NINE BILLION DOLLARS

 

After eight years of writing a blog, I have learned a few things. One of them is, when I am really mad about something, the words seem to flow from my fingertips. This is one of those times that I cannot stop writing about an awful thing here in South Carolina.

According to an article written by Phil Noble, a syndicated writer across South Carolina, this is probably the biggest boondoggle and corruption event in the history of the state. I am not sure where it stacks up against Enron or the savings and loan debacle, but it comes close.

Here is the story as I have read about it.  Santee Cooper and SCANA (SC Electric and Gas parent company) lobbied the SC legislature in 2007 to pass the Base Load Review Act. It enabled the power companies to build nuclear facilities to provide electricity for the state. The legislation provided a 10.5% guaranteed profit to SCANA even if the project went into the tank.

Guess what, the project went into the tank. The legislation had passed in only a few days with only 6 house members voting no. Imagine school finance laws to help rural schools become more successful. Let’ see that might take over 20 years. Guess there must be a difference between the two pieces of legislation.

Rate payers in SC have been paying the cost of this project and will continue to pay for it until the 9 billion bucks is finished. Meanwhile, the management of the two companies has enriched them and publicly takes no responsibility for the failure of the project.

Do you think that money exchanged hands during the passage of this legislation? You bet it did and it continues today. Not sure how many of the legislators from 2007 are still around, but recently, the Governor of SC received a campaign  donation of 115k. At this point SCANA has refused to hand over a study by the Bechtel Corporation who did a study of the project in 2015.

Bechtel reported on a number of serious problems with the project and its construction. SCANA and Santee Cooper are responsible for this debacle. Their management will leave their companies with large golden parachutes. The President of SCANA, who was just let go by the board, will get a 16 million dollar severance package.

This is all a pile of caca de toro. If you took that 9 billion dollars and divided it by the 736,000 children in public schools in South Carolina, you would get an additional $12,228 per pupil. That would go a long way to solving South Carolina’s education problems.

 

 

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MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN

Every time I see that hat that says, “Make America Great Again…” I feel like replacing great with the work white. To say that our current president invented the whitening of America is giving him too much credit. This has been going on since the establishment of our country.

It probably began even earlier before the Revolutionary War, when our former rulers tried to do away with Native Americans. We even pitted one tribe against another by signing treaties and then abrogating them. We learned a great deal from the British.

We institutionalized racism with the creation of the constitution of the United States of America. Not only did we not get rid of slavery at the beginning but we actually counted African Americans as 3/5ths of a human being. We certainly did not see them as citizens or tax paying voters. We actually had to fight a way in which 500,000 people lost their lives to get rid of slavery. Anyone tell you that the war was fought for economic reasons; tell them to go to heck.

When each immigrant group came to this country in the 19th century, they were restricted in what they could do. The Irish went through this development before they were considered “white.” The Italians went through the same thing. The German Jews became white in the 19th century, even as they mostly discriminated against Russian Jews. Which brings me to a startling fact. Jews were not considered “white” until the 1960’s. I wonder what Ethiopian Jews are called here in the United States/

The whole anti-immigrant feelings in this country led to restrictions in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Interesting that at the beginning of World War II, the Japanese Americans were incarcerated, but not the white German Americans (of which there were millions). So, it appears that our nation is not color blind.

Today there is a vast undertaking happening in this administration. Brown skinned people are  being rounded up and put into holding areas and being sent back to wherever they came from. Interestingly enough the Republican centered Cuban brown people who came here illegally during the Mariel Boat crisis, are not being rounded up, nor are their children being sent back to Cuba.

At the beginning of this Administration, 7 countries were singled out for the Muslim Ban (that’s what the President called it).  The seventh country was Iraq. There are over 100, 000 Assyrian Iraqis who came here many years ago, mostly illegally, who are in Michigan. They gave the President his 11,000 vote majority in that state. They were sure he was going to help with the Iraqi problems. He would never call down ICE to send them home.

Oh yes he did!! ICE started to round them up until it was found that Iraq was no longer on the Muslim ban list. Funny how that works if you are the wrong color, but you give me bunches of votes. Not sure that doesn’t happen almost every election.

So with possibility of DACA people never being able to be citizens (read that- have never voted against the present administration), we now understand that this persecution has nothing to do with national security. If we make America White Again, we will continue to be in power. Bring on the Brown shirts.

I WILL NOT RETIRE

We moved to South Carolina for different reasons than most people. Our friends were moving away or dying. My time as a lobbyist for rural schools has ended. I still have some contacts with legislators, but just sporadic phone calls. Those were the reasons, not the weather.

I live in adult Disneyworld (Sun City). This is an over 55 community. The overwhelming number of them has come down here to retire in the real sense of the word. There are so many activities here on campus that some people get sick joining everything that there is available. There are even two softball leagues and a great field to play on. Whatever your interest, there is a club.

You can hang around with interest groups, people from your state, and people with the same disease that you have and play golf to your heart’s content. Those are out retirees. They have worked hard all their lives and they deserve these moments in the sun.

I am not involved in any of those activities. I do belong to one club- the Doo Wop club. We listen and sometimes sing to old doo wop records. The leader of the club is the best doo wop historian I have ever heard. I can listen to him forever. Tonight there will be a doo wop dance and I am looking forward to it.

I do exercise here on campus. That’s about it. I have few friends that I have made here. My friends come from Harrisburg, where I lived before coming here. I have really no individual friend’s that I have made. Our couples friends go out with us, come to our home and play funny card games, and drink diet caffeine free Coke.

My life is outside the walls of Sun City. As it has been for most of my adult years, I advocate for rural schools and communities. My favorite times down here are when I meet with juniors and seniors from the Ridgeland Hardee High School and spend time with them. They fill me with joy and sometimes sadness. You can’t win them all, but when you get a text from a young man who I had to push hard to get to a college, it is all worth it.

Carol works with 10 young women. They are tougher than the guys. They are incredibly hard on each other. We have spent many hours with people who live here and understand that kind of culture. Carol has saved, at least 3 young women from going down the tubes. There is so much more to be done.

The kids here are the same as anywhere else in rural America. They mostly have not been out of their county, not have they flown, taken a train or gotten to other parts of the country or world. We try very hard to have them see that there are other places and other opportunities rather than making up beds in hotels on Hilton Head Island.

The students that we are working with are articulate, intelligent and soak up things like a sponge. Some are closer to me than others. There are those who shy away from either a handshake or an NFL hug (no touching). Some though feel comfortable enough to give me a big hug when they come into our meeting and then when they leave. Some are so big that they make me disappear in their embrace.

Unless some disease fells me, or I become senile, I will continue to work with the kids. I will not retire.

 

 

 

IF YOU CONTINUE TO DO THE SAME THINGS, YOU WILL CONTINUE TO GET THE SAME RESULTS

Our new friend, Dr. Wesley Boykin is a well-traveled educator. There is literally nothing that he has not done both in this country and abroad. Talking to Wes is like talking to an education encyclopedia. We are fortunate that he has volunteered to be part of the staff of our nascent rural schools group, SCORS.

I could probably listen to Wes for hours. I have actually done it for two hours straight in our home about 2 months ago.  His understanding of education goes way beyond almost anyone that I have ever heard. He has experience in all kinds of districts, rural and urban, universities and research organizations. He has even served time with the ACT organization, producers of the ACT test.

Therefore, when Wes says something, I listen intently. Carol and I both found ourselves at a meeting in Columbia, South Carolina. . The meeting was part of a federal program called the Promise Zone. The idea of the program is go gather folks from many agencies and schools to work together to improve a certain area. In this case it is the southwest part of the state of South Carolina. It includes six counties and 10 school districts.

Carol and I have visited most of these districts and find their lack of funds and lack of proper teaching staff depressing. The meeting was well directed by a gentleman who has a long history in education and now serves as the education director of a children’s museum that caters to children from economically deprived schools.

Not that they don’t have children from wealthier schools, but as soon as you walk in, you know what they are about. It is called EdVenture. It is truly a wonderful place.

Marc, the leader, broke us into 3 groups to discuss what is going on in these areas and what might be some solutions to their problems. The discussions were lively and filled with interesting ideas. I kept mostly silent in the education group. I guess I was waiting for some sort of explosion of new ideas.

Carol was in the families and communities group. Wesley was in the Health and Nutrition group. After the groups concluded their discussions, they were asked to report to the larger group. There were some interesting points, but nothing astounding. I believe Marc expected that there would be some sort of product that he could hold onto and present to the people in charge of the Promise Zone.

As Wesley began to speak, a thought came into my head. Here we were, a group of professionals speaking at a problem. The problems inherent in these communities lay in the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy. They are at the basic needs stage.

Wesley’s point came into sharp contrast to what had already been said. He pointed out that all of the proposed items were just overlays that had already been tried before. Simple used templates will not improve the Promise Zone. We are all restricted by what we know and what we feel comfortable doing. Therefore our solutions are circumscribed by our experiences.

These continual problems will not cure themselves with what we have already tried before. Just because you raise your voice to a deaf person, he/she will not hear you.

Looking at the all of the variables that were presented to us, it was apparent that what we have tried is not working. It was sad to come to such a conclusion. It is simple to say that either the people who live there do not want to improve, or that they don’t have the resources to improve, or that there are few jobs, or that the system is corrupt.

Have you ever seen someone take hold of an organization and make it sing? Have you seen one person lift a community by him or herself? Should we not be looking at unusual things done by unusual people? In a book that I am reading now, “My grandmother told me to say she was sorry,” one of the characters says, “The world is not changed by normal people.”

HERSCHEL, THE MAGNIFICENT JEW

(stolen from Old Jews Telling Jokes.com)

A long time ago, I was in Kenosha Wisconsin setting up a storage container manufacturing plant. That was in 1966. In the evening of the first night that I was there, I drove into town. In front of the Capitol Theater I saw a sign that said, Herschel the Magnificent Jew. I was very curious.

So I bought a ticket and went in and sat down. There was a pretty good sized crowd. The announcer introduced Herschel with lots of clapping from the audience. Mr. Herschel was a normal looking guy wearing a bathrobe. He took his bathrobe off and was completely naked on the stage.

Whatever large sized equipment you have ever seen on a man, this was four times bigger. Arrayed in front of him were three walnut shells on a table. He took his member and smashed the walnuts to pieces. The crowd roared and clapped. They were still clapping as they left the theater.

I did not return to Kenosha for about twenty years. By this time I was visiting my nephew in Madison. Would you believe when I went into town, The Capitol Theater still had the sign up, Herschel the Magnificent Jew. I was astounded. How could this possibly be?

I bought my ticket and went in and sat down. The crowd was still pretty large. The announcer introduced Mr. Herschel, who was wearing the same robe as he did twenty years before. When he disrobed, he looked exactly as he did twenty years before.

Arrayed before him were three coconuts. He took his member in his hand and smashed the coconuts to smithereens. The crowd roared and clapped as they did twenty years before. They continued to clap as Mr. Herschel put on his robe and bowed.

I was so curious, that I managed to go back stage and saw Mr. Herschel. I asked him about his switch from walnuts to coconuts. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, “As I got older my eyes weren’t as they used to be.”

THE FAKE PRESIDENT

You may recall that at the end of the Republican primary season in 2016, the nominee of the party made an interesting proposal. It made the news media for a couple of days and then disappeared. The gist of the information was that the current president approached John Kasich, governor of Ohio about being his running mate. The discussion revolved about the president doing all of the public work, speeches, rallies and suchlike, and that Kasich would actually run the government.

Governor Kasich refused the offer. It was seen, at the time, just a blip on the screen of the candidate. He was doing so many other odd things that this event faded into obscurity. It did not dawn on me recently that it may well have happened.

There is no one, leaker or otherwise, who has actually seen the president sit down at a desk or other work stations to do anything other than tweet. That is what the president thinks is his job. All other normal presidential activities seem to be done by others.

As we have seen, he is good at sitting at a desk and signing his name to executive orders that mostly don’t mean anything. He still is in campaign mode and goes out and makes rambling speeches about nothing in particular. He spends a bunch of King Lear time fighting the forces allied against him in the Russia probe. He has gotten rid of staff who get more publicity than him.

His newest chief of staff is trying to straighten out the West Wing, but cannot reign in the Fake President. Kelly has little trouble with other members of the staff, just one. Steve Bannon’s leaving was directly related to his understanding that Bannon was getting too much publicity. Bannon also knew on a day-to-day basis that the Fake President did nothing but talk loud and say critical things about individuals, countries and groups. Bannon had to go.

As for the Adults in the Room (a new boy band), they know about the Fake Presidency. They know that the Fake President’s aversion to work, allows them to go off on their own and make decisions, even military ones. Have you heard about any other cabinet members, other than Tillerson and Sessions? The others are going about their nefarious ways without much leadership from the top.

What about Mike Pence? Can we understand what his role is? He rarely speaks in more than two sentences (most of which are high praise for the Fake President). Is it possible that he is running the show? If you remember the health care debacle, did you notice that the Fake President did no work on passage other than to say bad things about Republicans, especially now John McCain and the obstructionist Dems.

His lack of work ethic has allowed the secret service to run out of money. Has made his vacation travels cost more money than the total of the 8 years of the previous real president. Can we have any doubt that the object of the Fake President’s term is to have fun and to yell at all others?

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY=PART XI

We certainly went north towards the Scandinavian countries. Russ had taken an exchange trip to Europe during high school. He wound up staying with a Belgian family for a while. Our intention was to visit with them for a day or two and then head back toward Denmark and Copenhagen.

You may remember that Germany was divided into four sections after WWII. The Northeast was Russian (East Germany). The South was the U.S. The West was France and the North was the U.K. We headed north from our barracks in Baumholder. Our first stop, not intestinally was a place called Bad Durkheim, a gambling casino. I had never been to a gambling casino and had never had a mixed drink in my life. I had a beer when I turned 18 and drank wine at Passover time.

As we entered the casino, a gentleman in a tuxedo greeted us. I thought that he was going to throw us out. I was wrong. I guess we looked like we were going to drop some good old American cash. He asked us what we wanted to drink. I thing Russ ordered Scotch. I had no idea. I asked the tuxedoed gent what he suggested. He said that they made a wonderful gin and tonic. I did not know what that was. I ordered it and when he came back with the drinks, he said that would be one mark. One mark was a quarter in those days. I fell in love with the drink. I drink it to this day. I ordered another.

We then headed up to Belgium to visit with the family that Russ had stayed with three years before. There was a daughter who was about Russ’s age. She was a very nice person with a very nice friend, who was to be my escort as we toured around Belgium. We went to the beach, ate a meal or two, went to sleep and then took off the next morning to Copenhagen.

If you ever had a chance to go to Copenhagen in the 1950’s you were treated to a wonderful experience. My wife, Carol and I, were there about 4 years ago. It’s still pretty much the same. We wandered around found a room and found our way to Tivoli Gardens- kind of an all-around park with lots of activities and, at that time, entertainment. We saw Tommy Steele, the British version of Elvis. Had a ball of a time.

Next morning we were up early and traveled to the tip of Denmark to take a seven hour ride on the Friedrikshaven Ferry to Drammen, Norway. We knew we were in the right place because as we drove up the coast, we saw lots of young ladies doing calisthenics at a local high school. We stopped to watch all hour of their exercises. We had a ball.