REACTION TO THE NEW IRAQ AND ISIL

August 21, 2014

REACTION TO THE NEW IRAQ AND ISIL

It is always interesting when people on the left of American politics call for the use of force. Go to http://duanegraham.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/no-just-god-would-stand-for-what-they-did/ as an example. Duane seems to believe that ISIL is so intolerable that President Obama should do all possible to exterminate (my word) that organization.

As I recall about 13 years ago another President called for similar actions against Al Qaeda, in 2001 and we wound up still fighting them 13 years later.

I also recall atrocities on the part of some Vietnamese against other Vietnamese and we wound up losing 55,000 Americans to make that stop, unsuccessfully after an 8 or so year war. And while it seems chemical weapons have not been used in Syria of late, the killing still continues, brutally in that war torn country. And of course it has now spilled over into Iraq.

One thing common to all these conditions “over there” and America’s inclination to “do something about it”, is our overreliance on air power. To say we won’t put “boots on the ground” but still have men in flight boots over the ground (in the air) killing other people, seems to be an unclear statement. No doubt America has decided, again, to use force, but only air force (not ground force) to stop mayhem, “over there”. Oh, I forgot. We can still put some “sneaky boots on the ground” from time to time, at least until a SEAL team gets captured or slaughtered, or both. Remember, the “lily pad” defense system called for a decade ago, still needs lots of “boots”, in the air, sneaking around on the ground, and manning ships at sea to save all those “boots” when the shit hits the fan from time to time.

Repeated experience from the use of military power since WWII is that air power alone is rarely decisive. The Balkan “war” during the Clinton years is the only exception and in that situation we chose to “bomb the enemy at home”, not just on a vague battlefield. Bombing Slavic cities caused them to stop killing in Bosnia, in the end.

But of course ISIL has no “home base”, yet and I doubt our President would choose to bomb Mosul, for example.

As well we now seem prepared to arm Kurds to fight against ISIL. Are the Kurds any different than Afghan tribes fighting against the Soviet Union long ago? Friends today and who knows what tomorrow seems to be a question still deserving an answer. How do we control the use of such arms, once they are delivered into the hands of a potential future opponent? Simple answer is we cannot. So what do we do if Kurds decide to use such arms against a “democratic government” constituted in Iraq, or maybe Turkey, a NATO ally?

The left asks such questions all the time when a conservative President decides to use force so I consider it fair game to ask such questions now, from the right, so to speak.

Sure, when Americans see, vividly, an American brutally killed they want the President to “do something”. But foreign policy must start with a much longer view and military power used only to advance that long term view, not just as a “quick” response to brutality. America in my view has yet to decide that long term goal against terrorism. ISIL, Al Qaeda, whatever or whoever comes up next, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. are ALL terror groups, international in scope. So as Bush II suggested, are we still, in fact, in a “war against terror”, like it or not?

So the issue with terror certainly remains very much on the plate of America it seems to me, again, like it or not. What to do seems to still be the question for American foreign policy, in the short, medium and long term.

Where does all that terrorism come from today, and yesterday for that matter? The simple answer is from the Middle East as a point of origin. Almost all terrorists on the international scene are Arabs or Persians it seems to me. And more important, where do those terrorists get the money to commit acts of terror? Is not “follow the money” a basic element in fighting against crimes, bank robbers or genocidal types as well. It takes huge amounts of money to be a “criminal”, at least on an international scale, so where does the money come from and how do we stop that flow of money, to terrorists?

My simple point is that terrorism funded by Middle East countries or individuals gets money from one source, OIL located in the Middle East. If the American Navy blockaded the Straits of Hormuz, well no more money for terrorism, or at least a helluva lot less money for sure. Hmmm, just as an idle thought, musing perhaps!!!

Don’t want military action to block the flow of oil? OK, how about the international banking system freeze all funds associated with oil, until ……..? How about a few bombs on some oil fields, bombs that kill only “oil” and a few workers but certainly no women or children?

I can even get more focused in stopping the flow of funds to terror. Saudi Arabia is that primary source from all that I have read. The “Emirates” probably come in second as a source of money for terror. Sure they seem to be our “friends” yet $ Trillions, over time, flow to terror groups from such two sources. Why do we let them do it? And then of course our “enemy”, one still trying hard to make nuclear weapons and fund terror at the same time, no matter what they might say. Hmmmm? Should we try to appease Iran into peace with us and Israel? Are you kidding me?

OK, now I have proven again that I am “nuts” correct? NO WAY can the world stop relying on Middle East oil, right? Right of course, today. But what about tomorrow? Could not a focused, long term program to divorce the democratic Western World at least from any need for Middle Eastern oil? Make it a “fly to the moon in a decade” matter of American policy. That is called long term goals that are a matter of both foreign and economic policy of the highest sort. Shorter term goals are then established to achieve the long term policy statement.

Should I also mention that such a long term policy would go hand in hand with “climate control” as well!!!!!

As a minimum, Middle East countries and people would be put on notice that American power, economic power will align against them for the long term. Such power would be used, consistently and for a long time to return those countries to desert tribes on camels, unless………

I submit we did the same thing in our Cold War, stopped all or most of the economic ties with Russia. After 50 years, well look at the results. And in the intervening years we stuck together as a united nation, one leading the rest of the world against a communist threat. But keep in mind; we had to have the military power to hold that communist “world” at bay, while it slowly died on the vine. Is America ready to do that, sustain enough military power to hold terror at bay until the funding dries up? In the end those people will try to go down fighting against us, for sure.

Today we face an Islamic threat, terrorism in the details if you will. So why not a long term goal to shut down the economic engine from the Middle East that funds all sorts of mayhem, in America and around the world today?

One final thought, of a long term and enduring nature. If the Middle East today causes most of the terror in the world today, then who, exactly created that Middle East? Simple answer is “we did”, meaning of course the Western World following WWI. Every country over there was created by the West to carve up the Ottoman Empire. The West drew lines on maps to create countries and neglected how the people in those new countries might have wanted to align themselves, even Israel. Just look at Iraq today, splintering all over the place.

Why I wonder is it a matter of long term foreign policy for America to sustain countries that are not really countries from within. Is it really in the long term interest for America to sustain Iraq as a whole country today? Or would it be truly be in our best interests, in the long term, to let Iraq decide what it really wants. In fact, just let the whole Middle East today decide what the people in the Middle East want for themselves, including Egypt. Israel knows full well what it wants and gets it democratically, just as an example. Why not just let Syria, Iraq, Iran, you name it, make their own decisions, and while they are doing so, CONTAIN the living hell out of the whole crazy region to keep terror at bay.

The only thing preventing such an American policy, geopolitically at least is OIL, in my view. Unless, that is, you want America to try to “surgically kill terror” with a few bombs here and there, but only when we really get pissed off at “them” whoever “them” might be, tomorrow.

Now go back to 2001. Bush II went to war immediately thereafter. He also said, clearly, that the war would be GENERATIONAL in length. That means a long time. Yet about 3 years later we lost our focus in what was in FACT a War on Terror. So there we went, typical in my view in today’s America. We stopped the war on terror, even stopped calling it a war on terror. Instead we tried to drop a few bombs, surgically if you will, killed about 7,000 Americans over 13 years and still have a mess on our hands.

If we no longer conduct wars on terror today, don’t even call it such, then why are we dropping bombs on ISIL today? The last time I checked dropping bombs from airplanes is an act of war against somebody and for sure it pisses them off. Is that a “tie that binds”, something “Obamapolicy” called for in Cairo in 2009 and he still seems to focus on that approach, today, except when he really gets pissed off because one journalist had his head cut off, another act of war if you will by my estimation at least.

It is far beyond the time for America to get its long term, multiple presidential and political parties’ turns in leadership, policy established. We must stop the knee jerk reaction to terror, call it what it is and establish the correct approach over the next decade or so to COMBAT terror, not just try to talk terrorist out of being terrorist, which will never happen. Ask Israel.

THE APPROPRIATE USE OF FORCE

August 17, 2014

THE APPROPRIATE USE OF FORCE

This blog provides my reaction to the violence and mayhem in Ferguson, Missouri. But it also observes a similar debate, the appropriate use of force, in current and future military conflicts. The underlying issue remains very similar in both situations, combat in foreign lands and abuse and/or violence in America, today.

Of course the key word is “appropriate”, when discussing any use of force, be it a threatening posture and words, actual force employed by just human physical means (fists, strength, etc.) and the ultimate use of force with weapons designed to kill or maim. All such means of the use of force can be correct, appropriate, under certain circumstances. But exactly what those circumstances might be is a huge political issue for sure. Lives are lost whenever such force, at least the last one, are employed, by legal authorities or thugs and criminals as well.

Most Americans will claim that we are a country that must adhere to the rule of law. But laws that are not enforced are meaningless, simply words on paper that many will simply ignore. But if we are to be a country ruled by law, there must be someone to enforce those laws.

Actually, we are also a country that attempts to rule by rules, administrative guidance if you will to establish standards of behavior and actions. Schools for example are generally ruled by rules, not laws. When laws are broken in schools things have really gotten out of hand, by lawbreakers, be they teachers, students or administrators. But rules nevertheless are standards or guidance established by authorities to achieve a better good, the education of all students in a school. And the rule enforcement must rely on teachers, by and large to enforce the rules, be they established by the Boards of Education, administrators assigned by such boards, on down the line to the lowest level in schools, companies, etc.

In the broadest sense of the word “force” I include the “power” to enforce both rules and laws. So the question becomes that of the appropriate use of power. I see the Texas Governor, just for example, has been indicted for “abuse of power”, which is force as far as I can tell, though it was non-violent force it seems for now. Certainly we experience alleged “abuse of power” by even Presidents of any party from time to time, Nixon being the quintessential abuser of late, but many others in the past and present as well being accused at least of such a thing.

Duane Graham wrote an interesting and short blog discussing what it feels like to be a “nail” when the power of a “hammer” is applied. That implies raw physical power, a hammer being used to drive a nail into something, supposedly for a useful purpose. The “hammer” in that case is being wielded by a person believing, for whatever reasons, that such use of power, a hammer, is justified. The “nail” on the other hand is just expected to “take it”, being forcefully driven into a board to build a home, perhaps. He of course was speaking of black citizens under the “hammer” of legal authority when a bunch of rules or even laws were apparently being broken by such citizens, at least some of them.

I took that metaphor in a broader sense and claimed that I had been a “nail” many times in my life, being subjected to the power of “hammers”, always legally or administratively constituted rules or laws being enforced by people. Try going to boot camp for example, or the extreme, SEAL training (which I never did), and just observe “hammers” being wielded all the time. No I never was hit in the head or body with a hammer but just the verbal power of enforcement of rules seemed “hammer like” on many, many occasions. I could not imagine what I might have done, sometimes, that deserved such use of power on or against little ole me. Of course on other occasions I knew exactly what I had done wrong as well, but I still didn’t like a “hammer” being used against me. But being a gradually and well trained “nail”, I knew I had to just “take it”, like it or not, for the “better good”, like a competent United States Navy ready to carry out its mission, in a very large sense.

When rules or laws are violated, or seemingly violated, there is usually someone responsible for enforcing such rules or laws. That is their responsibility, under law or other supposedly competent authority. Most of the time such “enforcers” act appropriately. But on occasion they do not. So what is a “nail” to do when a “hammer” is seen coming its way. In this case all “nails”, humans, have the power to think and act, appropriately if they are good citizens, students, well-educated and/or trained to react appropriately, there is that word again, to power being used against or on them.

Just as enforcers are expected to only use appropriate power on “thinking nails”, such “nails” are expected to respond appropriately as well. In fact we have laws and rules specifying how “nails” should act, do we not? Like it or not, our laws generally specify that when police power is used a good citizen obeys the orders of such legally constituted power (verbal force if you like). Most good citizens do exactly that, like it or not in the face of police orders. It is when citizens react with their own power (verbally or physically) against such power, legal power, that bad things start to happen, most of the time. Sometimes someone gets hurt, or even killed when such confrontation ignites against police power. As well students get administratively “hurt” when they react abusively to legitimate (usually) “teacher power” as well.

Now to the crux of the matter, deciding what power is appropriate power, from either side, the enforcers or the alleged wrongdoers. Unless they are “nuts” no cop or teacher or “boss” (authority) acts against “rightdoers”. Such authorities are simply trying to enforce a rule or a law. And when someone believes they have done nothing wrong, there is supposedly a right way to settle such differences. And raw verbal or physical power, at the moment of such confrontation is NEVER the right reaction under most normal rules of law or behavior in socieyt. We have courts empowered (or legitimate administrative processes in schools, businesses, etc.) that are supposed to settle such disputes, under carefully controlled conditions, fair conditions, to allow all parties involved to be heard.

A term often heard these days is “people power”. In a sense that means, I suppose, the way the majority of people want things to be handled. But any mob is a source of people power when the mob acts abusively against other forms of power. My experience is that when abuse, verbal or physical is used, well bad things sometimes happen. At a minimum fights start and generally fights are illegal, from either side. The only legitimate “people power” is found in voting booths as far as I can tell, in America, at least as far as the law is concerned.

Sure all citizens rightfully have the right to “petition government” (a huge source of power). But when such petitions become abusive or the reaction to such petitions becomes abusive (usually from government or other “authorities”), well there we go, escalating a dispute to less rational and carefully considered solutions.

In both war and “peace” (domestic confrontations in America) many call for better training and more stringent rules on how authorized enforcers of rules or laws use their power. I never hear much about how to better train citizens how to react to such power however. Try telling a mob to “behave itself”. Hell we would get into an argument over the meaning of “behave”, in America today. But I know one thing for sure, “people power” in the form of mobs, large numbers of very angry citizens will not work in an America designed to live under the rule of law. Abuse or violence begets more counter-abuse or violence, in war or “peace” it seems to me.

But as well, any society must have “enforcers” of law, order and even administrative rules. And rules or laws must be changed, calmly and thoughtfully, when they are wrong as well. Most “lefties” call for more and more negotiations, diplomacy, to avoid wars “over there”. But I hear few calling for more negotiations in Ferguson today. The mob just wants to get their hands on a cop or group of cops and the cops (some of them) just want to “take it to the mob”. I think that is called human nature, a hard thing to control in any society unless the rule of law prevails, on both sides.

In the case of Ferguson, Watts, Oakland, Washington, DC and other places with similar outbreaks of abuse and violence, I would suggest such a discussion as that above be conducted in a “color-blind” manner as well. Inappropriate use of any power is wrong, from either side of a dispute, and race should have nothing to do with such a discussion, under the law or other rules of society in America, today. My great granddaddy was a slave, or slave master, has nothing to do with the problem on the best way to handle disputes or confrontations, on the streets so to speak.

MENTAL HEALTH OR THE LACK THEREOF

August 12, 2014

MENTAL HEALTH OR THE LACK THEREOF

Robin Williams, an iconic comedian, died by suicide and now the world mourns. A young man kills students and teachers in an elementary school and the world mourned. Other mentally ill people wander the streets in almost every city and town in America. And yes, some 60 million or more Americans suffer from the mental illness of addiction (drugs and alcohol) all over America today. All those people that have already acted in response to a mental illness and the millions more that consider such actions, all over America today, cost this country untold $ Billions (if not a $ Trillion of so) each year and the grief created by their actions burden American society today.

We count the deaths and consider the grief caused by physical disease, cancer, bad hearts, etc. and we hear the political debate of how best to use our resources to combat such physical diseases all the time. There are large “societies” that argue their points before Congress, etc. as well in response to actions needed to combat physical disease. We even have a very expensive and large Center for Disease Control in America. When did the CDC say anything of import about mental health rather than epidemic-like physical diseases, like Ebola, etc.? Any citizen that watches TV or reads a news outlet knows full well the ravages of physical diseases and what is being done to combat them.

Not so I suggest with mental illness. It remains by and large an elephant in the living room of America today that most just don’t want to confront until it hits them or a family member right between the eyes. But when it does hit there is not all that much that mental health professionals can do today, beyond filling patients with enough drugs to keep them calm, for a while. And oh yes, there is the inevitable “talk therapy” recommended for “treatment”. Did anyone ever get “talked out” of having cancer eat them alive?

The best example that I can offer is the almost static response to alcoholism over at least the last 50 years while the disease continues to ravage the same percentage of Americas as it has done for decades or centuries even. At least 10% or a lot more of a given large group of Americans suffers from that mental illness. Both of my parents died, miserably of that disease, almost 50 years ago. And the “treatment” for such people today remains what it was 50 years ago, go to AA and find a spiritual path to recovery. All the mental health community has done that I can tell is improve the way, with drugs, to detoxify people with severe physical reactions to alcohol in their bodies. After that, maybe, a patient gets about 2 weeks in “rehab” and then is right back out doing what they did before. Statistically, the recovery rate for such people is around 5% IF they attend “rehab”. Without rehab, well the recovery rate is close to zero for an alcoholic.

Yes that is crazy but people, millions of people each day, do it all the time in America today. And the cause is just ONE mental illness, most of the time for such people. The only remedy so far is to try to “talk them out of it” a crazy act that kills and creates all sorts of mayhem in society today at the cost of, again, $ Billions each year.

From the “outside”, Robin Williams had it all, fame, wealth, a family that cared and the list goes on. He sought all sorts of treatment as well, recently readmitting himself back into rehabilitation for a short time. Yet look what happened. Why the world should now ask and no one can provide a solid, science based answer, at least that I have heard. As well the world asked why the young man in Connecticut did what he did and no science based answer has been forthcoming from the mental health community, again that I have heard.

Had Robin Williams died of cancer after medical science had done all it could, people would mourn but not ask “why” he died. Well I ask “why”, now, why there is not better treatment (over 50 years) from the mental health community for alcoholism, and a host of other DSM V (I think that is the latest issue of mental health diseases). Was Robin Williams taking the best anti-depression medication available today and if not, why not, comes to mind. If despite such modern medication he still committed suicide, then “why” becomes the question in his case. Or instead was it some form of both alcoholism and depression that killed him? Note if you will, Robin Williams ultimately CHOSE to kill himself. Why?

Hell’s bells, in “polite” society, such questions won’t even be asked and we will just speak of what a great man he was, looking only at that half full glass and politely ignoring the half empty part with science driving the questions, not personal attacks or whatever against a great man with a terrible disease(s).

Having experienced the death of both parents due to alcoholism, loving parents, 50 years ago and now observing mental health conditions in America today, I ask “why” that science based community has not made the same progress seen in the physical health profession today over that same period of time.

I ask readers to consider that question and begin to ask “why” themselves in a more public forum and NOT ignoring what I believe is a huge “elephant” in the living rooms of America today.

And when you ask the question, please don’t react by thinking that just throwing more money at the problem will work. Go to downtown Joplin and give a drunk and homeless man $10 and see what happens, for starters. Hell, take him home with you to provide food, shelter, clothing, etc. and see what happens a week later. Feeling sorry for that man does nothing to relieve him of his disease(s) and throwing more money into temporary solutions out of humanitarian concerns does not achieve much at all as well, other than temporary relief.

SPACE, TIME, KNOWLEDGE AND OTHER THINGS

August 11, 2014

SPACE, TIME, KNOWLEDGE AND OTHER THINGS

This blog started in my mind as simply a book report on an exceptional book I just finished. The Cosmic Landscape, by Leonard Susskind is the book. If nothing else, it brought me up to current thinking in terms of the subject of physics, the science of mass, energy and why things move and “work” as they do. But it also unleashed a torrent of philosophy (of a sort) in my mind. Hopefully you will understand why that was the case if you read through my thoughts on the matter.

For reasons I still do not understand, I have always been fascinated by “science”, the knowledge of how things “work” and the recognition of many things we yet do not know and understand. Scientists are like explorers, constantly advancing the frontiers of knowledge, finding things well beyond our current horizons. When I was about 9 years old I first saw the rings of Saturn through a telescope set up one evening on a college campus. You can imagine the questions that came to my mind, then and now, about “how did they get there?” and a host of other related issues.

50 years ago my college education focused on all sorts of “science”. I studied chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, thermodynamics, metallurgy, lots of math, nuclear physics, even a course in quantum mechanics. What I learned then is so far out of date now that I wonder if I really learned anything. As well I did not specialize in a particular field of knowledge such as obtaining a major in say chemistry. Scientifically I went a mile wide and about an inch deep with some understanding about a lot of subjects but no real depth of knowledge in a given field. Such was the nature of my college years, being trained to become a Naval Officer, not a “scientist” or even a degreed engineer.

With one or two exceptions, my scientific education was limited to classical theories with only one or two courses that probed the emerging worlds of chemistry and physics. By the time I started actually operating nuclear reactors I was well educated in how everything from atoms “on up” worked under particular conditions, including splitting them to create energy and the engineering to contain that energy for useful purposes. That was a hard sought “frontier” of knowledge for me, to learn how things “worked” on the nuclear (atomic) level of science. Even today I could give a good lecture on how to take a nuclear reactor critical for example, to a group of high school kids (assuming they would sit still long enough to listen!!).

But science has gone so much farther than my little “horizon” of knowledge that I feel unable to grasp many of the things that science now endeavors to learn more about. Thus the book which at a layman’s level brought me up to speed on current topics and ideas being investigated by science today on both the macroscopic (the universe) and micro-microscopic levels (elementary particles).

Permit me to provide an example. If a hard working college student of reasonable but not genius level intelligence studied physics today he or she would know as much about quantum mechanics as I did about classical physics, in 1965. But they would also know more about classical physics today, after four years in college, than I did when I graduated. How do you cram all that stuff into brains the same size as mine, I continue to wonder. As well a current physics student would be conversant in String Theory and its implications as well.

Two topics that were not even topics as far as I knew 50 years ago are cosmology and elementary particle physics. Just how big is the universe and how do really little things, things much smaller than atoms, protons, neutrons and electrons “work” is the scope of the two subjects and they must work together to find answers it seems. The referenced book is filled with such details.

I offer just a smattering of information provided in the referenced book.

When Columbus sailed many believed the world was flat and had no idea what was beyond the horizon. Some were afraid to even go look. Today science believes, knows quite well it seems, that we have a cosmic horizon, one about 14 billion light-years distant from us. String theory tells us that something more is beyond that current horizon. And rather than a spherical universe, our universe, String Theory is leading many to consider a flat universe, a “sheet” that goes 14 Billion light-years in either of two dimensions. Einstein believed if one shot a “bullet” into the sky it would eventually return to hit the shooter in the back of his head, a spherical universe. Not so now by current thinking. Go figure that one out if you can.

String Theory also implies a “megaverse”, a range of space filled with other universes, some trillion upon trillion and then more of “other universes” or possibilites of such. The book uses layman language and suggests vivid pictures in one’s mind to make sense of what would seem to be nonsense as well. Science today believes, knows to some degree of certainty, that there are about 10 to the power of 22 (over a billion, trillion) planets in our own universe. What are the odds that one more than ours has an environment that allows liquid water to existed and thus, maybe, life sort of like ours. Then, using the math of String Theory, consider that there are about 10 to the power of 500 regions in the “megaverse” that could contain universes such as ours or vastly different ones as well in terms of the Laws of Physics, on a “megaverse” scale of thinking.

Incidentally, the author introduces the idea of a “Landscape” of space, where the Laws of Physics might well be very different from our own. Some of them may well have NO speed limit in that universe, or at least one much faster (or slower) than our own speed of light.

Readers may think I am just nuts or really off on a tangent to write such a blog. Most would not even consider trying to read the book as well.

But the good thing about writing as an old man, I get to pick my subjects and interests now. I struggled to write a term paper as a senior in high school on Einstein’s theory of relativity. Little did I know at that time just how far science would go since 1960 in both valid observations through experimentation and the new horizons (based primarily on mathematics, not observation through experimentation) of scientific knowledge today.

Who knows what tomorrow might bring. But I, for one hope to live long enough to buy and use a quantum computer. Instead of just atoms and electrons moving around, such a computer would “work” using bosons, fermions, quarks, gluons and a bunch of other things that I cannot remember or never knew “existed”. This book tells me such is really possible, and a lot more as well.

PRIORITIZING PUBLIC SCHOOL PROBLEMS

July 25, 2014

PRIORITIZING PUBLIC SCHOOL PROBLEMS

Nationally and locally, complaints about public schools are legion, a lot of them. I suggest that the accumulation of problems over time, like the last 50 years, has resulted in a list so long that no one can “fix the system” to avoid the myriad complaints all at once. The really big ones, legitimate complaints must be fixed, first, or at least mitigated to a degree to move that complaint or issue lower down, making it a lesser complaint or issue.

Since the campaign for the April 2014 local election began I have read the Turner Report frequently. That blogger and I disagree on just about every issue addressed during that campaign and I wanted to “know my detractors” and their views as I began to write publicly about such issues. Since the election I have continued to read that blog several times a week to remain up to date on what the blogger and his supporters are concerned about, particularly how our public school system, R-8, is being operated.

In this blog I focus on the problem of first deciding what the “biggest problem” might be in Joplin public schools. I challenge anyone to conduct a thorough review of the Turner Report over the last two years alone, starting with the firing of the author of that blog by the Board of Education and find a prioritization of problems to be confronted and fixed or mitigated. I would submit that the “biggest problem” according to that blog is the performance of the Superintendent of Schools and the BOE. Fire Dr. Huff and stack the BOE with Turner blog supporters and all will be resolved is the general thrust of that blog. In other words our problem in public schools is performance by elected officials and one man, the leader of the R-8 district.

Turner did not always write such attacks as best I can tell. He only focused his diatribes after he was legally and correctly in my view, fired for poor performance. I refer you to a recent blog at http://rturner229.blogspot.com/2014/07/before-bright-futures-before-c-j-huff.html. He reposts a 2008 blog wherein he addresses the problem of public school drop out rates.

That blog, written before Dr. Huff started working as the R-8 Superintendent, addressed how severe drop out rates had become and the need to address that problem. But he then does what many public educators have done, since 2008, and blame the problem on society, with little or no constructive advice on how society can fix the problem, much less how schools could do so In other words, a blog written by a teacher in 2008 does not indicate in any way what Dr. Huff or teachers themselves should do to resolve or at least mitigate the issue of drop out rates.

To me at least, such is a classic example of failing to identify the KEY issue confronting public education, locally or nationally. Drop out rate is NOT that key issue. Our public education system fails to produce graduates that have the level of knowledge and behavior skills to either enter college or trade schools directly or the work place as productive employees in a modern society today.

If every graduate learns, during 12 years of public education, “how to learn”, level of knowledge in core subjects and how to behave themselves then the major issue of failing public education would be resolved. Focus first on those that graduate and make sure they meet modern requirements for level of knowledge and behavior and do that FIRST is my long stated “goal” for public education.

The failure to achieve that goal or effective progress towards meeting that goal is the “biggest problem” facing public education, in Joplin, today.

Now drop out rate. I submit that progress has been made to reduce that problem and that Dr. Huff and the local BOE worked tirelessly at the State level to achieve progress. It was done very simply as well. The State Law was changed to require all students to remain in school until the age of 17 (vice sixteen). If that law was further changed to raise the age of legal “drop out” to the age of 18 another spike in graduation rate would be observed, in my view. In other words, thru the law, kids and parents in general are forced to “behave themselves” better by forcing students to remain in school for an additional year.

Of course that legal approach does absolutely nothing to keep those older kids from being “hoodlums” in classes. That remains the responsibility of individual teachers. But Turner does not address that issue, how teachers must better control students to achieve the primary goal, graduation of each student that “means something” later on as they enter adulthood. I guess that is “society’s problem” as well, at least according to Turner.

Well maybe that is not correct. Based on rather close reading of his blog of late, just firing one man and replacing various members of the BOE will achieve the goal of producing good graduates is all that is needed, I suppose, at least “according to Turner” and his supporters.

Permit me if you will to make a short list of “Turner complaints” about the local school system published in his blog in the last several months. I am sure I have missed some, but here is such a list. Huff’s salary is too high. Huff failed to report speaker fees as required and maybe even failed to pay taxes on them or some of them. Huff unjustly refused to renew contracts for various teachers and principals. The BOE unjustly allowed Huff to do so. Turner was unjustly fired. The BOE has wasted tax payer dollars while recovering from the tornado in 2011. Financial reserves have gone far too low since the tornado. Teachers have not been given sufficient pay and raises to such pay. Janitors and other staff have unjustly had working hours cut. The BOE is poised to improperly ask for a long term loan to make up financial shortfalls, with no tax payer approval of such action. The BOE is poised to improperly ask for a short term loan to cover expenses while awaiting reimbursement from state and federal authorities for restoration of destroyed facilities, without taxpayer approval of such action, again. Teacher retention rate (no longer drop out rate for students) is a looming disaster for R-8. The payroll for the administrative staff is far too high. Too many “teacher coaches” are on that administrative staff.

Nowhere on that long list of complaints to be found on the Turner Report is the issue of improving the quality in terms of increased level of knowledge AND behavior of all graduates from Joplin High School. If the State audit of “performance” by the local school district is going to be meaningful, I suggest the auditors look carefully why producing better graduates lacks the needed progress to improve.

OR, of course, the auditors could determine that R-8 is on the right track in such an effort. As well the auditors COULD term that all the above complaints found on the Turner Report are simply a tempest in a tea pot and fail to address KEY issues affecting public school performance as well.

We’ll see, in about six months when the audit is completed. Until then I think I will just no longer read the Turner Report.

STEPS TO IMMIGRATION REFORM

July 10, 2014

STEPS TO IMMIGRATION REFORM

An interesting exchange started on the EC blog but has not yet been concluded in my view. Thus this blog.

I challenged Duane Graham to state the immigration reforms that he SUPPORTED and not just throw barbs at what the GOP was doing or trying to achieve. He responded in a blog found at http://duanegraham.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/christians-beware-a-10-point-plan-on-immigration-reform/. Surprisingly, to me, I found that we were not all that far apart, fundamentally. However the dialog stopped at that point with no further comments from Graham or his supporters. To understand the nuances in this blog, I suggest you read the linked blog and comments thereto first.

We in America have both a National Security issue and a humanitarian situation on our southern border. Graham and I agree, substantially, on that point. But the kicker is that he agrees that we must have better control of our southern border today. However how to achieve that goal he suggests be left to “experts” which neither of us happen to be, “experts” on controlling who enters America across our southern border. But I believe it does not take an “expert” to envision such border control. Countries have been doing it for millennia, humanely in most cases.

Anyone entering any country should do so in accordance with the “rules”, the law if you will, stating specifically who can enter any country. Certainly such laws can be very unfair, biased, prejudicial, etc. For example a law could state requirements in terms of ethnicity, skin color, political or social orientation, etc. Or instead the laws can allow essentially anyone to enter a country, an open border if you will. Or of course there is a set of laws that find a “middle ground” if you will as to who might be allowed to cross a border, legally.

Basically, our current laws require anyone legally crossing the border, any border defining the boundaries of the United States of America, to obtain “permission” before crossing that border. That usually is in the form of a visa, advanced permission for anyone to enter the USA. What’s wrong with that requirement, a requirement established by almost all countries in the world?

OK, there are special cases, refugees if you will, those seeking political asylum because their country of origin is too “harsh”, unfair, etc. We have laws that define the requirements to be accepted into the USA without a pre-approved visa, for those fleeing oppression. Show up at a border without prior permission, apply for asylum and then enter the USA once your application for asylum is approved. What’s wrong with that approach?

In fact we take it a step farther for those seeking asylum. Generally speaking such asylum seekers are allowed to enter America but are “contained” while their application for asylum is processed through our courts, a legal process to validate the need, on a case by case or individual basis, for asylum. We are supposed to detain such asylum seekers, according to law.

The real and immediate crux of the matter today however is we do not follow those proscribed laws, have a legal visa to enter America or apply for asylum, legally, when crossing the border. Instead our long and very porous southern border is flooded with people trying to enter America illegally.

So is not the first step in that process to “secure our southern borders” to only allow people to enter America legally, by some legal definition other than just “showing up and looking for a better job”, etc.?

Other that just opening our borders to anyone, criminals, terrorists, people looking for a free ride at tax payer expense in America, etc. we must have some criteria or definitions that anyone must meet, before entering America, should we not? We have those laws on the books already, but now fail, miserably to enforce them. People from foreign lands now believe that if they can just “make it across the border” they will be allowed to remain in America as long as they want to so remain. Thus we see the current flood of illegal immigration by kids, adults, terrorists, criminals, malcontents of all sorts, some intending to cause great harm to America if they can just “get in”.

We have two big problems right now in America, both caused by a very porous southern border, I submit. What do we do with the vast number that are already here, illegally and remain here, illegally is the first problem, with more arriving at our southern border each day? Second how do we allow more legal immigrants into America, today?

I submit we cannot fix either problem, what to do with those already here or how to open our borders, legally, to more immigrants, until we secure our southern border, humanly, but at the same time stop those trying to cross the border illegally in a continuing flood.

We already do a good job of border control for those arriving by air or sea, the normal means of transportation into America for most immigrants. What we have thus far failed to do is control the land routes into America from the south. Any “expert” would say that we must “funnel” immigrants through control points on land routes, just as we do for airplanes and ships arriving in America. So why not do exactly that, funnel all immigrants crossing our southern borders through legal control points for entry into America?

The real reason many illegal immigrants now attempt to enter America, illegally, is they fully expect that after all is said and done they will be allowed to remain here and go free IMMEDIATELY after crossing our border, illegally. They want no control, no check points, no visas, no applications for asylum to be considered by courts of law. They simply want to go free in America, to do as they so choose to do like any other American citizen. As well, once they are here illegally and are “caught” breaking American law they demand the full privileges of any American citizen under our laws. They even would demand full legal representation at American taxpayer expense to argue their cases in courts even though they have no legal right to be here in the first place.

Can we effectively control access across our southern borders today? Yes we can I assert as a “non-expert” and I further believe we can do so humanly, at some considerable expense to American taxpayers. As well we need not have court cases so backlogged that it takes years to settle a single case in such jammed packed courts of law. After we bear the expense of regaining entry control of our southern border, we can and should devote the legal resources to moving immigration cases through such courts rapidly, fairly and of course legally, under IMMIGRATION LAW, not laws afforded to others in America legally in the first place.

If a ship at sea endures flooding, the first priority is to stop the flow of water into the ship. That is the emergency, stop the flooding. Fail to do so and ships sink, at sea or inport. After the flooding stops then other more careful efforts are then made to restore the ship (of State) to normal conditions under laws and regulations controlling the operation of any ship (of State).

FAITH IS WHAT ONE, ALONE, BELIEVES

June 23, 2014

FAITH IS WHAT ONE, ALONE, BELIEVES

I rarely comment on a blog with a blog of my own. But in this case, I am compelled to do so. Bottom line I am sick and tired of everyone on God’s green earth telling me what I should believe and do according to “God’s Will”, just sick of it.

What has really gotten my goat this time is a local event and the reaction to it, by a local Christian church, Ignite Church, located near my home and one that I drive by, frequently. Up until the Sunday Globe all I knew about that church was that it had a lot of young people surrounding it on occasion, waving signs, singing and trying to attract folks to attend services therein. Certainly nothing untoward was noted in dress, language, signs, etc.

But a front page article in the Globe showed the church, a Christian church, giving away two AR-15 “assault rifles” in a fund raising raffle. Then the commentary began, all over the place. The Globe did a reasonably good job getting reaction from a few religious leaders in Joplin, mostly negative reaction and it referenced some pretty strong online reaction as well. frankly, I am of the opinion that religous leaders should worry about their own “flock” and let other flocks fly as they like, as long as they obey the law in doing so.

But the Globe also ran comments by the minister of that church, a man described as having a “short Mohawk” haircut and “tattoos”. The implication of course was that a man with such a haircut and “tattoos” was suspect in terms of his view of God’s Will, for anyone.

OK, let folks get a little roused up. So what, right! Well then I read the Erstwhile Conservative blog. He used that church as an almost universal example of “religion in Joplin” or even Southwest Missouri, moaning in his cups about just how “crazy” everyone around here might be. Thus this blog!

I begin by noting that Ignite Church did nothing illegal that I can tell. Nor am I aware of any Christian restrictions on the ownership of weapons, assault weapons in particular. Of course there were no assault weapons during the time of Christ but I don’t believe he suggested that all swords held by Romans be turned over. Was it Christ that spoke of turning “swords into plowshares” or someone else and in which “Testament” in the Christian Bible? I’m Not Sure, Are You? Frankly in today’s world I believe “swords”, like nuclear weapons play an important role to keep me safe, and my family as well. But that is politics, not religion also.

But I believe the teachings of Christ related to how one used such things, weapons, not about whether or not someone should owe such things. So I suggest that Christianity as a religion only focuses on the use of weapons, not ownership. But maybe I am wrong, or maybe not. So what as it is what I “believe” and who are you to tell me I am wrong in such beliefs.

No doubt, the Ignite Church was not in any way politically correct today, except maybe in Southwest Missouri, to encourage ownership of assault weapons. If they had given away a .22 rifle would the uproar be as loud, I wonder? But you see that is a political reaction, not, or should not be, a religious reaction.

Let me be clear on that point. Politically I fully support strict, very strict control of gun ownership in America. More specifically I would support laws that outlaw the possession of hand guns (pistols) and all semi-automatic rifles. If you can’t “kill a deer” with one shot then go back to target practice to hunt is my call. I also assume automatic rifles are outlawed already, but am not certain on that point.

But to uphold that political belief I would NEVER try to argue that it was “God’s Will” to craft such a law. I have a pretty clear idea how God would suggest any weapon be used, or not, but owning one, well I have never heard God comment on that point, or any other political point in America. Are you arrogant enough to tell me that God has spoken to you on that point and you are simply being God’s mouthpiece???

I can be a friend with an atheist, an agnostic or someone that holds deep faith in God, and Christ as well if that is their belief, or Buddha, or Allah, etc. But I won’t share their faith either. Each to his own is my view. Don’t push yours onto me and I will not advocate my faith (or lack thereof) back at you. As well if you honestly BELIEVE that it is God’s Will to do something, fine go do it as long as it is legal. And if you think something should not be legal to do, then simply don’t do it, yourself. But if it is legal, political if you will, then don’t try to change a law that I might like by denigrating my faith, or lack thereof as well.

Another point if you will. I despise the message of people from Westborough Baptist Church, particularly when they insult the dead soldiers at funerals in front of families. Despicable in my view and certainly not what I believe God would want me to do. But legally, they have every right to say what they like, in a place deemed legal as well by competent authorities. Such authorities can and should respect free speech and the grief of loved ones as well. That is called a compromise, I think and God likes such things, I believe.

That my readers is the separation of church and state, in my view. Obviously, if one believes the Christian Bible, murder is wrong. I agree with God on that point and “there outta be a law” in that regard. But there are no laws now in America that outlaw adultery, today, at least that I am aware of. That suits me just fine as well. Let God dictate sex (except when violence is used) and let men worry about more pragmatic things, like murder!!

At least today, liberals are “defined” by a lack of deep religious conviction and conservatives as those with great “faith” in God. Well that misses me by a long shot and I do not believe I am alone in that regard. But frankly, I don’t give a damn if I am as well. It is just what I alone believe in terms of God and His Will for me that counts. If I think God’s Will is to do something illegal, then let men judge my actions and God take care of me, later on!!

One final point. If the minister of Ignite Church, or members of his congregation started telling people to use guns to achieve their interpretation of God’s Will, well I might get my own shotgun out to confront them and might well believe I would do so with God’s blessing, maybe!!! But make fun of them, denigrate them for their religion, their faith in God, perverted though it may seem to be to me, I won’t do that and don’t believe political pundits like the Erstwhile Conservative should tread on such ground either.

But he will for sure, even though at one point in his life he was a self-confessed evangelical preacher. Boy would I like to have copies of some of those old sermons to preach right back to him, today, in a blog on politics!!

A TERRIBLE EPIDEMIC

June 19, 2014

A TERRIBLE EPIDEMIC

The title is what four Senators called the incidents of sexual assault and/or rape.

The explosion occurred when George Will wrote a column on the matter as the concerns about the crimes on college campuses increase, and in the military as well. I offer three links as background to the issues as it relates to just George Will.

First is the offending column. Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-college-become-the-victims-of-progressivism/2014/06/06/e90e73b4-eb50-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html

Second is the letter to Will signed by four Senators. Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/r/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2014/06/13/Editorial-Opinion/Graphics/Letter-to-George-Will-from-Senators.pdf

Finally Will responded to the Senators at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/06/13/george-will-responds-to-senators-on-his-sexual-assault-column/

The column itself and the two letters are all written by learned and responsible adults. I would hope that comments to this blog are as considerate, while still differing in conclusions.

My first question to all concerned, including readers of this blog, is just how bad is the “terrible epidemic”, the term used by the Senators in the letter above. TIME magazine had a front page cover all about RAPE on college campuses not long ago. So just how “bad is this crime”, when did it get so bad and most important, why did that happen, an apparent rampage of sexual violence, on college campuses and in our military?

Just check the math used by Will in his column? Either the incidents of sexual assault (and rape?) are much greater than 20% OR the statistic used reporting that crime is wrong. So I still wonder just “how bad is it”, sexual assault and/or rape on college campuses or in the military. That is an apolitical question, an honest question if you will. I have two granddaughters, both completing their sophomore year in college and have not heard anything from them about this matter. Maybe I should ask them their views but might well give parents concern over being too “nosey”, I suppose. For now I will keep my mouth shut which is always a safe bet in such matters with family members.

I don’t believe we know the depth or breadth of any problem of this nature. But I do know that many people are now up in arms over the issue. Frankly, “I’m Not Sure, Are You” about which bandwagon to ride. There seems to be one on the “feminist side” and Will has gotten his ass handed to him for challenging their “statistics”.

Will, like me, wants crime punished, particularly a crime like rape. Throw the book at men that rape women (or other men today) as well as throwing the book at female (or male) teachers encouraging sex or partaking in such a thing, with students, for crying out loud. And the way to do that is in the criminal court system for sure.

Go now to a previous blog on this site, one containing my views on a recently concluded “rape trial” for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, my alma mater. The defendant was found not guilty of rape, period. But my God the uproar for almost a year over the charges against that young man. It was all bandied about in the Senate, before any trial was held, as I recall. And I have yet to hear much at all about the “victim” in this case, a young woman shown in a trial to have had sex with three different men in the back seat of a car, one at a time, while she was drunk. As well after the “rape” she went back to a party to party some more as revealed in testimony in a court of law. Now tell me that is “rape”, at least as presented in a court of law.

In that case the use of alcohol by the woman and her willingness to engage in sexual activities seems to be the issue, not rape. OK, the men, all three midshipman governed (as was the woman) by a rather strict “honor code” at USNA. My simple point is all four of them were dishonorable as all Hell and all should be civilians now, not receiving a free education at taxpayer expense.

Being embarrassed, after the fact, that sex happened is one thing. But calling it rape because public media (Facebook) got on your case is a whole different matter, is it not?

What pray tell is different, under the law, between sexual assault and rape. We seem to have gotten to the point that if a woman doesn’t like it, it, automatically, is sexual assault. I speak of course of “grab ass” today and yesterday as well. Hell a “pat on the shoulder” can be called sexual assault today, it seems to me if a woman dislikes the “patter”.

While we are at it, in terms of legal definitions, try showing the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Is there a defining line, under the law, that shows that line, clearly. And when sexual assaults are reported, do they include sexual harassment as well. I sure don’t know, do you?

I wonder if we, as a society, will get to the point that when a woman wears a “revealing dress”, gets drunk, flirts with men, gives them a big “com’on” if you will, will some men start to scream over sexually “enticement” or some such issue?

Face it folks, this issue started way back when I was entering young adulthood. The Pill “caused it”. Fear of pregnancy made many women say “No” long before they say it now. Since then this whole equality of the sexes, including the pursuit of sex has opened up a social issue of profound impact.

I believe we are still dealing with just that issue. It is perfectly normal today for women to acknowledge that they desire and like sex and pursue it to their hearts content in society today. It is also a great “tool” for women to use to advance their various “causes”, just like Cleopatra did long ago and countless women since then.

My former mother-in-law, in the late sixties observed then that “women get married for security and men get married for regular sex”. How true that used to be it seems to me. But today, forget it and thus we see countless people simply “living together” today and unwed mothers all over the place with no social stigma whatsoever. Hell they are victims it seems today.

Before any of you leap on the word misognomist, be careful. I am as much against rape or violent advances to gain sexual privilege as any woman in America. It is a legal issue as far as rape goes but sure seems to get a little vague in terms of sexual assault or harassment today. So step one is to clearly define, precisely, the law in such matters seems to be the first step. Then prosecute the living hell out of offenders of such law.

Next up is to improve the environment such that violations of law are reported, factually and immediately, not after one has time to “think about it” and get angry over Facebook exposes. In fact the woman at USNA did have sex with three men in the back seat of a car during a party. Why I wonder after the first round in that event did she not go screaming RAPE at the party taking place near the parked car? Or the woman “getting raped and then going to sleep with the man” in her dorm room (see Will’s column).

I call for the full protection of the law for women in sexual matters. But violations of law must be first reported and then proven in a court of law before we get ready to combat a “terrible epidemic” or so it seems to me.

Can we at least get our facts straight before screaming “epidemic”, like screaming fire in a theater when someone lights, illegally, a cigarette therein!!

HONOR AND DISTINCTION

June 14, 2014

HONOR AND DISTINCTION

The phrase in the title to this blog is a fundamental point arising in the midst of the Bergdahl debacle, in my view. Here comes Ms. Rice, the quintessential excuse maker for the Obama administration. She said that Bergdahl has served with “honor and distinction” and therefore, …….. OMG!!

First of all, how does she know that as a matter of fact? No way can she know the nuances, yet, of Bergdahl’s service to his country, much less whether such service was conducted with honor and distinction. She has probably not read his service jacket, analyzed the comments made by various members of Bergdahl’s chain of command, etc. She just assumes that because he once wore the American uniform in our military that he must have been honorable and distinct in his actions. That is just horseshit, if you will excuse the expression.

Let me be very clear on that point. Volunteering to serve in the military is in itself honorable and today rather distinct from the choices of most American youth. But volunteering to serve is just the first step. One must then actually serve with “honor and distinction”, or just “honor” without any real distinction in terms of performance, to be successful, in the military.

But that is not just a category for members of the armed services. I would suggest that one of the problems in America today is that few decide to actually WORK at any task with the goal of being “honorable and distinct” when they do such work.

I also submit that a “hamburger flipper” could and should try their best to be honorable and distinct when they flip hamburgers. Do that and one will not remain flipping hamburgers for very long for sure. When anyone demonstrates both honor and distinction, even when performing menial tasks, or really important ones as well, then such people rise to the top in most cases. It does not take fame, money or the size of the value to society in a particular job to be “honorable and distinct”. It just takes great courage and will power, to always try to do the next right thing, flipping burgers, cleaning toilets or making a huge political decision related to war and peace. One’s socio-economic status or “job” should make no difference whatsoever in terms of trying, hard to be honorable and distinct.

I use an example from a nuclear submarine. The lowest form of status on a submarine is being a mess cook. That job is basically to be the dishwasher and janitor on a submarine and it is relegated to the youngest and least trained of all the enlisted men on a given ship. Nukes, simply because they are more highly trained before arriving on a ship, never serve as mess cooks, for example. It is the seamen that only attended boot camp and some short form of submarine school that serve as such, mess cooks.

I have seen honorable and distinct mess cooks and I have seen really lousy ones as well. The food is served, hot, good and on time by mess cooks, on clean plates and service ware, as just an example. That is not easy to do, by anyone, but it is important. Put a bunch of lousy and lazy mess cooks on a ship and morale will reflect the quality of the food and service of same, in the bilges!!!

As well submarines during emergencies are an all hands situation. I have seen really BRAVE mess cooks during a fire in the galley, something that can threaten the entire ship, respond with courage, quick and good decisions, etc. I have also seen some that run from the galley to let others respond to an emergency. Now which ones serve with honor and distinction, just lowly mess cooks? And how would Ms. Rice have any idea of such performance, by a mess cook or anyone else on that ship?

She, like many in America, believes that just being on a submarine is enough in terms of honor and distinction. Bullshit might I say, emphatically. Put a coward or slacker on my ship, regardless of whether I was a Captain or a junior officer, and I will come down hard on such a man and do my best to retrain him to be much better than he demonstrated during his actual work on a ship. He would then be deemed “honorable and distinct” based on my decisions as his supervisor. And it would take superior performance to be deemed “distinct”, as a mess cook or Commanding Officer and all else in between.

Take a different set of circumstances. Say a real “hero”, a man that had performed on the field of battle with great “honor and distinction”, but when he returned to safety he raped a fellow solider. Would Rice leap to the conclusion that that man was “honorable and distinct”. Distinct, yes indeed he was, while in uniform, honorable on the battlefield as well, but would Rice come to this defense in a rape case??? No way. And she would probably condemn him when he was accused of rape, before he was convicted of such, as well. Many Senators do that these days, it seems, and condemn the entire armed forces in such cases as well. Listen to them and military service is not honorable and distinct in any way with a bunch of rapists running around and commanders that let them get away with it.

Serving, in any task, with honor and distinction should be an American value that is deep within the work ethic of all Americans. I believe that characteristic is sadly lacking on the part of MANY Americans today. Hell we don’t even teach it in our schools today. We just assume that all the little darlings are automatically honorable and distinct, unique souls with inherent sets of good values. What a lame assumption that one is, today in America. Just go into any classroom you like, in any school in America, and observe teachers and students in action. Then point out the truly “honorable and distinct” students and teachers seen therein. They are few and far between, in my view, in our schools and throughout society today.

Keep your focus when such esteemed terms as honor and distinction are used is my call. Actions, the way people behave, how they work, how they achieve the goals of any organization are ways to discover true honor and distinction. Few, very few, rise to such a level of conduct throughout their lives and those few should indeed be highly honored by all, be they “mess cooks” or men of high office and “importance”.

HEALING OLD WOUNDS

June 13, 2014

HEALING OLD WOUNDS

We in Joplin are now learning just how long it takes to heal wounds, political wounds. America as a whole sees that before it now as well.

First, my views on America and the state of its politics today. Terrible is too soft a word to describe how badly the political wounds are still infecting this country. I believe it started with the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton and things have gotten decidedly worse since that time. Internally, politically, that was the first real shot that started the whole mess we are in today.

Did Clinton lie, under oath during a deposition looking into his sexual conduct, conduct that was obviously unbecoming for a person in a position of national leadership? Yes, he broke the law, but that violation of the law was deemed “not an impeachable offense”. The real offense by Bill Clinton was political malfeasance as viewed by a vengeful GOP. That for sure is not an impeachable offense.

Then the election of 2000 and SCOTUS being accused of determining the outcome. I don’t believe that was the case, but certainly the outcome, whoever was elected showed a deeply divided country.

Then of course 9/11 when America really changed. The divide became even greater, over time.

So here we are today in this country, divided, seeking with great vengeance some sort of political dominance, not political compromise, on the part of both political parties. And then of course there is the Tea Party as well. While some will say the Tea Party is just part of the GOP, I now disagree. It is becoming a Third Party for all intents and purposes and it caters to the most rigid and vengeful wing in American politics, the religious extremists and those that call for guns to resolve political differences.

I have no idea how long it will take for America to rediscover the center of American politics in both domestic and international affairs. But I suggest that both the Bush II and Obama administrations were nowhere close to that center. And if you want to argue which of those two administrations was the most extreme, well I put the Obama administration in that crosshairs. Never before have I seen such extremes in American politics, including purposeful violation of established American law, on several occasions. Combine that internal action by President Obama and his appointees with the decided decline in American power and thus influence in world affairs and we see an America never before seen by anyone alive today.

Now look at Joplin. I see similar things, great and divisive divide in this city and I have no idea how long it will take to heal those wounds either.

The tornado did not cause such wounds in Joplin. In fact that natural disaster revealed a remarkably strong and vibrant community, one that rose from the destruction and moved forward together to recover, for about two years. The national recognitions of such community efforts were and remain richly deserved.

But now, just look at us.

Collectively we the people in Joplin have no idea which direction “forward” might be, today. And we do not have the political leadership, now, to show us which way to go.

I see that sad state of affairs, in Joplin, in both our schools and our city government.
Even their strongest detractors must surely agree that the leadership by both Mark Rohr and C J Huff was remarkable and outstanding in almost every respect immediately after the tornado. I won’t even try to elaborate on why I feel that way. The evidence of such leadership is simply a matter of record, and national recognition as well, for both men.

But now due to political infighting, rumor and innuendo by and large, Mark Rohr is gone and for sure no leader has yet to take his place. Yes, we held a recent election and those political bullies that fired Mark Rohr are by and large now neutered. But the new city council has yet to make its presence felt and we the city suffer as a consequence.

Is it any wonder why money to rebuild some big projects is now hard to find? Big lenders see, clearly, the political uncertainty in Joplin today and thus they are not going to lend a lot of money, yet, to anyone to rebuild. Sure a store here, a home there, all such rebuilding will proceed. But for big and joint, private and government together projects, well don’t hold your breath right now to await either private lenders or government bureaucracies to actually start writing big checks. Not for a while, for sure.

Many in Joplin are now, or will soon blame our Master Developer for causing the delay and disruption to the Joplin rebuilding effort.

Well I see no way to blame the Master Developer for our inability to break ground on a new library, as just an example. That is strictly, now, a government funded project and that entire effort is strictly in the hands of city government to move forward. Yes the MD has not provided private investors to fund the adjacent “mall” or whatever it will become, but that has nothing to do with the library for sure.

But here we are still arguing over why build the new library “there”. Why not downtown many will say. You would think that discussion was settled long ago, right or wrong but a decision was made. What we lack now is simply the leadership to move forward, past that old decision. But such leadership is just not here, now, in Joplin.

Want to change our minds, now, some two years later. OK, why not use the old Coke building, a site first thought for a new Post Office. It is really cheap, about $560K for a downtown building, plus the cost of remodeling it to make it into a library. That is opposed to $20 Million for a brand new building not in downtown plus the “rent” to the tune of about $14,000 per year for the land for 15 years, plus the ultimate purchase of that land for a ridiculous $6 Million. Show me any land anywhere in Joplin worth $1 Million per acre!!! Who in the world made that deal, I wonder? Ultimately I suggest, it was the city council, the same gang that later fired Mark Rohr!!!

The only problem with that change in direction is what to do with the land on the intersection of 20th and Connecticut Ave. What private developer in their right mind would purchase that lease and ultimate sale agreement, right in the midst of low rent apartments and a gas station!!!

Now look at the Senior Housing Project. After jumping through a bunch of government mandated hoops, all related to environmental issues that can take years to resolve, we have a plot of land and the ability to build part of the Senior Housing envisioned two years ago. Why are we not actually building something there, I wonder, now?

Well folks, the real reason I suspect is uncertainty, now, whether the project will “work”. Can a private developer actually build new senior housing and make a profit in the long run by doing so. Why did such a project look so good two years ago and now we await ………? Is that Mark Rohr’s fault, or the fault of the Master Developer? Maybe, in part, those two entities made a mistake, but they are not alone as well. Again, people with money, investors, see what is going on in Joplin today. No wonder they are reluctant, now, to invest in a city all wrapped around its own axle trying to decide which way is forward, today.

Finally our schools. We are almost complete in rebuilding new schools after the destruction from the tornado. Has anyone stepped back and considered how remarkable that single achievement might be? Three years and, what, some five new schools and the money to pay for them. That alone is a real achievement, along with the political courage to ask for and receive new taxes to support that effort. And that of course ignores the way our students have remained in schools for the interim three years, in a Mall for goodness sakes, and a good place it seems to educate high schoolers in the transistion.

Note we are not just rebuilding a destroyed facility. We are building a really new facility in our High School that should far exceed the capacity and equipment for education far into the future. That alone is significant in my view.

Yet here we are now arguing over money. Did we spend it wisely? Have we hired the wrong staff, mistreated teachers, failed to provide a “worker friendly” environment for both teachers and students, and the list of complaints goes on and on from some sectors in this city. And along with all those complaints, the old “hero” (Dr. Huff) has now been tarnished and accused of lots of malfeasance, by some malcontents at least, one previously fired teacher being the ringleader of that bunch.

Summing up, I see 9/11 and the tornado as similar events, events of destruction. In both cases the country and the city of Joplin joined hands, for a while, and began to first recover from destruction and then reconstitute a new nation and city. That effort, the aftermath of destruction, lasted for about three years in both cases.

Then the great divide came upon us, politically. Ever since that began, political division in about 2004 nationally and 2013 or early 2014 locally, well here we are today.

I for one don’t like it but as well see not solution in both cases, other than superb leadership by brave men and women ready to stand in the face of adversity and do the next right thing.

In both cases as well, in our country and our city, I not only see old wounds still festering, but new ones being created every day by all the arguing and dissent seen all about us today, in America and Joplin. That to me is a sad state of affairs for all of us.


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