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Staff Editorials

Hooray for our home teams!

    The school year isn’t even halfway through, but in that short time our high school students, coaches and teachers have racked up laudable awards for our little hometown. We want to publicly say congratulations for making us all proud, and for giving us a break from the polarity, vitriol and backbiting caused by this election cycle.
    Since the beginning of the school year:
    •The PHS band had a stellar performance at the Southern Invitational Music Festival where they placed first in the 2A division and were awarded Silver Division. They also received Best in Class for Percussion, Outstanding Performance Award for Majorette, Best Overall Music, Best General Effect, and Best Majorette.    
     •For the first time since 1980 the drama team won 1st place at the Region 6AAAA competition with the performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. They also won Best Set, Best Costume, Outstanding Acting awards for three students and Best Actor Overall. They competed at state last weekend.
    •The PHS Dragons - led by Coach Chris Parker who was selected as a Falcons Coach of the Week in October – will head to playoffs this weekend. They finished 4th in the region. 
    •The cross country girls finished 2nd in the region and 14th in state. Cross-country boys finished 1st in region and 10th in state. One student took 1st in region and 4th in state.
    •Volleyball teams had their best record since the program began.
    • During the 89th National FFA Convention a former Pickens County FFA Member won the American FFA Degree, the highest award bestowed by the organization. 
    • There is most likely at least one other team/group we have inadvertently missed in this list. Sorry.
    When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week it felt so good to have the country unified rather than tearing each other apart --- it didn’t matter if you were a Cubs fan or not, you couldn’t help but be happy for the team. We get that same warm and fuzzy feeling when our students do well at home because we can all get behind them; Cheering on a football team or marching band doesn’t require you be a registered member of a certain political party or be affiliated with a specific religious sect or denomination.
    We love seeing our kids get involved in things they are passionate about and succeed; Achievements from our students spanned the arts, sports and a variety of extracurricular disciplines.  These successes foster community pride, encourages our students to be their best, teaches them the valuable skill of working on a team, and inspires up and coming elementary and middle schoolers who might want to give something new a try.
    The school year isn’t over yet and we look forward to all the upcoming opportunities to cheer all our kids along – from kindergarteners to high schoolers, from recreation leagues to school teams, and from arts to sports and agriculture.
    Again, congratulations on a job well done!

Remain calm following election results

A humorous article recently predicted a record number of Thanksgiving fist-fights when someone chooses to gloat between helpings of turkey on the outcome of the presidential race set to finally end next Tuesday.

With the rancor of the past months between Clinton versus Trump, there are going to be some very angry, frustrated and frightful Americans when the dust settles and the last ballot is counted.

This has clearly been the nastiest election in modern American history and has been unbefitting of the United States of America. So the idea that the nation will come together after the results are announced is not promising.

Polls showed Hillary cruising until the latest e-mail investigation news hit last week, which could change things, but the most non-partisan of all predictors, Las Vegas bookmakers, are still saying Hillary will win. If this happens, there will be a large majority of unhappy people in this area, where Vegas Smagas, we know who will carry Pickens County.

Regardless of the outcome we would like to urge everyone to remain calm and show some restraint. Victory in a presidential election shouldn’t be celebrated the way we would if Georgia could somehow win a big game this year. No drunken storming off into the night to wreak property damage in either celebration or disgust [it is ironic that people burn cars in both riots and sports championship celebrations].

A couple of points we would like to make in advance of next Tuesday:

• The Electoral College confuses everything. It’s not as simple as counting up all the votes in America and declaring whoever got the most as the winner. It might should be that simple, but it hasn’t been since 1800s. It won’t be a conspiracy, nor unprecedented, if the top vote-getter isn’t the winner.

Four times in American history a candidate has won the presidency by winning the electoral college votes even though they got fewer votes overall.  Most recently Al Gore got more votes  than George Bush. This weird quirk has to do with a winner take all tally of each state’s electoral votes. It’s not a perfect system but it has been our American system for more than a century.

• Keep in mind that the president is the executive of our nation, but is only in charge of one of the three branches of government. Our forefathers had great forethought to put ample checks and balances all through the system to prevent wild extravagances from any single person – even the president. Plus our government has devolved with so much in-fighting and partisanship that it keeps most everything at a stalemate anyway.

While the winner may be holding the most powerful office in the world and certainly has the potential to greatly mess things up, neither Clinton nor Trump can come in and just willy-nilly become a one-person show. No one is coming after your guns or starting to build a wall the day after the election.

The two-houses of congress have a long reputation of standing in the way of most anything happening in Washington, both the good and bad, and we feel confident that will apply the brakes to any sudden lurches to either the left or right.

• Whoever wins, wins. There are arguments that the system is unfair but it’s essentially the same system we have used for at least a century and both parties knew its pros and cons when the race started. Refusing to accept the results of an election moves the country in a dangerous direction. At that point, we are sliding into the politics of third-world countries where armed forces declare the results, not voters.

• We are not naïve enough to suggest anyone shake hands with class following the outcome of the vote. We do urge everyone to take a moment and remember whether it is your candidate or not, the winner will be the president and a symbol of all our country, elected by the people of the greatest nation in history.

Show some patriotism and show some pride that our country still is a stable nation, ruled by laws and fairness.

 

Pop quiz for gun carriers

By Dan Pool
Editor
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    Over the summer I spotted a man in a restaurant with a pistol strapped to his belt who looked suspicious. He looked suspicious to me primarily because of his age - very young, mid 20s at most. Now, he could have been an off-duty police officer, decorated combat veteran or some   kid who bought the pistol that morning because he thought it looked cool – all could have been legally carrying that firearm in public.
    While waiting on my food, I began to ponder in exactly what situation this young man might draw his gun. I ran through a list of different imaginary scenarios in my head wondering when is it time to pull your pistol?
    For example, if we heard what sounded like gunshots in the restaurant parking lot would you get your gun out, just in case?
    What about a large man savagely beating a woman?
    What about someone holding up the restaurant with a gun?
    Aside from that restaurant:
    What about someone storming up to your car after a traffic mishap, between you and them?
    What about if you were inside a mall  and clearly heard gunshots? Lots of gunshots?
    Most online resources advise that knowing when to draw a firearm is a judgment call -- and we need to just essentially hope the people carrying have good judgment.
    For it is this judgment which will determine if you are a hero, a vigilante, an overzealous nut who hampers a law enforcement response or someone who makes a tragic mistake.
    The general laws regarding self defense are also subjective. Not only do you have to be threatened, but it has to be a case of imminent self-preservation. Again it goes into that gray area of a judgment call for the shooter: did you feel yours or someone’s life was in immediate danger?
    Carlton Wilson, who has taught virtually every NRA course imaginable for more than 10 years, as well as teaching law enforcement gun classes, is clearly a strong Second Amendment supporter, believing no limitations should interfere with gun rights. But the associate magistrate in the local courts agrees that the prospect of people carrying guns in public with no training is frightening. From mistakes he corrects in classes, Wilson said there is a component of training needed for every gun owner, even those who may be comfortable shooting from a lifetime of hunting.
    While classes here are fairly limited at this time, Wilson is working with a partner and Appalachian Gun and Pawn to open a new range with expanded  opportunities.
    Answering the above questions of when to draw, Wilson said he teaches to not draw a gun  until you are confident you know the circumstances and are ready to shoot someone right then. Don’t draw a gun “just in case,” such as hearing gunshots in a public area, as you may be mistaken for the shooter by arriving law enforcement. In the case of the savage beating, Wilson said his first suggestion would be to hit the attacker with chair or something; only shoot when the victim is clearly about to be killed.
    Wilson encourages anyone who wants to carry to do so with a concealed, not open, weapon to prevent exactly the type of reaction I described at the opening, “Who is that guy with a gun and what is he doing?” There are several cases the NRA instructor was familiar where people with weapons displayed had provoked panic from the public believing they were about to start a shooting spree after some perceived suspicious action, even though they were later found to be  legal weapon-carriers.
    Like the longtime NRA teacher, we agree that Second Amendment offers important protections for gun ownership, but also that citizens who want to enjoy the rights have a responsibility to seek out opportunities to learn to handle their weapons safely, especially if they carry them into public areas.

Why be inside when you can be outside?

By Angela Reinhardt
Staff writer
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    The caption reads: “Charles R. Drake and family camping at Peach Tree Flat, North Fork of the Gualala River, a popular camping destination in the early 1900s.”
    The man in the forefront of the black and white photo, presumably Mr. Drake, is perched on a rock in a suit and tie. There he sits, in the woods of northern California, with a second man in suit and tie behind him and a woman and two young girls in dresses nice enough for church. In another photo the same family eats lunch in Peach Tree Flat huddled around a little wooden table beside their Model T. The lid of a picnic basket is swung open on the ground and glass plates and carafes are filled with the afternoon’s rations.
    Photos from our family camping trip to Red Top Mountain two weeks ago – nearly a century after the Drake family outing - were different in obvious ways. Suits, ties and dresses were replaced with a hodgepodge of hi-tech outdoor fabrics, jeans, old t-shirts and flannel. Plastic coolers, collapsible camp cups and padded polyester chairs took the place of glass dishes and wooden furniture. 

Camping    But at the core, these two camping trips– just like the millions taken in the last 100 years – are the same. Rational people with luxuries like a house, bathtubs with running water and ovens give it all up to sit on rocks and cobble together meals over unwieldy campfires in the woods.
    Maybe the Drake family read something by John Muir, “The Father of National Parks” who inspired thousands of early 20th century Americans to camp recreationally, forgo creature comforts and save “the American soul from total surrender to materialism,” in the words of his biographer Donald Worster. 
    “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” Muir wrote  in 1901. “Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
     With over 40 million Americans who still choose to camp each year, Muir’s words must ring true. Why else would we go in such large, unrelenting numbers? Why did I get so many impassioned responses when I asked my Facebook friends what I should prepare as a campfire breakfast? (See the recipe I chose on page 10B).
    My dad brought two vintage Coleman lanterns with us to Red Top. The 1967 model was the one my grandfather took on their family trips. It’s easy to get nostalgic when they’re around, those staples of Americana that string together a century of camping with the rich, permeating light of its silk mantle and white gas. It’s easy to imagine all the other campsites it lit over the last 50 years and all the conversations and fire poking it witnessed - then to realize the Drake family may have had one, too (Coleman made its first pressurized lantern in 1914).
     I know camping doesn’t always produce revelatory, Thoreau-esque meditations on life. Sometimes, while you’re camping, peace by no means flows into you like sunshine flows into trees. I’ve been flooded, freezing, lost and eaten up by mosquitoes. If anything is constant, it’s that camping never follows the plan. The weekend we went to Red Top, Hurricane Matthew lapped up the southeastern coast. Skies here were clear, but the wind was strong and unsettling. It was my kids’ first campout and they got scared at night. The canopy blew loudly  and persistently, and dropped an air raid of acorns on our tent. We barely slept.
    Despite the challenges, we did feel like recipients of good tidings by the end. My son learned to use a saw and axe and read in a hammock. My daughter helped gather sticks and prep dinner, and they both piddled aimlessly in the woods. I didn’t look at my phone the entire weekend. Time slowed down.
    Last week I started reading a book about psychogeography. In it, author Will Self - a long-distance walker - “illuminates the ways in which man-made geography betrays any sense we may have of natural topography.” Although the study was founded in urban landscapes, I think Mr. Self and others in the tradition tap into Muir’s musings on why we want to camp and hike; it’s a vital reprieve from modern things like highways and planes and buildings and cell phones.
    As Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

Our Public Rulers: The commissioners who would be kings

    To be clear on the county government’s 10 percent property tax increase  this year, it was taken by the commissioners against strong public sentiment.
    Politicians talk about being public servants, carrying out the will of their constituents. Our whole democracy is based on the idea that the elected are there to represent the public. The public wanted taxes to be held steady or cut; the politicians wanted a tax increase. The truth of what happened is crystal clear - we’ll all pay more.
    Two of the three members of the board of commissioners (chairman Rob Jones and Commissioner Jerry Barnes) plowed ahead with a tax hike to fund increases in employee health insurance plans, increases in employee salaries and improvements to the jail. (The third commissioner on the board, Becky Denney, abstained, citing more tightening that could have been done.)
    These are not the actions of public servants, these are the actions of public rulers – commissioners and other elected officials who would be kings and take what they can in taxes, deaf to the cries from the public. The fact that the county rolled it back from a proposed 14 percent increase to a 10 percent increase at the last moment shows they knew what their constituents wanted but lacked the political fortitude to make cuts.
    Our local politicians always trot out the clichéd claim that they are financial conservatives at some point in their campaigns, but they have all, without exception, misrepresented their true philosophy on spending.
    Did any of the elected leaders in the public hearings voice dissent against the plan for more taxing and more spending? No. The fact is, from the courthouse to the administration building, all our elected leaders either supported the increase or dared not stand against the other officials to oppose it.
    It’ll be interesting to see how many of these incumbents will still claim to be financial conservatives when elections roll around in four years.
    In 2016, they all qualify as tax and spend liberals. Regardless of how they try to spin it,  all had their hands out for more taxes and more spending and by ten percent – no slight increase this year.
    Our rulers make it appear that they had no choice but to go up on taxes as though it was out of their control. Hogwash. Not one person in office detailed any attempts to cut anything. Why would they? They are going to take what they want in the end any way.
    As we have editorialized before in this space, our elected officials are completely out-of-touch with the realities of running a business. In the real world there are things you want, but you do without if you can’t afford them. This simple premise is utterly lost on those in power in Pickens County.
    The county is preparing to spend a possible $270,000 more for the county employee health insurance, which already costs the taxpayers $2.7 million. As one speaker at the public hearing pointed out, the county funds a better plan than most people in the county can afford. Similarly the county budgeted $400,000 more for employee raises. And as we have written before,  the most dedicated wonderful employee in the world doesn’t normally get a raise if his employer doesn’t turn a profit.
    In the real world you stay within your means; in the government world you raise taxes.
    We would further point out to our county officials who claim they have no choice but to up our taxes that the city of Jasper (which admittedly has more commercial base) has figured out ways to go years without any noticeable tax increase. Good job Jasper.
    They raise spending only when they see increases in the tax digest. In other words when there is growth, they grow. When the digest is flat so are the taxes.
    Now that is a model of county government finances we’d support. Taxes go up or down depending on growth in the county, not the whims of three rulers and their elected cronies.