Achievement

Serving as the backdrop for my praises about to be sung on behalf of a community college education, the scandal, yet still unfolding regarding the rich and famous bribing their way into prestigious universities fits nicely into the following narrative.

My college career began as a 21 year-old, a few years late in seeing the light, but then laser-focused on achievement versus simple sustenance.  Broome Community College, (BCC then, now SUNY Broome), a local community college in New York offered me the best options.

I attended school full-time during the day, and worked full-time at a 2nd shift job in a factory.  What prompted my conversion to college was a late-night performance appraisal I was receiving, courtesy of my manager.  “Larry” was droning on about my attitude, my lack of enthusiasm and reluctance to work over-time.  As his words echoed off his cubicle panels, I saw the small certificate of graduation hanging on the wall behind his desk and at that moment, I decided that if the only thing holding me back from elevating my working life status from where I was to where he was involved obtaining a college degree, than that ought to be pursued.  I was excited because it seemed to me that Larry wasn’t any smarter than I was, and he allegedly graduated from Syracuse University, so I thought, how hard could this be at the local community college?

From the beginning, my plan was this:  Learn as much as I could about business and law and between the two, I figured that I could do almost anything.  Some of the best instructors I ever encountered staffed the business/marketing program at BCC.  Many of these men and women had started businesses, some had flourished, and some had failed.  Most had worked in the private sector and had real experience.  A few were truly brilliant and amazing examples of quality educators.  They all had a lot to offer and the access to them was unlimited.

As I settled in to the college routine, three of us, all in the same major, formed a friendship and working relationship that exists to this day.  When it came time to transfer to a 4-year school, one friend went directly to work and the other went to Penn State, a well-regarded business school.  I transferred across town to the State University of New York at Binghamton, (SUNY then, now Binghamton University) a nationally renowned educational powerhouse in the form of the School of Management, (SOM) which at the time had an acceptance rate in the teens, average GPA’s pushing 4.0 and SAT scores in the 95th percentile.  Known then as a “public Ivy” the SOM was the poor mans Harvard.

I split my interests between political science and anything else I found intellectually stimulating.  As for the SOM tract, it was lacking from my perspective.  The overwhelming emphasis was on analytics and formulaic analysis of business modeling.  The professors were largely inaccessible and totally lacking any real-world experience or expertise, having spend all of their lives in academia and consulting.

My tipping point came on the morning I asked my distinguished, visiting professor from London, a renowned expert in energy, how many gallons of oil were in a barrel and he couldn’t answer me.  The brilliance of my political science professor, and the unbelievable knowledge shared by the professor of comparative western religions, was the only saving grace.

Fast-forward a few years and the one friend who went directly to work after BCC was living in Atlanta, working for an internationally known magazine publisher.  My other friend had a nice career at a fortune 100 company, and then spent his entire retirement nest-egg on building a business that he recently sold to a competitor for well into 7 figures.  I was the Director of the national governing body of a sport and authored that organizations successful application to become a member of the United States Olympic Committee.  I also started two successful businesses.

The two of us who went on to finish our college careers in the best schools both conclude the same thing:  We learned all that we needed to know at BCC.  For my friend that went to Penn State, he gained the most value from that experience by way of his fraternity, which gave him access to friends and influences he relies upon to this day.  For myself, I took what I wanted from the university, but the real value was at the community college level.

As for the people caught up in today’s college admission scandal, it’s no wonder that many find their worlds so fragile, so fraught with anxiety and turmoil, these spoiled snot-nosed elitists might bribe their way into a prestigious school, but that alone can’t morph them into knowledgeable, capable  entrepreneurs and innovators.  Their fragility and inability to cope once hatched into the cold, hard reality of life must be breath taking.

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What this scandal does accomplish is to make the cynical double down on their disdain and reinforces the notion that it’s not what you know but who you know.  You can’t fake it forever, unless you have the trust fund to back you up, or the social connections to orchestrate a rich wedding, where you can brag about the good old days at Stanford, or Yale, or Georgetown, while enjoying the hollowness of a life lived in fantasy, unfulfilled and empty of achievement.

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As for myself and my friends, we feel fortunate, grateful and proud of what we did and how we did it.  Making the path easy might seem like a good idea to a clueless parent, but the rocks and ruts in the road serve a nobler goal, ones that can’t be finessed or simulated, and those parents have deprived their kids of that at a terrible price.

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Fast Fred; Who are you & Who are We?

State Senator, former Broome County under-sheriff, private investigator, business owner, Port Dickinson police officer, what does Fred Akshar want to be when he grows up?  If the story of Senator Akshar moonlighting as a $16 per hour cop made you wonder why, in the world of politics, whatever it is that seems obvious is usually a diversion from the actual motive and such is the case here.

What happens when patrolmen Akshar has to be in traffic court in the Town of Dickinson while Senator Akshar is simultaneously in Albany?  And when the Village of Port Dickinson is seeking a state grant, or other types of state aid and programs, where normally a locally elected Senator would be their greatest ally, won’t Senator Akshar rightfully need to recuse himself from that vote?  As a PI with access to law enforcement databases, how do we know super-sleuth Akshar won’t access sensitive records otherwise unavailable to private citizens?

PI, cop, Senator, the list of likely conflicts of interest is mind-boggling.

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The most obvious question never asked of Akshar when he became a candidate for the senate seat; Why would a high ranking, veteran sheriff officer, well into his career and with less than 8 years to retirement and a legitimate candidate for the post of Sheriff in the not-to-distant future trade all of that in for a job that pays less, requires re-election every two-years, and is noticeably outside of his professional area of expertise?  Now into the 4th year of Akshar’s senate career and we still don’t know the answer because the question was never asked.

No news from the media and failing to be inquisitive in holding public figures accountable is fake news by neglectful indifference.

With only a cursory look into the past using publicly available information reviewing Akshar’s behavior, the appearance of poor judgment and the abuse of power is impossible to miss.  According to media accounts, while a Broome County sheriff, Akshar had a romance with Kate Newcomb, a female colleague in the department.  In 2009, Newcomb reportedly interfered with State Police investigators, coaching her nephew regarding him allegedly crashing his car and injuring his girlfriend while drunk.

Court records indicate that Newcomb and Akshar drove to the scene of the accident where Newcomb instructed the nephew to throw the car keys into a field.  She then took the nephew to her home, where she encouraged him to have 3 beers.  When the State Police arrived at Newcomb’s home, she because irate, demanding “professional courtesy” because she was a sheriff officer and Akshar was reportedly right there at her side.

As a senator, Akshar reportedly developed a new romance with a subordinate, and at the same time denied any wrong-doing when it was disclosed that he simultaneously jumped her salary eight times and gave her three promotions in 2½ years, rising her from a part-timer making $32,600 in 2015 to a full-timer making $85,000, according to the state comptroller’s office.

In 2014, Akshar once more demonstrated his tendency to bend the rules when he reportedly responded to a request for legal assistance from Paul Battisti, a local attorney, regarding a domestic incident that was happening in the city of Binghamton involving Battisti, his estranged wife, his new girlfriend, and his young children.  While the proper protocol would have been to dispatch the Binghamton police to the scene, Akshar arranged instead to have his brother, deputy John Akshar dispatched, and as a result, Battisti’s estranged wife was subsequently arrested.  After she filed a lawsuit, the district attorney dropped all charges.

At the same time, Akshar was deeply involved with his boss, David Harder’s re-election campaign for Sheriff and Battisti was the Chairman of the Broome County Independence Party, from which an endorsement was being sought and was won.  Fast forward to today, and we see Battisti running for Broome County District Attorney with the enthusiastic endorsements of Harder and Akshar, including a $5,000.00 donation to his campaign from who other than Fred Akshar, the “quid pro quo” alleged in the lawsuit filed by Battisti’s ex-wife.

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What is Senator/ patrolmen/ PI Akshar actually doing?  He is sharpening his political sword by laying the foundation of “rediscovering his roots and re-examining his passion for law-enforcement” all will burnishing his credentials for a run at the post of Broome County sheriff after Harder retires.  As a guy who likes to throw around his power, being a Republican Senator in a state now wholly controlled by Democrats has to be emasculating to someone wired this way.  Akshar may find the power-boost that the office of Broome County Sheriff will provide.  After lowering himself to examine the day-to-day life of the rank-and-file patrol officer, and then learning the defense side of the legal system courtesy of his PI license, it seems clear that Akshar will tell constituents how he knows all sides of the law enforcement equation now, having lived it, been there, done that.  The added bonus of being a NYS Senator pulling in over $120,000.00 a year affords him the time and luxury to pursue his ambitions at taxpayer expense.  Not much to do in Albany when you have no power.

The fact that it took the media almost a year to learn that Akshar was a moonlighting cop and a PI, speaks volumes about their level of interest.  Moreover, to add insult to that injury, it was an ordinary citizen, just doing his homework on reading local government meeting minutes that brought the matter to the public’s attention, not some super-sleuth reporter eager to break a big local story.

Dating subordinates, boosting the pay of a romantic partner to ridiculously high levels at taxpayer expense, allegations of his abusing his power as a police officer and manipulating the system to get his way, all fall well short of prudent ethical scrutiny voters expect.  Akshar fits right in to a long shameful line of elected officials that the Albany sewer seems to attract.  Given his propensity to be notable in many eyebrow-raising situations, it seems that he is not only unfit to be a Port Dickinson patrolman; he is likewise unfit to be a private investigator, a sheriff deputy or a Senator.

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Washington is no doubt a swamp but Albany is a cesspool if Akshar is any indication of what passes for sound ethics in governance.  With that said, the sobering reality is that the reflection in the mirror might be the dual images of Akshar and ourselves because, as Alexis de Tocqueville reminded us some 175 years ago, “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.”  I would like to think that we are better than that but perhaps Akshar is the accurate reflection of us all, his constituents.

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AOC=Against Ownership/Capitalism

AOCThomas Jefferson said of American politics, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”  Not only will the residents of New York’s 14th Congressional district learn this lesson the hard way, so will the rest of America be likewise punished in the process.  All because 87% of voters declared “I Don’t Care” by staying home, leaving less than 2% of the electorate to elevate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the US Congress.

Thank God that in her first bid for re-election, Cortez will be forced into the sunlight, courtesy of the instant fame a sympathetic media has heaped on the not-ready-for-prime-time former bartender.

Cortez didn’t know that Palestine wasn’t a state, compared the southern border wall to the Berlin wall, thought she was being inaugurated instead of sworn in, and believed she signed legislation instead of actually writing it.

Cortez is a Saturday Night Live caricature unique to metro-New York that aptly demonstrates the truth of the adage, again from Jefferson, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

Cortez typifies many 29-year-olds; over-confident, idealistic, lacking depth and ignorant of history but overly sure of themselves because they have never been told no.

Ms. Cortez, NO!

 

 

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Who’s the Racist?

30 days ago, Jussie Smollett was just another second-rate nameless face on a third-rate show playing a meaningless part in the make-believe land of entertainment and pop-culture.  You know the drill; good looks and camera appeal over character and talent, one’s race, alternative sexual preferences and willingness to embrace the theology of the high-priests of Hollywood, all validated as a membership card to a not-so-secret yet really special society of fellow travelers, those high-minded sycophants, hosting self-congratulatory pep rallies in order to continually validate one another.  You know, those socially aware, better than the rest of use activists that preach for profit, poach and pillage while pontificating from a high perch about how you should live your life, you know, the small lives we live, those way down below where they live theirs, such is the story of Smollett.

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Not content with the Only-In-America success story that he had managed to cobble together for himself, rendering him a millionaire at 36, Smollett instead weaponizes his success in order to plunge a spear into the heart of America and Americans, falsely accusing us all of the darkest of deeds, you know, the deeds that actually exist first in the heart of Smollett, that cancer of animus that makes Smollett the hater, ironically against a society that has fostered his development into the success story he has now single-handedly managed to destroy.

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And the real irony here is that America will forgive Smollett.  After the dust settles, the mantle of victimhood and a false narrative of humility will land Smollett on the TV talk circuit.  The Bishops of liberal bigotry will proclaim that even though this episode of Smollett Live didn’t actually happen, it achieved ratings to die for, and accordingly, they will parlay this out to their benefit, reminding us all that the evil they tried to push off on all of us is actually really there, in our hearts and not theirs, you know, those hearts and minds that exist so far above us that we couldn’t possibly understand, yes those minds, the ones who gave us the likes of Smollett in the first place.

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Garages

14 years ago this month, my dad died.  I wrote this back then and thought some might enjoy it once again.  I miss you dad.

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My father loved his garage.  We spent countless hours there together, me working on various cars or motorcycles, or lawn mowers, while dad either watched, talked, or grabbed a rag and cleaned whatever was nearby and dirty.  While not particularly handy, dad decided that if he couldn’t fix it, at least he could clean it.

His old, two stall, wood frame, dimly lit garage situated in the back of his modest home was a shrine of sorts.  He told me hundreds of times how much he loved this place.  While dad was mechanically challenged, he nevertheless loved tools, even ones he had no clue how to use.  I think my dad hoped the legal adage of “possession being nine tenths of the law” somehow equated to his ownership of tools magically rendering him handy.  Before the Alzheimer’s, dad knew where ever one of those tools were located in his windowless temple to the god’s of repair and the angels of the less than handy.

The truth is, we used the garage as a meeting place, the replacement for the tree house of our youth.  Men Only.  You could say things in the garage you wouldn’t dream of saying anywhere else.  While we didn’t posted signs to keep women out, it seems they understood that this was turf akin to a locker room and as if by magic, they seemed almost afraid to approach us while we were inside.  Neighborhood men, on the other hand, sensed our presence in the garage and spontaneously appeared like salmon going up the fish ladders to the hatchery.

At about the same time my dad began to noticeably give ground to his battle with Alzheimer’s, I bought my first home and ironically, it was garageless.  This would have been a deal breaker if my father had not lived nearby and been kind enough to share his shrine with me.  During that time, my dad’s fight with Alzheimer’s began to challenge him in a greater way.  As his mobility suffered, even going to the garage had to stop.  From then on, after finishing whatever I had to do in the garage, I made sure that I came into the house and spent time with my father, describing to him what I had done and asking him questions about where things were in the garage in an attempt to keep him engaged.

Last week, I did my final oil change in dad’s garage.  Earlier this evening, as I stood in the shadows of darkness in my own garage, part of the deal in a recently acquired income property, I thought about the cruel irony of the situation.  My dad went into a nursing home today.  That officially returns his garage to its former use as a mere storage facility, shrine status now and forever revoked.  I only hope that some of the magic we created and enjoyed there finds it way to my garage and my son.

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An Officer and a Gentleman?

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39-year-old Binghamton lawyer Paul Battisti wants to become the next Broome County District Attorney.  Battisti faces a Republican Party primary challenge from Chief Assistant Broome County DA Michael Korchak.  Former Under-Sheriff and now NYS Senator Fred Akshar and Broome County Sheriff David Harder both endorse Battisti.  Supporting Korchak are current District Attorney Steven Cornwell as well as retired Broome County Court Judge Martin Smith.

Mr. Cornwell is far better qualified than Battisti and much more experienced, having held the position in the DA’s office since before Battisti was old enough to drive.  However, youth and lack of experience are the least of Battisti’s problems.

Battisti has demonstrated poor judgment and a propensity to unjustly manipulate the legal system. Using his personal and political influence, Battisti reportedly phoned Broome County Sheriff Captain Fred Akshar, (now Senator Akshar), convincing him to dispatch a deputy to the scene of a domestic dispute between Battisti’s estranged wife and his new girlfriend.  Even though the incident took place in Binghamton, Akshar sent a deputy, trampling normal inner-departmental protocols that would have instead properly dispatched the Binghamton Police Department to the incident.  Battisti’s ex-wife was arrested in front of their own children on charges that were later dismissed by the District Attorney’s office.  The arresting officer? Deputy John Akshar, Fred’s brother.

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Add to this malfeasance the latest findings of reportedly three years of tax liens in arrears to the tune of almost $90,000.00 and we get a further glimpse into the character of candidate Battisti.

Attorneys and police officers are referred to as “Officers of the Court.”  This means that they are obliged to promote justice and uphold the law.  This obligation is even stronger and more important when it regards the District Attorney.  If those in leadership positions are known for twisting the law and operating on the margins of what is right and just, they fail by example.  As the chief law enforcement officer representing the county, this office, and its leadership, set the tone and example for the entirety of the law enforcement community.  Battisti’s actions severely undermine the credibility and trust needed in order to perform with honor, dignity and valor.  The rank and file of law enforcement requires leadership they can look up to.

Honor

The core goal of the District Attorneys office is to hold accountable those under which the law applies.  The actions of Battisti and Akshar disqualify them both as good faith servants of the people.  Mr. Battisti has demonstrated himself as unworthy of the citizen’s trust and their votes.  His own actions disqualify him from serving the people of Broome County.  Good looks, a flashy smile and sharply tailored suits aren’t the measure of the man.  His actions are.

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Motives

Recent allegations of misconduct involving the staff at Binghamton’s East Middle school deserve serious inquiry and investigation.  The parents of four twelve year-old girls who are students at the school, stated that their daughters were each subjected to a strip search, conducted by the school nurse and the assistant principal, reportedly because the girls seemed, “giddy” during lunch, and were suspected of being under the influence.  School officials responded by saying that strip searches did not occurred but instead, the girls were asked to remove their coats in order to be properly evaluated.  According to a school statement, the girls were not punished and returned to class.

Various news sources reported that a community group called Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, (PLOT) and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP), each issued statements, the NAACP local chapter President demanding the dismissal of school staff involved.

As the incident escalated in intensity, and as the wider community became aware of the allegations, the school district reportedly hired a law firm to conduct an investigation.  Shortly afterwards, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo also commented on the incident and directed the New York State Police to conduct an investigation.  Currently the story has gotten even wider attention and has been reported on nationally.

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While many questions remain to be answered, there are a few that have yet to be asked, such as, why didn’t the parents immediately call the police once they learned their children were subjected to such outrageous conduct?  If the allegations are true, it is possible that criminal acts have taken place.  Once the police are involved and begin to take statements from all the parties, there are also criminal sanctions for making false statements to the police.

In addition, why did Governor Cuomo think it wise to by-pass the Binghamton Police Department and the local District Attorney’s office, instead ordering the State Police to conduct an investigation?  This action undermines and discredits local authority and by inference casts a shadow on their competence and expertise.  By disrespecting local law enforcement, the Governor has made matters worse.  Because local law agencies are more intimately familiar with the community and its members, that would have been a better choice.

Another question that has yet to be asked, is what exactly is the relationship between these parents and the two organizations that have so quickly thrust themselves into the situation?  A cursory look at the social media site of PLOT indicates an extremely militant and adversarial stance against men, capitalism and white people in general.

Under the What We Do: section of their own FaceBook page, PLOT states the following:

“This requires challenging those with privilege to acknowledge the ways they are complicit in oppression.  Some have dismissed this approach as “divisive” and “alienating”—especially to white community members—but we view it as necessary.

We seek to empower, uplift, and ultimately liberate the most marginalized members of society—including and especially those who are Black, queer, trans, disabled, cash poor, women and/or non-men.”

So clearly, these parents aren’t simply stating that their kids were mistreated; they are asserting that this was a racially motivated event.

Imagine the outrage if an organization existed that said, in its defining documents exactly what this group says, but replaced the pronouns this way:  Some have dismissed this approach as “divisive” and “alienating” — especially to black community members — but we view it as necessary.  We seek to empower, uplift and ultimately liberate the most marginalized members of society — including and especially those who are White, straight, rich, men and/or non-women.”

It is frightening that the NAACP would align themselves with a racially divisive and bigoted hate-group like PLOT.  It is also shameful that the NAACP calls for firings before any investigation has taken place.  How ironic that a storied organization, over 100 years in existence that is so quick to call out the police for jumping to conclusions regarding racial matters, in this instance, demands that authorities do exactly that by firing people before we know any of the actual facts about what took place.

If these girls were subjected to anything illegal or inappropriate, then the appropriate sanctions will be imposed upon those wrongdoers.  On the other hand, if these investigations conclude that the allegations are without merit, then those making such allegations ought to face the same legal sanctions appropriate in this case.

It is predictable that anything short of a finding that corroborates these allegations 100% will be unacceptable to, PLOT, the NAACP and the parents of these kids, especially when conducted by investigators that likely will include white “non-women.”

The bigoted and hateful sentiments expressed on the PLOT FaceBook page should disqualify that organization from being involved with any thoughtful dialogue.  If the parents of these girls are actually seeking the truth, a thorough, formal legal investigation is the place to find it, not within the shameful and bigoted rhetoric of a hate group.

Maybe this group ought to see out the services of the Jussie Smollett legal team?

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