Catholic-Orthodox relations warming?

Thanks to Robert, a regular Blogland reader, for sending me this link to this article which suggests notable headway is being made in reconciling relations between Orthodox churches and the Vatican

As an Eastern Rite Catholic, that part of the Catholic Church which continues to embrace Orthodox traditions, such progress in the dialgoue between East and West is welcome news indeed:

This evening, with vespers in the basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, Benedict XVI is closing the week of prayer for Christian unity.

There are some who say that ecumenism has entered a phase of retreat and chill. But as soon as one that looks to the East, the facts say the opposite. Relations with the Orthodox Churches have never been so promising as they have since Joseph Ratzinger has been pope ...

A righteous dude

They all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude. 

- Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Earlier today, this photo caught Representative Ferris Bueller ... um ... Alan Clemmons walking out of the surf into sleet and 36 degree weather. Yes, he's soaked and freezing, wearing his suit, taking part in the local "Polar Plunge" which helped raise $76,000 for Special Olympics.

The more we get to know this guy, the more we like him - especially having the guts to take a plunge like this, in his usual sharp-dressed style.

I used to love her ...

For a little weekend fun, we wanted to share this image taken of a South Carolinian's vehicle.

Thanks to Adam Fogle at the Palmetto Scoop for pointing this one out.

We're not sure if there's a story behind this one, but whoever it is, we'll be sure to stay away from the special woman in his life, for fear of becoming the next target in his sights.

... which kind of reminds us of that Guns 'N Roses song:

Fact checking the State of the Union

The last day or so, everyone we know is having at it with their opinion of Obama's State of the Union speech. Their assessments tend to run hand-in-hand with their previously-held views of the President, with supporters praising him and opponents criticizing him, and few, if any, changed minds in between.

Instead of giving you what the Blogland thinks, it seems more informative and credible to share some independent analysis from several sources with our readers.

The sources we reviewed raised concerns about Obama's truthfulness in several areas:

The Blogland, Version 2 (point 1)

After a little experimentation, as well as considerable feedback from Blogland readers, the new version of the Blogland, dubbed "2.1" is here to stay.

The process of revision followed lots of feedback from our readers. By far the biggest issues were with was the column format in which each posting was presented in its entirely, making it hard for most regular readers who did not visit the Blogland on a daily basis to keep up.

The recent change to the "desktop" layout served as a sort-of transition phase while the new version was identified and the bugs worked out with a more complicated, script-enhanced version. With those bugs overcome, we're glad to inform our readers that this layout is here to stay for the forseeable future.

We hope you like the new format. If there's something you like, don't like, or would like to see, please let us know.

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to enjoy the weekend.

Carolinas AGC legislative reception - next Wednesday

We're just a week away from the big annual Carolinas AGC legislative reception, which will be held on Wednesday, February 3.

This is a great opportunity for legislators and staff members to unwind a bit after session and touch base with people in the state's construction industry, so we're hoping to see a lot of legislators and staff there.

Of course, the Blogland will be there, so you don't want to miss the occasion.

That's Wednesday, February 3 from 6 to 8 pm at the Koger Center, right across from the State House. Mark your calendar and come join us.

Beaufort's "Double Impact" on fees and fines

Congratulations are in order to Beaufort Senator Tom Davis, whose fight to rein in state fees and fines passed a major milestone when Senate Bill 517 passed the Senate on Tuesday.  The bill now goes to the House, where a similar House bill (3576), sponsored by fellow Beaufort legislative Representative Shannon Erickson also awaits further action.  Both bills would require all fee increases to be approved by the General Assembly. 

While passing along costs via fees and fines can help shift costs from taxpayers onto those who use services, a position which the Blogland generally supports, many state agencies have raised fees considerably during recent budget years, a move which some say was intended to offset budget cuts. Davis was concerned that this process was being abused and that legislative overview of the process was required:

Government budgets have been hit hard, but so have the budgets of families and businesses across South Carolina. We cannot let government use these hidden revenue sources to increase the burden on taxpayers during this economic decline. Prosperity will come through economic freedom and empowerment, not burdensome fee increases.

Thank you General Spears

The announcement of Adjutant General Stan Spears' retirement put to rest long-running speculation about his plans to seek another term.

As a friend of the family, I got to learn a lot about how much time and energy General Spears put into his job, as well as how effective the South Carolina Guard performed in overseas combat missions. South Carolina personnel were well-supported and their relatively low casaulty rates speak to his leadership.

General Spears' service to his state, his nation, and his troops has been unprecedented. He has stood watch over his state's military personnel through two overseas conflicts, as well as numerous disasters. Few South Carolinians can approach his record of service, one which sets a standard we should honor and aspire to.

For his lifetime of service, General Stan Spears has my most heartfelt respect and gratitude. Blogland readers should thank him - and his family - and wish him well in his retirement.

Vacancy sign on at the State House?

Two years ago, the House saw an unprecedented twenty-five freshman members take seats (twenty percent of the House membership), the most new faces seen in the House since the early 90s. 

The last time such turnover had been seeen was in the 1992 and 1994 cycles, when two dozen House seats held mostly by white Democrats by Republicans and black Democrats following reapportionment, aided by strong GOP turnout in those election years. Typically, these high-turnover periods are followed by a long period of stability. However, this year will likely be a continuation of this streak of high legislative turnover.

With ten House members having announced their plans to move on: Jeff Duncan, Nikki Haley, Ken Kennedy, Doug Jennings, Lanny Littlejohn, Ted Pitts, Rex Rice, Tim Scott, Don Smith, and Michael Thompson, the 2010 cycle is likely going to be another year of big turnover. We've heard several other names who are considering leaving as well, but have yet to announce their decisions.

Tim Scott to jump into First Congressional District race?

Not even a month after Henry Brown's decision not to seek re-election and the race for the Republican nomination for the First Congressional District seat (all but a guarantee of election in November) bears little resemblance to what it was two months ago.

The entry of Paul Thurmond into the race has generated lots of attention, and speculation is growing about the possibility of North Charleston State Representative Tim Scott switching from the Lt. Governor's race to the Congressional race.

We've also become aware of Scott cancelling a couple of candidates' forums outside of the First District, another sign that he may be about to switch races.

All our sources say he's all but in the race, with an announcement to be made as early as next week.

Stay tuned.

Help working college students: Increase the SC college tax credit (House Bill 4249)

When I was in college, that thing called a lottery started, promising that students who could maintain full-time enrollment and keep a 3.0 GPA or better would get thousands of dollars a year in tuition assistance.

While working full-time and being a parent, I kept full-time enrollment and a GPA that never dipped below a 3.0 (my final was 3.72) - but learned what a lie that promise was.

The truth is that few working adult students, regardless of their ability to meet eligibility criteria, are allowed to receive lottery money for tuition assistance at four-year public colleges, while the students who don't have to work, often live at home, and don't pay taxes get a free ride.

Does this sound the least bit fair?

Susan Smith just doesn't know when to quit

Susan Smith may have been someone with a real cold heart, playing a number of men in Union behind her husband's back and drowning her two sons in John D. Long Lake, but the woman knows how to keep making a splash in the news media.

In 2000, she was back the national media spotlight when a prison sex scandal broke following an investigation which discovered she had relationships with two prison guards.  The investigation turned up a series of prison sexual encounters, even among those inmates who worked at the Governor's mansion.

Then she got more publicity when she appeared in an online prison pen-pals ad.

Now she wants to get out prison, alleging her legal counsel, in spite of navigating her out of getting the death penalty, was somehow not competent to represent her and that she somehow did not get a fair trial.

Nettie Britts update: Benefit in Greenville - Sat. Feb 6 - Be there!

To celebrate President Ronald Reagan's 98th Birthday, there will be a benefit to help of one of our readers - Midlands GOP activist and USC student Nettie Britts, who was attacked in her home by a still-unknown attacked last summer, suffering considerable head injuries, and from what we were told, came real close to death.

Unfortunately, the perp remains at large.

She's doing much better, but she has a lot of work ahead with rehabilitation, and that's not been cheap.  Your support - both moral and financial - would be a tremendous help to her as she forges ahead with her rehabiliation, as well as still on track to graduate from USC this December.  We'll be attending a black-tie optional event in a couple of weeks (seeing me in a tie is worth coming alone), and invite all our readers - and anyone they know - to join us:

Augusta Manor  -  February 6, 2010
1004 Augusta Street Greenville, South Carolina

Tickets: $25 per Person, Sponsorship $200

Cocktails 6:30 - 7:30 (Cash Bar)
Heavy Hors D'Oeuvres
Silent Auction
Black Tie Optional
Ballroom Dance Music by National Champion Phil Nolan

Birthday fun in Florence

Stephanie Rawlinson is one of the rising stars of Republican politics in the Pee Dee region. So it wasn't too much of a surprise to see many of Florence County's most active GOP operatives gathered for a surprise birthday party last night.

Even her husband was in on the plot, with her walking into a house packed full of appreciative friends, having no idea what was planned.

Anytime people follow the belief that GOP really means "G-O-Party", the Blogland is gonna be there as well. So with not much else to do that night, I went on up to show our appreciation for her work - and to have a lot of fun. Which everyone did.

While the cake refers to a 40th birthday, that is NOT how old she really is. However, I am not at liberty to say how old she really is. Something about getting drug into a swamp and beat to a pulp ...

As always, thanks to the most fun trio in South Carolina Republican circles: the McLaughlin sisters and Dana "the Lubricant Chick" Shriver, who were holding a ladies-only meeting in back when it was time to leave.

Faith versus Religiosity

I ran across this interesting quote on my priest's blog regarding the difference between Faith versus Religiosity earlier this week and thought it was worth sharing with my readers.

The quote is attributed to Father Alexander Men, a Russian Orthodox priest who was a prominent figure in the days the Church was beginning to re-emerge from Communist suppression.

Often what passes for Orthodoxy or another Christian confession is simply natural religiosity which, in its own right, is a kind of opium of the people. It functions as a sort of spiritual anesthetic, it helps a person adjust to his surrounding world, over which one can hang the slogan: ‘Blessed is the one who believes that it is cozy in the world.’ This is all wrong! …Your God is a consuming fire and not a warm hearth, and he is calling you to a place where all sorts of cold winds are blowing, so that what you imagine does not exist. You adapted and developed a completely different teaching to suit your own human needs. You transformed Christianity into a mediocre, popular religion. …Christianity can be authentic and it can be false. The false form is always more convenient. It always suits us better, which is why contemporary religious life is often characterized by a churchly falsehood when people prefer that which is convenient, calm and pleasant, conforms to their own ideas, consoles them, and which they enjoy. It is not at all to this that the Lord called us when he said ‘the gate is narrow’ and ‘the way is narrow.’ Again and again we need to understand that this Spirit is not warmth, but a fire. It is a fire.

Thanks goes out to my priest who continues to patiently wait to see me show up in church, which doesn't happen as often as I'd like due to all the hours I'm putting in these days.

Peachey, an old friend from high school who I joke with about all the quotes she posts on her Facebook, outta get a kick out of seeing me quote someone else.

Rep. Nathan Ballentine looks at judicial elections

Recent news media coverage has drawn some attention to the state's process of selecting and appointing judges:

One of South Carolina’s top lawmakers said the state will postpone screening of judge candidates until the state Supreme Court settles legal questions about the process.

The move is the most recent fallout from the controversy swirling around the reappointment of 9th Circuit Family Court Judge F.P. “Charlie” Segars-Andrews.

Richland County Rep. Nathan Ballentine, via his blogsite, shares some of his observations on the judicial selection process with his readers: