• We start with a tip of the Chronicle-Independent hat to Jim and Pat Watts for their giving ways in helping the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County construct and open a new performing arts wing at the center. The new 3,876-square foot-wing, dedicated in their name at the FAC's recent annual meeting, will allow the center to expand its theater arts education and performance programs. It's a great addition to the FAC campus for which we say, "Bravo!"
Nobody's really sure whether or not presidential debates actually influence voters' decisions, although the so-called experts say the small minority of undecided voters are indeed subject to what goes on when candidates stand behind lecterns and fire bombs at each other. If that's indeed true, then the contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney got a bit tighter Wednesday night, as even the staunchest liberals conceded that Romney got the best of the president in their first debate.
We doubt that many Kershaw County residents are waiting in breathless anticipation for the presidential debate tonight. After all, mirroring the normal path of politics over the last few years, this year's contest between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney has been more of a mud-wrestling contest than a serious forum over the many difficult issues facing the United States.
• Singer Andy Williams, who died last week at the age of 84, had one of those soothing voices that left people feeling better about everything. His signature song, "Moon River," came from the 1961 movie "Breakfast At Tiffany's" and carried him to stardom, though he had many other hits. He was one of the original acts in Branson, Mo., and performed until shortly before his death. He will be missed in the music world.
People here in Kershaw County and South Carolina take their football seriously. Though the Carolina Panthers are based in nearby Charlotte, the college game still reigns supreme here, but Sunday afternoons still attract plenty of fans who like to watch the National Football League games. Some of those contests have been thrown into disarray by substitute officials who have taken the place of the league's regular officials, who were locked out by team owners in a labor dispute.
In a day when Democrats and Republicans will argue about what color the sky is or whether the wind blows, the latest controversy comes along with South Carolina's new voter registration statutes, which have been challenged by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who says the move could disenfranchise black voters. The S.C. law would require voters to show at least one kind of proper identification, something that Palmetto voters did for years. But opponents say requiring such a measure would punish people who don't have ready access to such documents.
Few crimes have attracted the attention and fascination of the public like the gruesome 1970 murder of an Army wife and her two young daughters at Fort Bragg, N.C.; the husband and father, Capt. Jeffrey McDonald, a Green Beret physician, was subsequently convicted of the murders and has been in prison since 1979. For all these years he has maintained his innocence, claiming the murders were committed by four mysterious people who invaded his army post home, stabbed him and killed his family during a drug-induced rampage.
As President Obama and Mitt Romney batter each other and each other's parties ad nauseum, voters in Kershaw County and across the country continue to be subjected to the same bitter partisanship that keeps Congress and the White House from getting much achieved. In fact, we were struck by another newspaper's recent focus on a book entitled "The Parties Versus The People," by former U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards, a Republican of Oklahoma. "We have to reclaim our democracy, not from an invading army but from the parasitic destruction waged in the name of partisan interest," Edwards wrote.
• As the teachers' strike unfolded in Chicago and protesting educators swarmed city streets, we watched with interest as one teacher explained, with a straight face, why they were going out on strike. "We want to make sure all the children in Chicago get the kind of education they deserve," he said. We've noticed that whatever the location, teachers who shut down schools always mouth the party line that they are doing it for the kids and not for themselves. We hope nobody actually believes that.
College athletics has become too big and too important, a behemoth that sometimes seems to control the academic process rather than the other way around. But that is what it has come to, and with the huge amounts of money being tossed around for TV rights to college football and basketball games, it's hard to see it going the other way.
Don't be surprised if some member of the S.C. General Assembly reads of the new 85-mile-an-hour speed limit in Texas and decides that would be a good idea for the Palmetto State. We hope that won't happen, but we'll never be flabbergasted at any proposal that includes a higher driving speed, which to some lawmakers equates with motherhood and apple pie.
• Penn State pedophile Jerry Sandusky says he regrets not testifying at his child sex-abuse trial earlier this year. Sandusky, who's awaiting sentencing after being convicted of multiple counts of abusing young boys, still maintains his innocence despite crushing evidence against him and the testimony of several of his victims. Sandusky isn't likely to convince anyone that he's innocent.
Democrats in South Carolina have every right to criticize Gov. Nikki Haley. Even from many in her own party, she gets low marks for her governing style, which has tended to alienate many. Of course, some of that alienation has come among members of the Republican-controlled General Assembly who are loathe to cede any additional power to a governor -- any governor -- because it might lessen their authority.
Kershaw County residents with long political memories might recall the 1980 Democratic presidential campaign, when Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged incumbent President Jimmy Carter for the party's nomination. On a television interview, Kennedy was asked why he wanted to be president, which should have been a political softball for him. Instead, he stumbled and bumbled, never really delivering a decent answer, and it was the beginning of the end for his campaign.
• Bad news seems to arrive in clumps when it comes to climate change, and the latest findings about sea ice in the Arctic are bleak; the ice level there has shrunk to its lowest level on record. A diminishing ice sheet has all sorts of unpleasant implications for the future, including exacerbating the warming of the atmosphere. Few people have answers, but no longer is there much question about whether global warming is taking place.
Everyone knows that when it comes to sports, football reigns supreme here in Kershaw County and South Carolina. Whereas basketball might be the top sport in neighboring North Carolina, it's a distant second -- or probably even third -- here in the Palmetto State. And these are heady times for gridiron enthusiasts of both the University of South Carolina and Clemson; both teams have enjoyed success in the past few seasons, and that momentum has carried over into recruiting, in which both schools are piling up classes that are among the nation's best.
Kershaw County residents are getting ready to face what other voters across the country are going to see in the next few months: an onslaught of political ads, many of them nasty in character, and a high percentage of them paid for not by candidates but by special interest groups which have amassed millions upon millions of dollars to spread their messages. And, of course, the bulk of those messages will be negative. These groups are both Democratic and Republican, conservative and liberal. Altogether, according to news reports, such factions are going to buy $2 billion worth of ad time ...
• Friday's report that Amtrak is going to spend the next several months refurbishing Camden's passenger rail station off West DeKalb Street is welcome news. Built in 1937, it has shown its age for decades and never more so than now with holes in the platform's canopy, rotting timbers and other problems that make it a less than desirable place to stop. Amtrak says their No. 1 priority is making the facility Americans with Disabilities Act compliant -- and that's a very good thing -- from the parking lot to the station and onto the platform and train. But ...
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