making PACs in South Carolina pay the bill for two national legislative conferences in Charleston. The problem with PAC man Harrell, or should we say Speaker Harrell, is that his big parties dried up the well, so to speak in campaign finance in South Carolina House races. Harrell ate up all the little dots that are campaign money.

After giving up big money to let Harrell have his parties, PACs and others are simply tapped out. Add to the problem the economy we are in. Thus, SC Republican House members are finding limited sources of funding for their races this year.

But, one source of funding remains for them. That is billionaire Howard Rich, his friends, and the groups he and his friends back. Thus, GOP members can find money for re-election if they sign on to the odd ideas of those folks.

Let's lay it out there. Suppose Representative X is running for re-election as a Republican. Normally, without the dry well created by Harrell, he would be able to go to businesses and their PACs for campaign cash. With those sources tapped out, Representative X faces a problem. Either Representative X votes the way the Rich folks want and gets money from them or faces a primary opponent funded with so called Rich money while he scrambles to compete.

In the end, politicians look after their own interests, their own re-election. Some might retire, but the vast majority of Republicans will be careful to not offend the so called Rich crowd, so they can rake in the money for their re-election bids.

Blame PAC man Bobby Harrell for this. He gobbled up all the money for his parties, and the ghosts of Howard Rich, (playing to the 80s Pac Man crowd here) are emboldened. Indeed, Harrell himself might find his very Speakership challenged if the legislature is filled with Rich funded men and women.

Friday, March 2

Lt. Governor Courson?

Rumors are rampant around the Columbia political scene and on various blogs that Lt. Ken Ard is about to be indicted by State Grand Jury for misuse of campaign funds. Lt. Governor Ard has been under investigation for his misuse of campaign funds since he took office. There are things like campaign money being spent for televisions, and even women's clothing being alleged.

Ard did himself no favors when he stated in an interview with the Columbia Free Times that he tried to recoup his personal investment in running for the office. Ard later backed off those remarks, but with what we have seen, coupled with the remarks, it looks bad for Ard.

SC Attorney General Alan Wilson correctly turned the matter over to the State Grand Jury. If the State Grand Jury decides to indict Lt. Governor Ard, then he will be temporarily removed from office. That will bring on some considerable political maneuvering.

As it stands, State Senator Glenn McConnell would be elevated to the post of Lt. Governor as President of the South Carolina State Senate. The problem is McConnell does not want the job. McConnell is far more powerful in his current post then if he was elevated to Lt. Governor. So, look for McConnell to temporarily step aside in his current post in favor of State Senator John Courson. We at VUI also hear that he might step aside for State Senators Harvey Peeler or Jake Knotts. One thing is clear. Glenn McConnell will not take the job.

Here is why we think John Courson will get the nod. First, Courson is Mr. Republican in the South Carolina State Senate. People respect Courson for his sense of history and as such, the man will love ending his career as Lt. Governor. Second, the elevation of Courson frees up his State Senate seat for Haley ally Nathan Ballentine. Haley might offer a pay for play government, but the fact remains she and her well funded allies run this state now, and getting a crony in the State Senate appeals to them.

Haley and her cronies bring up another reason that Ard will probably go down. South Carolina voters have a short attention span and are tired of scandal. If Ard goes down, the issues surrounding Governor Haley and her seemingly pay for play handling of the Savannah port deal will likely fade away. Ard going down to some sort of campaign finance scandal will whet the appetite of the typically lazy media in South Carolina. It also will give ammunition to the Haley crowd about appointing a Lt. Governor instead of having one elected.

Thus, Haley folks will be pleased, and Courson will get to see his picture hanging on some wall, appealing to his sense of history. So look for it. Ard goes down. Courson becomes a caretaker Lt. Governor and Governor Haley gets off free for her indiscretions.

Thursday, March 1

Le Pantruche -- Restaurant Review

Address: 3 Rue Victor Massé
Nearest transport: Pigalle (ligne 12)
Hours: Closed Saturdays and Sundays
Reservations: recommended
Telephone: 01 48 78 55 60

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4 - Stars............................................. (Pre-fix menu)...............................................3 - Bell

This restaurant has only been open for a little more than a year. A friend suggested we go. It is difficult to get a reservation, but she managed to get a seating for 9:30 p.m. mid-week.  As we walked in, the first thing I noticed, it was packed.  There were maybe 30 seats, and every nook and cranny of available space was used, even a portion of the bar. In addition, I noticed that they turned tables, probably because of its popularity. We actually had to wait for a couple to vacate their table so the restaurant could accommodate us.

We were 5-people. Prior to coming to the restaurant I looked at their menu on their website, it was pretty much what we had available to us that evening.


Maquereaux en escabèche, raifort parmesan et radis croquant (marinated mackerel, horseradish and parmesan crisp radishes). As we all know, mackerel can be very strong tasting.  This particular mackerel was extremely mild. In fact, I would've liked it  a little stronger. The dish was served with greens. It was nothing extraordinary or special, but very good none-the-less.

The Terrine de foie gras, chutney de coings (foie gras terrine, quince chutney). Our friend who had the dish also said it was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Risotto truffes noires (risotto with black truffles).  I had a taste of this dish, and I have to say this dish was a hit. It was cooked perfect, al dente, and although the parmesan cheese was prominent, it did not overwhelm the dish at all, same with the truffles, it gave the dish an earthy base.

Huîtres en tartare, bouillon cresson, wasabi-soja (oyster tartare, watercress soup, wasabi-soy). The dish was very colorful, and beautifully presented in its simplicity. Our friend who had this dish said it was fabulous, a big hit. I gathered that since after he finished the dish, the bowl looked as if it had just come out of the dishwasher.


I had the cochon de lait, poires-céleri-châtaignes (suckling pig, pear-celery chestnuts). I have to say that although the dish tasted good, I had some real issues with its execution.  Primarily because the skin and about a quarter of inch of meat from the belly side of the pork was extremely rubbery and inedible. The rib portion of the ribs was tasty though. And, I have to give credit to the Chef for not making it too salty.  Typically, most Chefs cook pork with a heavy hand with the salt.

Ris de veau braisés, carrottes fondantes à la réglisse (sweetbreads braised carrot fondant with licorice).  This is the one dish our waiter recommended.  I had a taste of this dish, and I have to honestly say I was wowed with this dish. Texturally, the dish was well executed. Sweetbreads are not often cooked where outside layer is slightly crispy. The crispy bite followed a smooth soft interior coupled with the braised carrots was a hit all-around. 

Pavé de cabillaud de ligne, duxelle de champignons crème (cod steak with creamed mushrooms). The fish was perfectly cooked, very tender and very moist. Although it was accompanied with mushrooms, they forgot to mention that it also had some chestnuts. The accompaniment to me was actually more tasty than the fish, but together it was a good dish.

Volaille pochée sauce suprême, ravioles de légumes à l'estragon (poached chicken with vegetable ravioli and tarragon). Our friend said the dish was cooked perfectly and was delicious.


Soufflé au grand marnier, caramel au beurre salé (grand Marnier soufflé with salted butter caramel).  I had a taste of this dish, yum-yum, it was delicious. Very simple, but very tasty, a hit for us.

Pomelos et pavlova, glace à l'estragon (grapefruit  pavlova with tarragon ice-cream).  Very nicely and lightly done.  The grapefruit was quite mild (almost tasting like orange) and the pavlova, placed in between a crust, was just perfect and not cloyingly sweet. A hit and an excellent way to finish the meal.

And, as usual I had the cheese plat.  A good selection of strong to mild cheeses with a little citrus mâche.


If you live in the 9eme, or are staying nearby, then I highly recommend it. It’s a great neighborhood restaurant. However, I would not go out of my way for this restaurant. Keep in mind you’re going for the food and not the ambiance. It not only lacks ambiance, but space. You will feel quite packed in, with very little aisle space; hence, unless you're sitting against a wall don’t be surprised if you get bumped or banged into a lot.

As for the service, it was excellent. There was a bartender and waiter, each helping one another serve. The food was above average, with some just so-so, but a few dishes truly wowed us.

For 5-people and a whole bottle of white wine with a half-bottle of red and one digestif, our bill came to 250€ (50€ each).
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