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.

LOOKING FOR A KINGMAKER

June 13, 2014

LOOKING FOR A KINGMAKER

I nearly fell out of my chair, reading an AOL News headline that Governor Romney is quietly trying to establish himself as the new kingmaker in the GOP. No way Mitch, you are tarnished goods in my view. And so are all the current GOP members of Congress as well.

The Democrats got it right back in 1992. After a small disaster from the Carter Presidency, followed by 12 years of GOP governance, they found an obscure Governor in a small state that rose to rescue the party from more dominance by the GOP. I suspect that all Americans, other than the extreme right wing of evangelicals and armed radicals, would welcome Bill Clinton back as a moderate (by comparison to Obama or Bush II) president.

I thought the GOP as a national party had learned a lesson from the Akin senatorial campaign in Missouri. Never again elect in a GOP primary someone that caters to the extreme right wing, in terms of faith, guns, limited government, etc. But then look what the “confederates” just did in Virginia, to Congressman Cantor.

Governor Romney would have been a less divisive president today than Obama, in my view. But he was tainted by extreme right wing rhetoric during the primary campaign and he never recovered from such actions, from within his own party. He had to go too far to the right to win the primary election within the GOP and never made it back to mainstream political thoughts in America and he never will do so in the future, in my view.

The GOP needs, desperately to find a popular GOP governor, someone that served two terms, was popular within his state and achieved significant goals with conservative principles. There are such men and women in America today and they need to come out of obscurity and be heard on a national level, today.

Jeb Bush would fit that call to a tee, except his name his Bush. No way can he call all Americans back to the fold with conservative views, simply because he has the wrong (to win a Presidential election) last name, today. He would have to spend most of his campaign defending the decisions made by his own brother, for Christ’s sake.

Imagine as well a Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush campaign. Both would have to defend their two different Presidents, Bush II and Obama. I would suggest the country wants nothing of the sort, lame defenses of mistakes made in the past. The country wants fresh ideas, conservative and liberal alike and a Clinton/Bush campaign would only be rearguing the past, like torture versus Benghazi as just an example!!!

I would love nothing more than to clear the Presidential deck of all candidates that have participated in national level decisions in the federal government since 2000, the year America turned south, politically.

Go find two former governors, both of whom succeeded as governors and were popular in their states as well. One would have found success of a sort using liberal ideas and the other conservative ones. Run on those records and start afresh to argue how best to apply those principles to national and international affairs, wrenching decisions now upon us as a result of past mistakes by BOTH political parties.

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM (FOR ONE SOLDIER)

June 3, 2014

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM (FOR ONE SOLDIER)

I share the relief to see one American soldier freed from brutal, maybe, captivity. Now let’s glory in that moment and move on, right? But I hesitate as well and ask “what is the price” of that freedom?

I hope for an interesting discussion on such a topic. But that won’t happen now as the political battle lines have already been formed. And to see Ted Cruz, a politician that I do not particularly like, taking one side is really bad in my view. Now we are going to hear Tea Party vs. Dems all the time on an important topic, the price of freedom.

First permit me to lay out the basic facts of this case that few will dispute. The Taliban held an American soldier captive for five years and just released him back to America in exchange for five prisoners held in Gitmo. Simple factual series of events, right?

Now certainly negotiations took place to reach such an agreement. Things had to be coordinated and in the end America had to pay a price, release of five prisoners in exchange for one America prisoner. Was that deal a good one, in terms of American interests?

Well to evaluate that question we must know more about the six men involved. We know little or nothing, publicly, yet about the one American. All we know is he was a soldier in Afghanistan. Was he a good soldier doing his absolute best to fight for his country and willing to sacrifice his life in doing so? OR instead did he willingly leave the scene of battle and “go over to the enemy” based on his own choice in the matter? I submit none of us publicly know the answer to that question, yet. Should we know it, the answer, or the variations in between those two extremes?

We on the other hand have heard at least from the likes of Ted Cruz that the five men given in exchange for our one soldier were hard core terrorists. Is he wrong and those five men have been “turned” to at least no longer try to remain involved in terrorism? Should such questions be asked and answered simply to see if the deal made was in American best interests?

Here is where I stand so far on that single point, the attributes of all six men and how they may act in the future. I believe that our soldier had some issues with American involvement in Afghanistan. Did he take those issues to the extreme and actually DESERT his duties? I don’t know yet, but I do know desertion is a criminal act under military law. So did our soldier break such a law? I don’t know but sure would like a truthful answer, with no politics involved.

Note: I wrote the above paragraph yesterday but did not post it. Today in an AP article the story told was that in 2010 the Department of Defense had concluded that the soldier in question had “walked away from his unit”. No that does not sound like desertion while under fire in the face of the enemy. The soldier seems to have just gotten “pissed off” with his unit, its presence in Afghanistan perhaps, and simply walked away from wherever the unit was located, wandered off into ….. and now we hear the rest of the story. Was he a traitor, did he desert or was he simply Absent Without Leave (for 5 years)? Cut it anyway you like, it seems he made a choice to “walk away”. That is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Forget “negotiating with terrorists” for the moment and ask if we should “pay a price” for a traitor or deserter.

Now let’s look at the “other side” in terms of what did the Taliban get in this exchange. My sense of the matter is they got five hard core terrorists that will now go back to fighting against America in some form or the other. Will our guy do the same, go back to fight for America? Add that up and I get Taliban 5, America 0 in such an exchange.

Now let’s go to a deeper fundamental issue, obeying American law. There is no dispute it seems that American law was secretly, at first, knowingly violated. The LAW SAYS, no prisoner from Gitmo will be released without notifying Congress 30 days in advance of such release, period.

Yet the Executive Branch of American government decided, for whatever reason(s), to break the law in this case. OK was that administration correct in doing so? Frankly, I don’t know yet, do you?

All I have heard so far is time was of the essence as the American soldier was in bad health. Well at least he was not dead as almost all American soldiers captured in that war became, soon after their capture, by the Taliban. Why I wonder was this soldier treated differently? Should it make a difference in our attempt to “negotiate with terrorists”?

Time certainly never appeared to be the essence as John McCain lay in captivity in probably far worse conditions than this one American soldier. We awaited the end of the war to get McCain and many others back to America. So what was different in this instance?

Never do I call for blind adherence to all laws in America. Violation of laws can in fact be justified and such violations exonerated in a court of law or even by an unbiased prosecutor that chooses to not bring charges in some cases, or a Grand Jury that refuses to indict a man even though technical laws were violated.

But I submit that when any Executive Power knowingly chooses to violate the law that such powers tell “we the people” the rationale for doing so, on the front page of a newspaper depending on the degree of public interest and concern over a given matter.

This of course raises historical comparisons. I call it the “lame excuse” history if you will. The Executive Power decided to not rescue dying Americans and implied the attackers were taking such actions “because of a video”. Now we move heaven and earth, pay a price, to rescue one American soldier because “he is in ill health”. One “lame excuse” followed by another one to me shows a pattern of lame excuses that don’t line up with reality.

One final point. The Secretary of Defense stated “We did not negotiate with terrorists” for this exchange. That should never pass any sniff test from anyone. It is bald faced spin on such a matter. Of course we negotiated with the Taliban, but only through a third party, passing notes back and forth. So admit it Mr. Secretary of Defense. We negotiated the release of a prisoner from the hands of the Taliban. Maybe that was a good thing to do. But don’t try to spin it otherwise, as no negotiation with terrorists.

OK, maybe the Taliban are not terrorists!! Go ahead and make that case to the American (or Afghanistan) public!!

PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND SEX

May 30, 2014

PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND SEX

As acknowledged in its editorial, today (Friday, May 30, 2014) was a “bad day” for local public education. Three different public school sex scandals were reported in varying stages of adjudication. But, cautioned the Globe, the numbers of sexual predators is very small indeed and there a lots of good people in the public school system that deserve credit as well.

I disagree with that slant in the editorial. I simply don’t know just how big the problem, sex in our public schools in varying forms and degrees, might be.

I am sure there are very few “Crazy Majors” in our military, an Islamic extremist that killed 13 people in the name of Allah. There are probably fewer such men (no women found yet) in that category in our military than there are sexual predators wandering the halls of public schools. But then one is too many as well.

Sure one “Crazy Major” is one too many. But we took care of him, legally. The big question for me is why that one “Crazy Major” was not found and removed from the military service long before he killed someone. Just how many more such monsters (or monsters to be) are roaming the grounds of military bases is also an important question to be addressed, is it not?

I am dated by some six years now, but I do recall being rather surprised in the early part of the 21st Century when I observed “sex in the halls” of public schools. No I don’t meant the “depends upon what is, is” type of sex, real sex if you will. But what I would call “public displays of affection” was rather pronounced way back when. Quick feels, passionate embraces, deep kisses, all within the halls of public schools was, well call it a lot different from what I was allowed to do way back when. And when such things happened, rather frequently in my view, I saw “administrators” just walk on by as if nothing untoward was taking place within the ranks of students in high school.

Now is that something to worry about today in public education? OK, maybe not as kids will be kids, highly hormonal kids for sure at age 15 or 16, so why bother?

But for sure when teachers get involved in sex, real sex and take pictures of it, well hello one “Crazy Major” right. But again, according to the Globe the numbers of teachers so engaged is miniscule so let’s focus on the positive. Not quite so fast is my call.

Are our schools looking hard for the precursors, actions that are not yet “illegal” but are certainly, well what word to use, right. Is “unseemly”, “untoward”, etc. better words? I suggest looking hard for precursors of illegal sexual activity in public schools by teachers are appropriate and needed today. Said another way, teachers should be held to higher standards in such activity, standards above that expected of a “man (or woman) in the streets”.

I know of one very big example of a public school taking action when a “precursor” was revealed. Yep, it was, in my view, the infamous Turner Case. BUT, I do not call Turner a predator either. For sure he stepped across no legal lines. He is free to write and publish whatever he chooses to write and publish as far as I am concerned. And if his written descriptions are a “little quirky”, well that is not illegal.

But the real question, at least in my mind, in that case, the Turner Case, was wondering whether private “sexual quirkiness” is a line that teachers should never cross. OK that is debatable, maybe as well. But when such descriptions of teenage sex are espoused as political satire and thus defended, publically, well that line I see as a big red one and not to be crossed by any teacher anywhere, any time. For such people the next line might well become ……. We can then read all about it in the Globe when that happens.

I knew Randy Turner only by his written words in his long running blog until his termination became a very public matter, at his choosing. While I have long disagreed with his blog, the themes or content of the blog, never did I believe he should have been fired for such views as well. BUT, when I read his book, saw evidence of pushing that book into the awareness of 11, 12 and 13 year old kids, well he went far too far in my view and received just punishment, termination, for his actions and yes his “quirkiness” if you will.

But as well, I am not trying to retry the Turner Case, again. I am also not trying to “pick on” Randy Turner, again, either.

What I am saying however is I’m not sure how many teachers have demonstrated the precursors of being “Crazy Majors”. I do believe that deserves serious discussion and considerations of further actions by administrators and BOEs to minimize the number of teachers that come close or cross the lines of being “untoward, quirky or unseemly” or other words to describe people that fail to meet higher standards to remain as teachers of kids in public schools.

Lots of people get in big trouble today for being “politically incorrect”. When was the last time someone got into trouble for being “sexually incorrect” I wonder? Is the legal line the only one that counts in that category today in America, even for teachers who spend a whole career shaping the minds of young children in public schools?

I add before closing with another “you can’t believe what he said this time” observation. Based on what I saw in hallways of public schools several years ago, we don’t need pornographic novels to “teach kids sex of the quirky sort”. They are teaching it to themselves in schools today and teachers let them get away with it all the time!! Welcome to public schools in America, today.

A GRADUATION SPEECH FOR EVERYONE

May 23, 2014

A GRADUATION SPEECH FOR EVERYONE

Go to http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2014/05/23/navy-seal-gives-2014s-best-commencement-speech/ and just read the speech.

Never have I read or heard a better one, one that is applicable to every individual in America, or the world for that matter.

It takes about ten minutes to read the whole speech. I did not watch the video either as I wanted to just read and consider what was said. I am now tempted to memorize the whole speech but probably won’t do that as it is too “hard”, right!!

One key point, for me at least was the simple fact that no SEAL trainee had ever been bitten and killed by a shark attack, ever as far as I can tell. No they don’t swim around looking for sharks to punch in the nose, but they are trained to stand their ground and punch hard when attacked, by a shark. And it does not take a big man to do that either. All it takes is a very brave man, to even consider “swimming with sharks” which we all have to do sometimes in our lives. Someday there will be small women punching sharks in the nose as well. More power to them in my view for being willing to give it their all, all the time, beginning with “making a damned bed”, every day!!


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