Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rainey-Ravenel left me thinking, they are both wrong

I watched the web video of the much touted Rainey-Ravenel debate. Ravenel reminded me of myself back in economics courses in college in the early 1990s. Rainey reminded me of my of my now late economics professor in college, who lectured to me and shot holes all throughout my arguments, even though I was an A student. In other words, Ravenel is no dummy, but neither is Rainey. Two very smart men crossed words this week.

And, too me, both men are wrong about one thing: the state retirement system. Both seem to accept the status quo, just differ how to invest the retirement system money. I think that a wholesale change needs to be made. Perhaps politics prevents that. But, if we are going to talk about what is best for the state, we have to make a big change.

First, all state employees, local government employees and others covered by the state system need to be moved off of the state system and into the social security system the rest of us live under. Let them retire when the rest of us do. The only exceptions would be public safety and military employees, whose jobs are so demanding that so called early retirement is justified.

Further, let everyone participate in a contributions based retirement benefit program, not the current benefits based program we have. A contributions based program will pay benefits based strictly upon what the employee contributed to the retirement account. Let it be the standard 401(k) we in the private sector live under. We should eliminate the system based upon salary per quarter we currently live under.

That would be radical to some people. But, it is needed. We can not afford to continue to pay folks more money to not work than to work. It is tough, but honest. I heard neither debate participant give tough talk or honest talk.

I realize that my plan ticks off two important groups. The first is the state employees unions, who want their members to get as much as possible. The second group are people who want the state to give them investment money.

Nevertheless, there is one way to make sure state retirees get an honest promise. Let them take the promise we all take with social security and let them work the full life the rest of us do, and have the 401(k)s the rest of do.

It is just pure politics, not economic logic, that keeps the current state retirement system in place. Unfortunately, both candidates for treasurer defend, in total, the status quo. Patterson wants to keep the state employees happy. Ravenel apparently wants to invest money with people who want to get hands on the state's dollars. Neither really offer the solution to fix the problem.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

After Nearly Five Years, the Memories still Burn Bright

It has been nearly five years since that fateful September day. I was standing in a customer's office. The tv in the office was blaring out something about a tragic accident involving an airliner flying into the World Trade Center.

I left that customer's office and started to make my way down to Bamberg, South Carolina, where I had to examine a real estate title. My mobile phone rang. It was my mother. She said another plane hit the other World Trade Center tower. She also reminded me of something I had not thought of, my father was on an airplane headed for Chicago.

I turned around the first chance I got. The title exam in Bamberg could wait. I went to my home. By the time I got to my suburban Columbia home, The Pentagon was hit. I still remember VH1 of all stations having the news on.

I spoke again to my mother. She had yet to hear from my father. I quickly made plans to go to their home in Honea Path. Between the time I left for Honea Path and arrived, my mother spoke to my father. He was stranded in Columbus Ohio with some business associates.

I had a chevy astro van at the time, something I had for NASCAR races and the like. But, it became clear that my van and I were Ohio bound. My father's best friend, a man I call "Uncle Skip" was at my parents house and ready to go with me. "Uncle Skip" was an old army special forces guy, a guy who had been called up to go and rescue the ship Mayaguez during the Ford administration. Having old Skip with me was invaluable. He kept me both awake and sane.

And, there were crazy things Skip and I saw in our trip from Honea Path to Ohio the night of September 11th and the day of September 12th. There was an improvised checkpoint in the state of Tennessee. For what, I still don't know. There was a soldier and his wife we met at rest stop in Kentucky on his way to Ft. Campbell after being recalled from leave. There was gas prices as high as $5 a gallon in Kentucky and Ohio. We both listened intently to President Bush on the radio.

I got tired. I got irritated. But, ole Skip kept me sane. He kept saying things like " we got a duty here boy," and the like.

Eventually, we reached my father and his business associates in Columbus. They cramped into my little van and made their way home. They were grateful for the ride home. For, you see, there were not airflights, and all rentals had been frozen as well.

Many people remember where they were when they heard that an attack had happened. I remember that as well. I also remember the long, weird night into day trip I had with ole Skip to go get my father and his business associates. The time was surreal. So much was so odd.

I will never forget what happened on September 11, 2001, not only because of the tragedy, but because of what I learned about the best and worst of America. The best was ole Skip, a true friend who was a companion in getting my dad back home. The worst was the folks who wanted to charge us $5 a gallon for gas south of Cincinnati.

If I live to be a hundred, I will never forget that day, and the barbarians who threw our lives into surreality. It is something we should remember. I will never, ever,forget the images of people jumping from the trade tower out of my head. I will never, ever, forget the images of the towers falling. I will never, ever, forget the surreal night and day Skip and I had to get my father and his business associates home.

So many of us forget what happened that day. Politics or whatever inspires so many of us to forget. I will never forget. When I later learned that the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania came very close to my father's flight, I cringed.

Five years later, the memories of September 11th burn in my mind. It is why I am proud that I voted for President Bush twice. At least he gets the fact we have to fight the Islamic fascists head on.

Regardless of the politics, I will never forget, and I will always be grateful to ole Skip. He is one helluva man.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How High School football ought to be


I love the games of football and basketball. I believe that either game can change a young person's life for the better by teaching them valuable lessons about life. Because I love the games so much there is nothing like a high school football stadium on late summer and fall Friday nights and small gyms packed with fans come winter.

But, there is something going amiss in these great pastimes. The gangstas are among us. The local jamborees, (football exhibitions in which several high schools play one another for a quarter or half, for you high school football neophytes out there), in Richland and Lexington county were fitted with metal detectors and heavy security. The reason was that the Richland County Sheriff's department had broken up a Crips gang meeting this week in which disrupting the jamborees with violence was allegedly planned.

It was disheartening. Is the gangsta mentality taking over every aspect of our culture? Can a kid not go play a sport without that crap being involved?

I did find one place this weekend, where high school football was the way it ought to be. I had the privilege of attending the Christ Church -Thornwell game in Greenville Friday night. Christ Church won big, but that was not nearly as important to me as the atmosphere. Fans and families on both sides conducted themselves with dignity while cheering for their teams. There were only a couple of police officers on site. There were no metal detectors. There were no hints of violence in the air. It was night for football and its fans.

It was a night so different than the night in a Richland County stadium that felt like a Presidential visit was on hand.

Hooray for Christ Church and Thornwell for showing the other schools what a positive high school sporting event atmosphere is. It is the way high school football ought to be.

To learn more about Christ Church athletics you can go to http://www.cces.org/athletics.html. To learn more about Thornwell you can go to http://www.thornwell.org/.

Here's hoping both of these schools have an injury free and successful season.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An open challenge to SCRG


I use this small, humble space to issue a challenge to South Carolinians for Responsible Government. If you are really conservative, if you are really funded primarily by South Carolinians, then stand up, drop the lawsuits and open your books. Show where the money comes from and shut up the critics. It is a simple thing. If you really believe the principles of better government set forth by Goldwater, Reagan and Campbell, than you know the right thing is stop hiding behind lawyers and start opening the books to silence your critics.

It is my guess you can not do that. The reason is simple. Your organization has got heavy funding from outside South Carolina. Perhaps I am wrong. If I am, you can make me a fool by opening the books and showing everyone where your money comes from. I stress my idea about your financing is merely a guess. I might be wrong. But, you reinforce that guess with your unwillingness to open your books.

I just can not fathom why, when you champion responsible government, you don't want to be open and above board. It reminds me of the some of the old Communist propaganda. The Communists of the past would pick a nice sounding name for a group, such as something like "The Emergency Committee for the Protection of the Workers," and then go on to not tell a soul what the group was up to.

Is that what the modern day Conservative movement has come to? Is it nothing more than cute propaganda that hides behind legal details? Is that what Goldwater or Reagan or Campbell had in mind for the conservative movement?

Till the day they put me in the dirt, I will be a Goldwater-Reagan-Campbell Republican. I am proud of the principles of limited government and accountability in the political process. And, as such, until you, SCRP comes clean about your operations, I will fight your hijacking of the honorable conservative movement with my little space on the internet, with letters to the editor and the like for as long as I can.

But, you can again, make me and others out as fools. Just open your books honestly and prove us all wrong, if you can.

As I write this, I look up at a letter I got from Barry Goldwater on my wall. Ole Barry would not have put up with this kind of crap and neither will I. The real conservative movement deserves much better.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A lesson from Mel Gibson


The media just boggles my mind this week. We can all learn a lesson from Mel Gibson about our culture shift to the sensational and irrelevant.Gibson, an actor and producer, is influential to a degree. I enjoy his movies. I enjoy his art, so to speak. I don't expect him to be role model. So when his DUI arrest was made last week, it was ho hum to me. When it was reported he made anti Jewish remarks, I was disappointed, but not appalled or shocked. Artists of any kind have their moments of stupidity. The part of the brain that makes them create art or act or write sometimes goes a little haywire, especially when alcohol is added to the equation. So, some drunk actor ran his mouth. Ho hum again.But, not in modern America. The media went into overkill mode. Spokesmen for Jewish groups were sought. The respectable Sam Donaldson of ABC even wasted his question at a Presidential press conference to ask if Mel Gibson should apologize. Perhaps Gibson should. But, he just said words.In Lebanon, terrorists are working with Syria and Iran to kill people just because they are Jewish. How can one get any more anti Semitic than that? Yet, there is no media firestorm against those people trying to kill Jews. It makes no sense. Mel Gibson made stupid remarks while drunk. Hezbollah plots to kill Jews. Yet, Gibson draws the ire of the mainstream American media and the terrorists do not?Then there is the DUI part of the Gibson firestorm. Certainly, Gibson was wrong to drive drunk. Certainly he should be brought to justice as anyone else. Yet, while his story got international attention, another DUI that is more outrageous happened in the state of Utah. It is under the "news of the weird" section on a local fox station in Utah and the UPI. A state trooper charged with coordinating an anti DUI unit in Utah was arrested for DUI see the quotes from the story:A Utah state trooper commanding an anti-drunk driving squad was charged with DUI after he crashed an unmarked police car.Lt. Fred Swain has been on administrative leave from the Utah Highway Patrol since his arrest last week, the Deseret Morning News reported.Officers responding to the report of a crash found Swain in the car. He had struck the barrier separating two sides of a road.Swain's blood alcohol tested at .116"While the mainstream media was concerned about some actor driving drunk, a trooper charged with protecting the people of his state from drunk drivers was out driving drunk.Such is typical. Our culture is a culture of enterainment. The enteraining news is put foward, while the substantive is buried. Too bad major media outlets won't have reporters and cameras camped out in front of the trooper's home to see if he seeks AA or other counseling. Too bad the major media won't call on Iran, Syria and the terrorists to stop killing Jews for just being Jews. I guess the major media is too worried about what the next drunk actor or actress will do or say next. Besides Paris Hilton's next sex video is probably going to be out soon, and who wants to read, hear, or watch news accounts about people violating the public trust or about a race of people being attacked just for their race? Paris and Mel, that's more entertaining.