Nikki Haley, the Sarah Palin of South Carolina?

Most folks outside of the Palmetto State never heard of Nikki Haley until Sarah Palin endorsed her during last fall’s gubernatorial election. 

Being anointed by the former governor of Alaska as a “kindred spirit” and fellow “mama grizzly” brought the South Carolina Republican Tea Party favorite a good deal of national attention and was a factor in her successful campaign for the state’s highest office which she often referred to as “The Movement.”

Governor Haley has only been in office a short time, but with Republican majorities in both branches of the state legislature, she is locked and cocked to transform South Carolina into a right-wing, gun-toting, God-fearing Shangri-la of lower taxes, transparency, limited government, private property rights, Christian values, policy over politics, free markets, individual liberties, and states rights.

It’s supposed to be even better than the shining beacon of conservative policy success achieved by the previous Republican governor with majorities in the House and Senate.

I’m hoping for the best, but Governor Haley is already being plagued by the same kind of “cheap attacks and distortions” which proved troublesome during Governor Palin’s truncated term of office in Alaska.

There’s the brouhaha about the number of campaign donors receiving appointments to state boards or commissions.

For example, Governor Haley recently removed Darla Moore from the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees and replaced her with Tommy Cofield.

Cofield is an obscure personal injury lawyer and Moore is a nationally recognized pioneer for women in banking.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1975, Mrs. Moore worked for the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC.

She received a master’s degree in business administration from George Washington University and joined Chemical Bank’s training program in 1981.

During the 1980s,  Mrs. Moore took over companies in bankruptcy and made them profitable. 

By the 1990s, she had become the highest-paid woman in the banking industry.

In 1991, she married Richard Rainwater and was named president of the private equity firm Rainwater, Inc, in 1993. 

Fortune magazine named Moore one of the 50 Most Powerful Women In Business in 1998 and 1999.

She is also well-known for her philanthropy. 

In 1998, she gave 25 million dollars to the business school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, which was renamed the Moore School of Business. 

She founded the Palmetto Institute, an independent non-profit organization focused on increasing the wealth of every person in South Carolina, in 2002. 

In 2003, she gave 10 million dollars to the School of Education at Clemson University.

And in 2005, she gave an additional $45 million to the Moore School of Business.

But she did not contribute to Governor Haley’s election campaign.

Mr. Cofield was on his high school golf team, won several writing awards in college, and married his high school sweetheart.   

He is a board member for Make-A-Wish of South Carolina. 

In addition to being active in the “church life” of the Lexington Baptist Church, he is on the executive board of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

And he contributed to Governor Haley’s election campaign.

Considering all the promises during the campaign about ending politics as usual, replacing Moore on the USC Board of Trustees with Cofield strikes some as “kind of sketchy.”

And there’s also the mystery over Governor Haley’s past application for a $110,000 per year fundraising gig at the Lexington Medical Center which appeared to inflate how much she made working for her parents’ clothing store. 

While Governor Haley’s 2008 application indicated she earned $125,000 as the account for her parents’ business and wanted the same amount for the fundraising position created for her by the hospital’s CEO, her tax records for 2007 show that she made only $22,000.

Governor Haley denies filling out the application and has hinted that someone at the hospital did it.

Hospital officials deny that.  They say that she’d been offered the job and told on the phone to fill out the online application so she could be entered into their system for payroll and benefits.

These kind of what the executive director of the South Carolina state Republican Party has called “cheap attacks and distortions” also plagued the original “mama grizzly” as Alaska’s governor before she resigned.

I hope that Governor Haley isn’t offered a tempting book deal or a reality show and, like Mrs. Palin, decide to leave the trying scrutiny of public service before the conclusion of her term for more financially rewarding opportunities in the private sector. 

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Prayers for Glenn Beck from South Carolina

People are praying for Glenn Beck here in South Carolina.

At least the ones who belong to his 9/12 Project,

the political group launched on his television show in March of 2009, “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001 … we were not obsessed with red states, blue states or political parties. We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and principles of the greatest nation ever created.”

9/12 represents the date following the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the 9 Principles and 12 Values that Mister Beck says represent the principles and values of the nation’s Founding Fathers

While started on the Fox cable news network, the 9/12 Project defines itself as “a spontaneous groundswell of freedom loving, God-fearing Americans, who were concerned that Washington is not governing by the Constitution, nor listening to ‘We the People.’ Like wildfire, 9/12 Projects have lit up our Republic with hundreds of independent 9-12 groups across the country. The 9/12 Project is uniting Americans of all economic and political persuasions, race and creed to protect the Principles and Values that make America the greatest nation ever created.”

Mr. Beck’s “grassroots effort” is quite popular in South Carolina, the Bible-toting, right-wing firewall of Republican primary politics.  And not surprisingly, a member of one of the local chapters wrote the following prayer thanking God for divinely inspired Glenn Beck.

The 9/12 Project SC Prayer

Let us pray…

Dear Father, God…

Thank you for thy bounty!  Thank you for America, the greatest country ever to have graced thy planet, Earth.  Thank you for placing us here to benefit from your goodness.

Thank you for all those thoughtful men, whom we call Our Founding Fathers; those men who have taught us your way; those men who gave us the principles and the values on which American greatness has been built.

But now, Father, too many of us have strayed; too many have forgotten; too many have fallen asleep; too many have ceased to follow the lessons that we have learned.

Bless us, Father, as we gather in a noble task; to be reawakened; to march forward in your name; to devise a way to help our fellow Americans to be renewed.

You have sent us an unlikely mentor; a radio personality, who has the capacity to reach millions; who, through your divine guidance, has advanced Nine Great Principles and Twelve Timeless Values.

We ask you, Father, to bless him; to make his voice heard, on the air and through us, so that we may, by word and example, both to talk and to walk those principles and values, so that we might help America to become re-energized, re-nourished and renewed to our greater days.

We ask you, Father, to bless this movement, “We Surround Them,” not so that we may defeat those who have strayed but rather that we may fold them back into our midst; to make them again the Americans in the America envisioned and initiated, in your name, by our Founding Fathers.

Please, Father, grant us the grace, the faith and the forbearance to continue your work here on Earth for a better America and for a better relationship with you.

In thy name, Amen!

Although, and perhaps because, I am not a true believer in the gospel according to Glenn Beck, I offer this alternative orison to the Creator of all life.

Prayer for the Cultural Crusader

Our Father,

which art in heaven,

fuck,

fuck,

fuck,

Glenn Beck

forever.

We acknowledge it thy goodness

that we were not delivered over as a prey unto him;

beseeching thee still to continue such thy mercies towards us,

that all the world may know thou art our Savior and mighty Deliverer;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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Tea Party Hats

To some folks, a tea party is a formal social event for women.

For others, a tea party is a training evolution in etiquette for little girls.

To students of English literature, a tea party means Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

For citizens of the United States, the Boston Tea Party is an iconic event in the history of The Revolution.

A contemporary populist political movement, The Tea Party Patriots, is named for this event.

Expressive headgear is an important fashion accessory among the members of today’s conservative political group as this small collection of Tea Party hats shows.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Babes of the Ku Klux Klan

 

I first became aware of the Ku Klux Klan in 1965 after my dad went to Vietnam when I moved from the Marine base at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to my mother’s hometown in eastern North Carolina.  

There was a KKK billboard up outside the county seat. 

 It had a Klansman in his hooded outfit on a horse holding a flaming cross and messages proclaiming, “Welcome to Smithfield,” “This Is Klan Country,” “Join & Support The United Klans of America, Inc.,” and “Help Fight Communism & Integration!” 

 I’d just attended Aikahi Elementary School in Kailua with children of all races, including Marine dependants whose fathers were off fighting communism in Southeast Asia, and I found the sign rather confusing.  I asked my grandmother about it and she told me that it was a shameful, ugly thing, that black people had a hard enough lot in life without folks in hoods making it any worse.

I met a lot of kids in my segregated school that year who felt like my grandmother.  There were more than a few tuned into the Klan frequency though, picked up on it from their families.  I dismissed them as backward, ignorant hicks who’d get winnowed out along the march of time.

A quarter of a century later, the year after the war to defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and restore the monarchy in Kuwait, I was a Marine Corps reserve captain and lived in another small town in eastern North Carolina with my wife and three daughters. 

I spent that summer out in the California desert as a controller for combined arms training exercises.  When I returned, I was surprised to hear that the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan were going to march in a nearby town.  I’d hoped that kind of thing was part of the past, not part of my children’s present.

I went with another Marine officer to check it out, to eyeball the kind of folks who were still into the fiery cross trip.

The police had the march area secured and we had to park several blocks from it.  On the walk there, a city police car screeched to a halt next to us and a deputy jumped out with his hand on his pistol.  His eyes were as big as a second lieutenant’s about to rappel out of a helicopter for the first time as he shouted, “Stand right there!  What’s in the bag?  What’s in the bag?”

I opened it and showed him my Minolta and a couple of film canisters.

He exhaled slowly and said, “Okay.  Go on now.”  Keeping his hand on his pistol, he returned to his vehicle.

 I turned to my friend and said, “I believe that Billy Blue Light thinks we’re skinheads.”

We both laughed.

The march route was taped off so the hundred and fifty or so spectators couldn’t get close to the few dozen marchers.   

It seemed like there were more cops there than anyone else, lining the crime scene tape, massed in reaction teams, on the rooftops and surrounding the KKK people.

When the little parade ended and Klansmen started giving speeches, they were so far away that I couldn’t hear anything other than periodic whooping.  The crowd behind the tape mostly gawked in silence.  A few jeered.

After that, some red-robed kleagles, the KKK officers whose main job is to recruit new members, came over to the crowd and passed out pamphlets. 

I suppose it’s a shallow, superficial, male chauvinist thing, but whenever I see a woman, some relexive, lower brain stem function spits out a potential mate rating and the most significant lasting impression I have from that day was how unattractive the Klan women were. 

Not that any of the hooded dudes looked like candidates for People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, but I can’t recall ever seeing a less sperm worthy group of females in my life.

But, no matter what they look like,

all God’s children,

yellow, brown, black or white,

get that craving in the night.

So, bathed in the blood of the lowly Nazarene,

with the Bible as their guide,

the flag as their protection,

and the Cross as their inspiration,

the Christian Knights continue to breed

purer than snow, whiter than milk

babes for the Ku Klux Klan.

Still around in the 21st Century, you can see them six days a week, Monday through Saturday, nine to five, at The World’s Famous Klan Museum and Redneck Shop in Laurens, South Carolina.

I suppose they’re in church On Sundays.

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A Little Help Is Always Nice

I’ve moved thirty-eight times. 

My father was a Marine; I was a Marine and the PSMO (Pack Shit, Move Out) evolution is part of that life.  It’s a hassle, but a little help makes it easier.

My eleventh move, from a Spanish colonial house in Venezuela to Quarters 13 aboard the Marine base at Quantico, came at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school in 1971 when I was a long-haired colonel’s brat.  After three years on the side of a mountain in the Andes, it was great to be back in the land of the big PX.   

My family was unpacking boxes the morning after they’d been unloaded from sea crates when there was a knock at the back door.  I opened it and a tall, skinny guy in blue jeans and a white t-shirt smiled and said, “My name’s Louis Wilson.  I’m your neighbor.  I don’t know where anything goes, but I’ve got a strong back and I’m here to help.” 

He held out his hand.

I shook it and said, “Great.  My name’s David.  Come on in and meet everybody.”

We walked to the living room where my father, his back to us, was putting books on the shelves by the fireplace.

“Hey, Dad,” I said,  “This is our neighbor, Louis Wilson.  He’s here to help us unpack.”

My dad turned around quickly.  His heels came together; his back straightened and his thumbs went to the seams of his trousers.

It turned out that the guy in blue jeans and a white t-shirt was my dad’s commanding officer at the Marine Corps Development and Education Command, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor and soon to be 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

He helped me unload my books and record albums, connect my stereo, hang pictures and put my bed together.  We listened to Jethro Tull and James Taylor.  The general preferred Sweet Baby James to Aqualung.

There’s a Marine moving to Seneca, South Carolina soon who could use a little help.  His name is Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Pcola.

He got seriously jacked up in Iraq back in 2003.  An RPG blew him out of the vehicle he was riding in and bounced him off the deck. 

That’s not good for the human body.  It broke his neck, damaged his spine, vertebrae and hip as well as injuring him internally, but it didn’t stop him from continuing to lead his Marines through the firefight.

Since then he’s had thirteen surgeries and a bunch of extended hospital stays, but he still has significant problems walking and depends on a Segway scooter to move around his house in Pennsylvania. 

He also has Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy which causes severe chronic pain and makes it even harder to walk and perform day to day stuff.  It’s all degenerative. 

He could use a little help.

The Home Builders Association of Oconee is working with an organization called Homes for Our Troops to build him a specially designed house at 114 Maplewood Court in the Waterside Crossing Subdivision where he should be able to move around better than in the conventional one he lives in now. 

They could use a little help.  They need professional construction workers, building supplies and money. 

Putting a star-spangled “Support the Troops” sticker next to the Jesus fish on your car is one way to show what a compassionate patriot you are, but it won’t provide a place to live for a single Marine mangled in the service of the red, white and blue.

 

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From South Carolina, Obama as “President Negro”

My father’s people came to America from Asia. They walked across the Bering Strait land bridge during the last stages of the Ice Age. They wound up in south Texas.

 My mother’s people came to America from England. They sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Jamestown, Virginia during the first years of the Stuart Era. They wound up in eastern North Carolina.

My father was a Marine. He enlisted when he was fifteen because his father had died; someone had to support his family and he couldn’t get a job in Laredo that matched the twenty-one dollars a month plus three hots and a cot Uncle Sugar paid trigger-pullers the summer before Pearl Harbor.

He met my mother when he was stationed at Camp Lejeune just after the Korean War. Her brother, a civil servant on the base, introduced them. She was a college student in Greensboro.

They got married during Christmas break of her senior year in Micro, North Carolina where her people had lived since before anyone ever thought of the United States. I was born eleven months later in Port Arthur, Texas where my father had Jesuit duty with a reserve unit.

I grew up on Marine duty stations from an island off the coast of Maine to Oahu in the Hawaiian chain with three years in Caracas when my dad was part of the military advisory group teaching Venezuelans our way of war. And when he went to Vietnam, I lived in that small town in North Carolina where my mother’s people lived in during the War of the Rebellion.

I thought I was an American kid, but outside the gate in the land of the big PX, I was something else.

I had a pretty good drawl after fourth grade in Micro when my dad was in Vietnam with the Fourth Marines. I said “yes’um,” “y’all” and “reckon.” So, I was a Southerner to my fifth grade teacher in Kittery, Maine: uneducated, uncouth, backwards, lazy and racist.

There was one black girl at that school. Her father was a submariner on the base where I lived and she was the first “negro” any of those curious lobster-eaters had ever seen. They were constantly feeling her hair and rubbing her skin, but she wasn’t any two-headed unicorn to me, just another anchor clanker kid.

When the girl’s father complained about the harassment to the school, every class had a little meeting about tolerance and respect. I was singled out during mine. My teacher said that I had just moved from that place on television with the dogs and the cops and the fire hoses and the clubs and she was sure I was the troublemaker who’d instigated the situation.

I told her my mother’s people weren’t out marching with Martin Luther King, but they weren’t in the Ku Klux Klan either. I never heard my grandparents use any racial slurs, and my grandmother told me that black people had a hard enough lot in life without folks in hoods making it any worse.

I told her my dad lectured me many times that I wasn’t any better than anyone else. I was as good as anyone, but not better. (Of course, that was just part of the “I’m the colonel, not you. Don’t be an officer’s brat” speech, but he also covered more than the military pecking order.)

But that fifth grade teacher didn’t want to hear any of that. She said she knew how Southerners were.

After college, I was a logistics analyst and a human guinea pig for some biomedical experiments at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. And I learned a good deal about how some folks felt about beaners, taco benders, greasers, spics, and pepper bellies.

I was at a luncheon for blood donors and a lady at my table expressed her frustration at immoral white trash breeding with lazy wetbacks and creating mongrels who didn’t know their place. I wasn’t wearing a sombrero, so I reckon my eastern North Carolina drawl made her comfortable opening up to me.

Some people were more polite. My wife worked in display for a department store and invited one of her co-workers and her husband to go out to dinner and a movie with us. Her co-worker declined because her husband couldn’t stand Mexicans.

Years later, after retiring from the Marine Corps, I met Ruth Stone, the poet laureate of Vermont, when she was teaching at Binghamton University in upstate New York. I was the manager of textbook sales for an independent book store and one fall afternoon she came in to discuss an order she had placed for her classes after they began. She looked like a crazy old bag lady standing at counter, but you can’t judge writers, or people in general, by their appearance.

So, I walked up to the counter, smiled and said, “Good afternoon, ma’am. How can I help you?”

Her eyes opened wide and then narrowed. She placed both of her hands on the counter, raised one, stuck a wrinkled finger in my face, and said, “Boy, I know the owners of this store and you’d better keep that in mind.”
  
I was a little put off by that, but I said, “Yes, ma’am. What can I do for you?”
 
“I don’t think you know your place, boy,” she said loudly.
 
I was more than a little put off now, but I’d heard this little old lady had suffered some pretty tough knocks in her life, so I took a deep breath and asked, “Ma’am, what can I do for you?”
 
She looked around the store. The other associates and the customers were all looking at us. She turned back to me, smiling, and said, “The first thing you can do, boy, is stop calling me ‘ma’am,’ boy.“I thought about saying, “Okay, bitch,”, but I said, “Whatever you like.”

“Well, boy, don’t call me ‘ma’am.” It sounds like something a racist southern cop would say.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you. I’s just raised to say ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ as a sign of respect.”
 
“I know all about how you were raised, boy . I was born in Virginia, boy and I think you need a lesson.”

 

“Thank you very much,” I smiled. “That’s very considerate. Now what can I do for you?”

It turned out that all she wanted was to know was when one of the books she’d ordered was going to arrive and added another. Showing a racist know “how it feels” was just a reaction to my Southern accent.

I thanked her again, and she left smiling.

Six years ago, I took my two younger daughters to a black Baptist church in Greenville, South Carolina to hear Al Sharpton speak. After the television news crew took some footage of the choir singing and left, we were the only folks there who weren’t black.

During his speech, Reverend Sharpton said it was time to stop blaming white people for all of black people’s problems. He said that if he came down from the pulpit and knocked someone out of the pew that was bad on him, but if he came back two weeks later and that person was still laying on the floor, that was bad on them. He said young black people needed to take off their doo-rags, pull up their pants and study in school. He said they should reach out to people of goodwill who didn’t necessarily look the same and work together for a better world for everyone.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of folks all over the land of “all men are created equal,” including right here in upstate South Carolina, who aren‘t operating on that frequency. Just a few weeks ago some retired white guy from New York was out on the streets of the county seat, shaking his fist and carrying a sign that read, “Where are the jobs, President Negro.”

Pretty embarrassing.

 

 

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Movement is a sign of life

Just moved again.

Thirty-eight times so far.

I have opened Christmas presents in thirteen states

from an island off the coast of Maine to Oahu in the Hawaiian chain,

on the isthmus of Panama.

and a mountain in the Andes.

Different from my mother’s people.

They’ve lived in the same small town in eastern North Carolina for nearly three hundred years.

I lived there a few times when my dad was overseas.

Played cowboys and Indians in the same tree line where my great-great-grandmother found a wounded scout a few days before Sherman’s main body marched through.

A hundred and one years later,

in a newer house on the same spot where her house had been,

the one where she saw her mother cry as it was looted by yankee soldiers,

I saw my grandmother and mother cry because a casualty telegram had arrived saying my father had been wounded by the Viet Cong.

Didn’t say how.

Imagined some pretty horrible possibilities.

Turned out he was shot in the arm.

Could have been worse.

The gunnery sergeant who ran the Saturday morning youth bowling league on the Navy base we moved to next was shot in the face at Khe Sanh.

Blew out the back of his head.

Stopped his moving around.

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