• Country music fans in Kershaw County and across the country might get a special treat in the coming year. Superstar Merle Haggard, who's one of the only country stars who really did serve time in prison, was recently honored at Washington's Kennedy Center with a lifetime achievement award for his work. While there he got together with old buddies Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson and the three are contemplating getting together as a new singing group. There aren't many better than those three, and any work coming out of their collaboration will be a treat.
As the final minutes of 2010 wind toward midnight, there are probably many people in Kershaw County who won't be sad to see the curtain fall on this year. The economy remained stagnant; jobs didn't bounce back as everyone had hoped they would; the housing market is still in the doldrums; and we suffered through one of the most brutal summers in history. Yet there is hope ahead as we move into the second decade of the 21st century.
Warmer weather is on the way for Kershaw County, and there will no doubt be lots of people who are happy about that. Above-normal temperatures could bring this month's averages up enough to avoid this year's being the coldest December on record, but it's been pretty brutal by southern standards, with more nights in the teens this month than we normally see in a couple years. There will no doubt be a great many expressions of disbelief when heating bills arrive. But we in South Carolina can still consider ourselves fortunate; rarely do we experience the kind ...
• The new census brought good news for South Carolina, as the Palmetto State's population growth over the past decade will result in an additional Congressional seat, bringing the state's total to 7. As expected, most states which will pick up seats are in the South and the West, and most which will lose states are in the industrial Midwest and the Northeast. The new Congressional map amounts to an obstacle for national Democrats.
On Christmas Eve, we offer this timeless piece which was first published in The New York Sun in 1897, when editor Francis Church was faced with the following letter from a little girl named Virginia O'Hanlon:
As we near the end of 2010 -- it's almost unfathomable that a full decade has passed since the momentous millennium celebration -- the economy is still struggling to rebound both nationally and right here in Kershaw County. Many small businesses are just hanging on until things get better; real estate agents are not seeing an anticipated turnaround in home sales; and too many people are out of work. At the same time, there is much to celebrate. The Christmas season is the basis of the Christian faith, and a time of reunion; thousands of Kershaw Countians will join with family ...
• It's been much colder than normal here in Kershaw County and many people are ready for an easing of the temperatures. But one friend suggested recently we should be thankful; he had checked weather information on-line, and for a recent week in Fairbanks, Alaska, the high temperature -- the high -- was negative 28 degrees. The low was negative 51. Those readings make our recent nights in the teens seem absolutely balmy.
As we approach a new year, one of the best presents the State of South Carolina could receive from the General Assembly would be a comprehensive tort reform measure that would make the state's business climate friendlier and would spur economic stability. Texas has been a leader in tort reform, and Gov. Rick Perry is pushing a new proposal that would take that state a step further.
Three situations worth watching:
• We're happy to see Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk selected by her peers to serve as chair of the S.C. General Assembly Women's Caucus. We'll agree with Funderburk when she decries the fact that South Carolina is last in the nation in female elected officials, and we'd like to see more women elected to serve not only in Columbia but throughout the state. We're confident she'll do a great job leading the Women's Caucus at the State House.
Voters in Kershaw County and nationwide have been bombarded with news during the past few days regarding the compromise between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans on tax policy. Democrats in Washington, who for nearly two years have been accusing the GOP of obstructionism, are the people in this instance who are throwing up roadblocks. To listen to them tell it, lower-income Americans are being saddled with a lion's share of the American tax burden while upper-income citizens walk away on April 15 scot-free. So here are a few facts:
Kershaw County voters, like their counterparts throughout the county, should take heart in the fact that Democrats and Republicans finally came together in Washington Monday to forge what looks to be a workable compromise on economic matters. They came up with a measure that will keep income rates at their current pace for another two years and will also extend unemployment taxes; the measure will also reduce the payroll tax on Social Security, instantly putting money into the pockets of working Americans as the country tries to pull out of its long economic tailspin.
• We're glad to see that the U.S. Congress has passed a bill which will prohibit television networks from jacking up the volume when commercials are shown. For decades, viewers have been forced to reach for the remote control device when the sound spurted during ad pitches. We also propose a tongue-in-cheek amendment to the new law: that whenever politicians appear on TV with too much blathering, the volume gets automatically cut down to zero.
With all the scent of change in the air in Washington, D.C., there's still an unpleasant aroma of business as usual in the nation's capital. Despite all the talk about cutting spending and the profligacy of earmarks, the U. S. Senate refused last week to outlaw them. We don't pretend to say banning earmarks would solve the country's deficit problems, but it would be a symbolic first step; Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has referred to them as "the gateway drug to spending addiction."
Backers of a Kershaw County local-option sales tax which was rejected by voters earlier this month say they aren't giving up and that they will again pursue efforts to get the penny tax passed, perhaps in a scaled-down version. Voters turned the proposal down by a significant margin during the general election, sending officials a message that this isn't the right time to be raising taxes.
• We are comforted when justice is served, and we believe that happened Thursday afternoon when a jury found 33-year-old Willie Thomas Starnes, of Bethune, guilty of armed robbery and murder. The jury found Starnes guilty of deliberately using his vehicle a year ago to knock Alan Thomas Robinson, 67, also of Bethune, off his moped, stealing and loading that moped onto his vehicle and then turning around and running Robinson over. Robinson died the next day. Starnes is then accused of selling the moped for money he used to buy drugs. In fact, Starnes was under the influence of drugs ...
Whenever the subject of guns is brought up, it engenders strong opinion on both sides -- from those who believe in absolute Second Amendment rights, and from those who believe that nobody should be allowed to own a gun in any circumstances. Like most people, we fall somewhere in the middle, solidly on the side of Americans to own firearms but a bit dubious about why it makes sense for people to own Uzis and other automatic weapons that are made with the express purpose of killing people.
We comment on sports issues in this space on a regular basis, because athletics are so ingrained into the culture of Kershaw County and South Carolina. This week marks the kick-off of college football season in the Palmetto State, and several developments highlight the changing culture of the pigskin pastime here.
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