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My Brain on NASCAR: NASCAR loves the troops

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

The story I would like to tell this week is not my own, but I believe it is one we can all embrace.

I could go a different route. We could talk about how, although I do believe NASCAR needs an annual All-Star Race, I’d prefer that they come up with a format that isn’t completely incomprehensible and yes, I’m gonna say it … boring.

I could dredge up my ancient joke about I’ve had marriages that didn’t last as long as the Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We could talk about how you could read a sizable chunk of War and Peace and actually find it more exciting than the event, or hop on a plane during the pre-race show and be in Costa Rica before the checkered flag drops.

This race is LONG … but it’s also very meaningful to the body that sanctions it. When it comes to recognizing and very publicly honoring our military, no one does it better than NASCAR, who considers it not only necessary, but a top priority.

This year, activities to honor those who have sacrificed their lives have been ongoing throughout the week, with probably the best-known being the #NASCARSalutes social media campaign.

This is much more than just another of the many ubiquitous hashtag campaigns constantly popping up on our various platforms like dandelions. NASCAR takes this program very seriously. The names of fallen military service members are placed on the front windshields of all the Cup Series cars in the Coca-Cola 600, and specially-prepared Honor and Remember flags are displayed  throughout the garage area, representing those who have died in service from each of the 50 United States.  Read the rest of this entry »

Leapfrog Progress for S.C.?  Focus on Innovation/Digital

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

For hundreds of years, we in Western society have thought about things with a lineal and increment mind set. Progress – in society, commerce, science, engineering, etc., – was believed to be something that happens sequentially, usually slowly, with one step leading to another. This mindset is embedded in how we think about things and express ourselves “steady as she goes… one step at a time… the tortoise wins the race, etc.”

Yes, there have always been breakthroughs that brought big change but they were rare and it usually took years for the effect of the breakthrough to have a widespread impact throughout the general population. But digital innovation has now changed everything. A few examples:

Adoption: When electricity was first harnessed in 1873, it took 46 years for it to reach 25% of the U.S. population. The first television was invented in 1926 and it took 26 years to reach this 25% mark. The first mobile phones hit the market in 1983 and only 13 years later 25% of us had one. Invented in 1991, it took the internet only 8 years to reach 25% of the U.S. population.

Nature of Business: Consider this – the largest transportation company in the world, Uber, has no cars or trucks. The largest accommodations company in the world, Airbnb, owns no hotels or motels. The largest photography company, Instagram, sells no cameras or related products. The largest US retailer, Amazon, has no stores. The largest media content company in the world, Facebook, produces no content.

Companies Growth: Uber began in 2009 and in five years their valuation of $66 billion was greater than General Motors, Ford or Honda. Airbnb began in 2008 and has a $31 billion valuation, greater than Hyatt or Inter-Continental Hotels. Instagram started in 2010 has a $37 billion valuation and Kodak is now bankrupt. Facebook began in 2004 and its current valuation is $430 billion. And the ‘old digital company’ Amazon started in 1994 and is now worth $959 billion and Walmart’s valuation is $78 billion.  Read the rest of this entry »

“White House Shredded Credibility” by Stuart Neiman

“White House Shredded Credibility” by Stuart Neiman

“Fishy” from The Times and Democrat

“Fishy” from The Times and Democrat

“One day maybe” from The Times and Democrat

“One day maybe” from The Times and Democrat

Living on Purpose: Living in the awareness of God’s presence

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Here is a touching story found in John chapter 12 about humble servants love for her Lord. Verse 3 reads, “Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” Judas managed the finances for the ministry of Jesus and was angry about how the perfume should have been sold and the money used to help the poor. Jesus spoke up and said, “Leave her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor, always you have with you; but me you have not always.” We can picture this scene in our minds as a beautiful example of the importance of having our priorities in the right place. Mary was not intimidated by the criticism of the world because she was mesmerized in the holy aura of God’s presence. She discarded what this realm considered logical and practical and was only concentrating on the revelation of who He was. Her personal relationship with Jesus was her highest calling and nothing was more important than becoming one with Him. This is a glimpse of humility that has made the bold decision to be free from embarrassment and fear and is determined to live and serve God whatever the cost.

Pure and love are not two words that we often connect together because much of what we know about love in this world is not always pure. We are flawed humans and realize that love many times has a slightly twisted angle or ulterior motive. Within our dysfunctions, it’s common to feel that we need to earn someone’s love as we learn how to exchange and trade love in order to receive it. However, the wonder and beauty of God’s love is not based on how much we can do or how well we perform. He loves us with a pure unconditional love which means that even in our worst moments – He loves us just the same. When we receive this revelation of His pure love for us, we are broken and drawn to express our sincere love back to Him through worship. When Jesus was on the cross, we were on His mind and we will forever bow before Him in gratitude. To recognize who He is and to love Him with all of our strength, mind and soul is all that He has ever wanted. What more can He say, what more can He do?  Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: Almirola

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

It bugs me more than a little bit that, prior to the recent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, most of us never gave much more than a passing thought to Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola, if we ever thought about him at all.

That all changed on May 13 when, rather than enjoying racing under the lights at Kansas, we watched Almirola being cut out of his mangled car, strapped to a backboard and airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center. The incident was the result of a fiery, terrifying collision which also involved Joey Logano and Danica Patrick.

What bothers me the most is the reaction that most of us probably had as we watched the aftermath of the wreck: “He’ll be OK.” It seems we have become so inured to watching drivers walk away unscathed from horrific accidents – usually the most exciting part of any race – that we take it for granted they’re going to be fine.

Thankfully, this was true in Almirola’s case, more or less. The hospital kept him overnight for observation, then released him with a diagnosis of a compression fracture to the T5 vertebra. He is currently recovering at his home in North Carolina, and according to an RPM press release, his driving status has yet to be determined.

There’s never a good time to be cut out of a car, but from a professional viewpoint, the incident was particularly unfortunate for Almirola. He’s been having a pretty good year. Prior to the Kansas race, he was 23rd in the Cup Series standings, just 62 points outside of the current cutoff with 17 races left in the regular season. He has posted a pair of fourth-place finishes this year, at Daytona and Talladega.

As they always seem to do, things really got interesting when the drivers involved were asked the literal burning question after being checked out and released from the infield care center – What happened?  Read the rest of this entry »

FOI reform comes at last

Bill Rogers

By Bill Rogers

It’s been a long time coming, but citizens of South Carolina will soon have faster and cheaper access to public documents.

For seven years, the Legislature has for one reason or the other not passed an FOI reform bill.  They did so on the last day of the session this year, and it offers some real improvements in our state’s open government law.

The House, led by Reps. Weston Newton and Bill Taylor, pushed hard for the reform and in the end concurred in a last-minute Senate amendment doing away with establishment of an FOIA hearing officer.  But the good of the law far outweighs the loss of easier enforcement.

Perhaps the most meaningful part of the reform deals with response time.  The new law changes the amount of time an agency has to respond from 15 days to 10 days.  That’s a pretty good compromise.  Note that Georgia requires a 3-day response, but they have exemptions.

The law also sets up a specific time for an FOI request to be fulfilled.  In the past, a few agencies abused the law by dragging out their response for months.  Now they have 30 days in most cases.

The law also limits how much an agency can charge for documents.  In the past, some charged outrageous amounts to discourage release.  Now, they can charge no more than the prevailing commercial rate for producing copies.   Agencies may also require up to a 25% deposit before beginning a search.

The law encourages electronic transmission of public records and says copy charges may not be made for electronic records.  But the agency is not required to create an electronic version when it does not exist. Read the rest of this entry »

S.C. Political Corruption, Part 4: Image, Ethics, Business and South Carolina’s Future

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This is the latest in a continuing series on the ethics scandal that is unfolding in our state. See others in the series at www.PhilNoble.com.

Image –

After World War II, a fierce but civil rivalry developed between Birmingham and Atlanta as to which would become the unofficial Capital of the South.

Founded in 1871, Birmingham was a coal and steel town with much of the ownership of the principal industries being in Pittsburg and other northern cities. The symbol of the city was and is a large statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and the forge. In 1950, the city’s population was 326,000.

Atlanta was founded in 1837 as a railroad junction and was known as the crossroads of people, commerce and ideas. The Atlanta newspaperman Henry Grady coined the term New South. In 1885, a local former Confederate Cornel name James Pemberton invented Coca Cola and his partner Asa Candler and his dependents led the growth of Coke to become a global brand. In 1950, the city’s population was 333,000.

Then came the defining issue for not only Atlanta and Birmingham but the South and the nation as a whole – the issue of race. How these two cities dealt with this issue defined their future.

Bull Connor, police dogs, firehoses and violence became the image of Birmingham. The out of state economic ‘big mules’ cared more about their profits than Birmingham’s image or the city’s people and they let the Bull Connor crowd do what they pleased.

In Atlanta, the local economic leaders and Mayor Ivan Allen proclaimed Atlanta as ‘the city too busy to hate.’ Birmingham jailed Martin Luther King; Atlanta held a dinner in his honor when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Read the rest of this entry »

“Say the word Trump” by Stuart Neiman

“Say the word Trump” by Stuart Neiman

“Knows His Stuff” from The Times and Democrat

“Knows His Stuff” from The Times and Democrat

“Score Rewrite” from The Times and Democrat

“Score Rewrite” from The Times and Democrat

Living on Purpose: The memories of our loved ones live within us

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Through the winter months, I had been thinking about how I was going to tackle the huge project of replacing our privacy fence in the spring. I have built this type of fence before and those of you that are familiar with this, will understand when I say it is very hard work, especially when you are doing it by yourself. Digging post-holes are not for the faint of heart – ha! I retired in 2014 and have not really been involved with strenuous activity for a while, so when I started tearing down the old fence, I knew the first day this was going to be rough. Yes, there were days I thought about calling a fence company to take over, but to be honest, as I kept going, the better I started to feel. I would start early trying to come up with a game plan for the day, drinking coffee as I contemplated. The weather was cool and it was very peaceful listening to the breeze flowing through the trees and the birds in all their glorious and enthusiastic singing seemed to be encouraging me to keep pressing forward. I finally finished the other day and I am very grateful to be able to mark that from my list and now I can move on to other projects I need to accomplish.

When I was growing up, my dad was a custom home-builder and he taught me a lot about construction. He passed away last year and my mom gave me some boxes of tools that he had saved from the past and I put them in my shop. The other day I was looking for a drill bit and noticed dads old set of bits and as I opened that old familiar yellow plastic box, I remembered the good times we spent working together. The flood of emotions took me by surprise and I just sat down and allowed the memories to roll like I was watching an old movie. My dad was very talented and I was always amazed at his strength and what he could do when it came to building things. He was creative and had an ability to problem solve and was not afraid of hard work. He was respected for his high level of expertise and was definitely a true craftsman.  Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: The Big One

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

If the success or failure of an event — oh, let’s say a NASCAR weekend, for example – can be measured by the sum of its many moving parts, then the May 7 race at Talladega Superspeedway was an official doozy.

Daytona International Speedway, despite all its glory and success, didn’t quite satisfy its builder, NASCAR co-founder Bill France, Sr. He wanted something bigger. So, after failing to secure a location in the Raleigh, NC area, in 1968 he ended up breaking ground on an old airfield in Alabama, officially giving birth to NASCAR’s longest, fastest and arguably most dangerous track.

Talladega Superspeedway is, in pretty much every way you can think of, literally “the big one.”

The Geico 500 on May 7 was no exception. The wrecking ball started rolling during qualifying, when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., driving the No. 17 Fastenal Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing, won the pole position, only the second of his career.

That was pretty exciting. Despite his obvious talent behind the wheel, Stenhouse hasn’t quite managed to reach the levels of success and fan popularity enjoyed by some of NASCAR’s other “young guns,” most notably our usual suspects, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Winning the starting spot at Talladega was a great moment for him … except for the small issue of who he took it from.

In what has unfortunately become Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s farewell tour, Stenhouse’s moment in the sun clouded up the day for many fans when he snatched the pole from Junior and held onto it. For Stenhouse, whose career to date hasn’t exactly been full of stellar moments — although mark my words, that’s going to change — the moment was definitely a big one. Read the rest of this entry »

“Town Hall Meeting” from The Times and Democrat

“Town Hall Meeting” from The Times and Democrat

“Mom Upgrade” from The Times and Democrat

“Mom Upgrade” from The Times and Democrat

“Debt Prison” from The Times and Democrat

“Debt Prison” from The Times and Democrat

Gov. McMaster’s First 100 Days: Failure?

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This is an expanded version of a column that appeared last week in The State newspaper.

May 4 marked Gov. Henry McMaster’s 100th day in office. Since there was such a flurry of reporting about Pres. Trump’s first 100 days, it seems appropriate to look at what Gov. McMaster has achieved in his first 100 days.

The title of this column “Failure?” asks the question. Below is a simple recounting of the facts (not alternative facts) as reported by the state’s media. I then offer my opinion and I leave it to you the readers to decide for yourself if McMaster has been a failure.

Request of $5.18 billion from Trump – On Feb. 6, The Post and Courier reported “In his first major action as governor, Henry McMaster penned a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday, requesting nearly $5.2 billion to help fund a laundry list of infrastructure projects…” There has been no public response from Trump.

A Diet for State Government – On Feb. 22, McMaster announced, “State government is going to have to go on a diet as far as spending.” This was in response to the first draft of the state budget that did not give state employees a pay raise.

Pay Raise for Staff – On Feb 24, (two days after the above announcement) McMaster announced his Chief of Staff Trey Walker got a $30,000 or 23% pay raise – raising his salary to $165,000. The governor’s salary is $106, 078.

 Financial Shell Game as Chairman of S.C. GOP – On March 15, The Post and Courier reported that a long buried 2004 S.C. Republican Party audit revealed that “Powerful South Carolina operatives aided Gov. Henry McMaster’s political rise by running a financial shell game in 2000 that masked division and debt in the state Republican Party while he was chairman.”  Among those as aiding McMaster with in and out cash payments of $60,000 were Richard Quinn and his companies.

 McMaster Denies Kickbacks – On March 17, The State newspaper reported,S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has not received any money personally – whether rebates or kickbacks (from Quinn) … McMaster has paid Quinn and Associates $504,000 since 2009…” Read the rest of this entry »

“GOP Buzzsaw” by Stuart Neiman

“GOP Buzzsaw” by Stuart Neiman

Living on Purpose: Optimistic thinking is a learned behavior

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

As a minister, I am always being updated about what is happening in the daily news and  regularly reminded about how the world is falling apart. I do appreciate the hard work from the news agencies to keep us informed, but we must also realize there needs to be a balance between constantly absorbing what everyone else is doing and concentrating on the life we have been called to live. While it’s true there are many bad things that happen every minute, we should also remember this does not mean that everyone is a criminal or that the entire world is a valley of death and darkness. There have always been bad people that do evil things but it just seems worse now because the population has grown and with advancing technology we can instantly know what is going on everywhere. Unfortunately, this constant flood of negative information can overload our emotions and cause fear, anxiety and stress. It is also not a coincidence that technology and anti-depressant medications have grown together.

Years ago, people lived somewhat isolated from the constant bombardment of bad news which by the way gave them much less to be upset and worried about. The average person was more focused on their family and investing their time working to make sure they had everything they needed. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “there is no substitute for hard work” and I believe the concept of perseverance and determination should be included in our education curriculum. Excuse me if my views are old school, but playing on a cellphone all day and watching television all night is not the formula for accomplishment. OK, back to our subject. Another point that we can consider, is there are many decent people that are doing good things. They may not receive the same amount of attention but they are out there. I see this side of the spectrum a little more than the average person because I am in and out of places where these individuals devote their time and resources. In my small community, I know lots of people that volunteer behind the scenes and are making a huge difference in the lives of others. Just imagine all the ones that support charitable organizations, those who work in the churches and others who are actively involved in community outreach and then multiply that around the world. Nonetheless, like I said earlier, we rarely hear about these secret agents that are driven with love and concern and are not afraid to act upon their convictions. To them, I say; Praise the Lord for you! Read the rest of this entry »