East Middle

The following is a response to the Sunday, 2-28-16 Press and Sun-Bulletin Guest Viewpoint entitled, “Find root problems at East Middle School”

 The author seems confused.  She begins by praising East Middle for being an “open and diverse community,” going on to state that ..”This is a model community for parents and systems…”  She concluded by saying, “ East Middle is the school that will prepare them for this stage of life and high school.”  In the very next paragraph, the author equates kid’s entry into East Middle with “a lions den.”  From the highest praise to a lions den, really?

 In the next paragraph, the author posits that simply sending their kids to school should be lauded as “parents trying to do the right thing.”  And what a mighty effort it must be, are we to applaud?  If the act of simply sending kids to school is laudable, what hope is there in that family for instilling the familial, core values necessary for actually doing the real job of parenting by preparing their child for school?  If the act of simply getting them out the door is seen as tough, there is no hope that the real work of familial, traditional parenting will be attended to.

 The author saves her thinly veiled wrath of accusing class envy and racism by questioning the motives of the teachers, administrators and staff.  Oh yes, the lovely, quiet days enjoyed at East Middle definitely paint the picture of a nice resting spot for those so inclined to bide their time waiting for retirement.  And the race card, are you serious?  That dog just won’t hunt anymore.  The author misses the point because to grasp it creates an inconvenient truth which is this.

 There is a clash of cultures at work in East Middle School.  One culture embraces family, education, discipline, order, respect, personal responsibility and the needs of others while the other culture fails in one or more areas to do so.  When there is no well defined family, little or no structure, discipline, no order, no respect, no personal responsibility, no encouragement, no role-models and no heeding or caring about the needs of others, then no Blue-Ribbon band of super-educators is going to be able to magically fix that.

 There is a solution, but no one has the guts to suggest it.

 When students act out, warn them, sanction them and finally, remove them.  If there is criminal behavior going on, involve the police and press charges.  Create strong and positive environments for those who want to be in school and cater to them, help them maximize their potential.  For those not willing to get with the program, they will not interfere with those who do. 

Those causing all of the turmoil will seek alternatives to the main stream of public education so the majority of kids wishing to go forward aren’t punished for the short-comings of a few.

 It seems that those who complain the loudest are more likely contributors to the problem than champions of solutions.

 It’s truly ironic because in this case, I’m 100% behind the teachers; the issue is the culture outside the school and what it is producing at the school house door, not the teacher’s lack of ability, skills or willingness.  However, in the teaching profession, as a whole, a long history of so called “political correctness” (PC) has defined the profession and its practices in many ways.  It is in large measure PC that has contributed to a system that now disallows the slightest reprimand, discipline or other sanctions within classrooms.  As a result, teachers are now stuck on the horns of their own dilemma, a situation perhaps lacking a cure because of their own actions in the effort to apply PC too far.  This may be an example of what happens when certain PC sponsored and inspired ideas go to the full fruition of the unintended consequences.


Apple is Us

Domestic terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone represents the latest symbol for determining the limits of governmental overreach in America.  Made dizzyingly complex with today’s electronics, this issue is necessarily complicated, nuanced and fraught with exceptions, depending very strongly on who owns what and even the definition of where “here” is.

As usual, the “fine-print” defines the horns of this dilemma.  For example, who actually owns the phone?  Can the customer “own” the phone but only “lease” the software that operates the phone?  This question needs a definitive answer and leads to the next logical inquiry; who owns the data created from the phone?  If that data remains physically in the phone on a data card, is this a different form of ownership than say the same data being stored in “the cloud”, which is a space owned by someone else.  When data is shared via text, do both parties own all of the data or do they retain only their portion of it?  Alternatively, perhaps neither owns any of it because of the wording of the contract that defines the relationship of the subscriber to the phone company.  What expectation of privacy exists when we use public networks, hot-spots, and all other forms of tracking and analyzing data built into devices or in many cases inadvertently downloaded within some application we did not intent to utilize?

Provocation and righteousness must not cloud our eyes to the precious rights protected by our Constitution.  The fact that this issue involves a universally hated “bad-guy”, should in no way distract us from the fundamental questions about the legality of the government forcing a company to perform a service against its will upon the threat of sanction, fine or even imprisonment.  Because the phone belonged to a mass murderer and apparent radical Islam adherent and sympathizer may tempt some to quickly conclude that all of the data is up for grabs but that is wrong.  What if the phone was yours?

Law enforcement officials initially responsible for gathering information from Farook’s phone mistakenly caused that data to be lost or at least made more difficult to retrieve.  Now that same government has found a federal judge that has issued an order to force Apple to perform a service they assert will harm their customers and compromise every user’s privacy.

Governmental agencies all across the US are today gathering massive amounts of cell phone information, indiscriminately and without a warrant, in the total absence of any judicial oversight.  Using IMSI catcher devices or “Sting-Rays”, agencies are drunk with this new power, increasingly utilizing high-tech invasions of our privacy in the name of safety.

Farook was a terrorist but our own government is increasingly ramping up the use of terrorist like tools and threats, behind the veil of making us safer, effectively weaponizing people’s fears.

Benjamin Franklin would be shocked more by cell phone technology than he was from his famous kite, however his words from the 18th century ring true today, “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” and that is where we are headed.



Saving Ms. Barber

Battle rages over NY’s minimum wage is the title of the article that appeared in the Sunday, February 21, 2016 edition of the Press & Sun-Bulletin.  This article highlights a young woman named Laura Barber as its best example of the need for an increased minimum wage.  We are told that Ms. Barber is 20, lives on her own with an infant and is pregnant.  Ms. Barber uses food stamps to make ends meet on top of her minimum wage job.  The story quotes Ms. Barber saying, ” “It’s still not helping me pay my bills — we need it now,” she said of a proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage in New York.

It seems to me that arbitrarily raising the minimum wage in support of the poor choices Ms. Barber has made in her life incentivises those bad decisions.  Ms. Barber is not even a full-fledged adult and now she is a child raising children.  Where is her family?  That is where this financial obligation should be placed, where it rightly belongs, in the lap of those who helped to create the situation in the first place.  Why isn’t the father or fathers paying child support?  Why is Ms. Barber getting pregnant when she knows full well she can’t afford her own children?

Wages are not defined by the needs of the workers, but by their value to the enterprise paying them.  The more value you add to the employer, the more valuable you are to them and accordingly, the more leverage you have in obtaining increased income as a result.  The notion that people can make really poor choices and then expect others to subsidize their stupidity is yet another example of that entitlement mentality that seems to be breeding as fast Ms. Brown.

Nowhere in any of these pleas for more money for nothing is any mention of more value from the employee.

Now the Ms. Brown’s of the world have painted themselves into a small, story-ending corner of their own design.  She is too busy with work and kids to ever further her education, so she will likely languish in poverty.  Likewise, her kids will too and without a two parent family unit, their social, educational, behavioral and legal issues will be paid for and dealt with by more and more taxpayer dollars in programs and services.  And because mom has set the table by way of example for her kids, it is more likely than not that the cycle of poverty; low expectations and failure are likely to follow them into their adult lives.

Paying Ms. Brown $15/hour won’t address any of the social issues so critical in this equation.  Incentivising delayed parenting, marriage and personal betterment through skill building, a work ethic and taking responsibility for ones own actions and decisions is a much better outlay of taxpayer dollars than our current system of paying for the results of bad decisions.  Let’s plan programs that stop those decisions from being made in the first place.


The Apprentice and the President

Donald Trump has done something, (ok many something’s) that no one has done before.  He has turned the GOP presidential nomination process into an unscripted, unrehearsed reality TV series, the real consequences sequel to The Apprentice.  The two main differences between this election season’s candidate winnowing process and the television show are that Trump himself could be fired and that public opinion replaces him as the boss.

Like all Trump creations and ideas, this one is beautiful in its deviously clever simplicity.  This new show, (we’ll call it The Next President, or TNP) has no producer, the cast members all work for free, there is no single controlling network, no costs of production, and the publicity is unlimited, unpaid for and seemingly non-stop.  TNP exists at the expense of others, seeking breaking news for ratings and fame and accordingly, attracting those who are willing to foot the bill in finding it first.

The greatest reward for the man with the most money is in engineered a plan that lets him ride for free.  The wealthy’s favorite maneuver is not as commonly assumed conspicuous spending, but to find creative ways in which to achieve what they want while spending nothing.  The preservation of wealth allows the Trump’s of the world to sleep better at night.

The Democratic Party has taken a tack that is so completely antithetical to the GOP it is hard to keep from laughing at the contrast.  Never producing a serious choice of more than two, as opposed to the GOP sporting some 18 candidates at the outset, the Hillary/Bernie show is more like the old TV series Hee-Haw, seen on a black and white television, circa 1960.

While the Democrats have constantly accused Republican’s of a lack of inclusiveness and a “small tent” mentality, by contrast, Republican candidates were young, old, men, women, black, white and Hispanic, a broad base of diversity as compared with two 70 something retreads preaching a bigger, heavier and more draconian version of what we have suffered under for the past seven years, really the unfolding of nothing more than Obama 2.0.

While fascinating theatre and ripe with all the materials needed to fuel the news/politic junkie’s need for subject matter to critique, ponder and criticize, it’s important to remember that this is not theatre, this is not some reality TV season finale, something to be watched, laughed over and then forgotten, there are real consequences up for grabs here and if you’re laughing and shaking your head as the events unfold, then you’re allowing others to make decisions that will become your reality.

Trump has single handedly forced all of the candidates, from both parties, to speak more candidly, more earnestly, because he has set the tone, the tempo, and the pace of the race.  By now, even his harshest critics must realize that underneath the caricature, the bombasticness and the bravado, a genius exists that has transformed the politics of the day.  Make of it what you will.



Good-bye Mr. Rossie

The following is a response to the announcement that a local columnist in our newspaper was retiring.



I was at odds with Mr. Rossie on many occasions and once, I so successfully got under his skin that he came after me by name, in print, in this newspaper.


Mr. Rossie had, (and likely still has,) a deep distain for the National Rifle Association, (NRA) and its members.  I am a life member of the NRA, a financial contributor, and a certified instructor, so I took the distinction of his distain personally, especially when he targeted me directly.


Normally in the newspaper business, a columnist writes a story and supporters and detractors have their comments and the matter is completed.  Not so in this case.  Mr. Rossie’s tirade on the evils of the NRA and the idiocy of their followers prompted my rebuttal in a Guest Viewpoint.  Mr. Rossie then devoted another complete column attacking me personally.  Considering the most unusual nature of allowing such a rebuke to be printed, I sought through the editorial and management staff access to the paper once again in order to defend myself.  This request was denied.  I found it ironic that a newspaper, and its star, senior staff member would take refuge behind their ability to censor a critic.  It bolstered in me a sense of accomplishment in apparently finding and then irritating a nerve so successfully as to be awarded this distinction.


I am an outdoorsman, a hunter and a fly-fisherman and so too does Mr. Rossie share  these pleasures.  We’re both writers, albeit of very differing styles and philosophies, we see the world as differently as two human beings can possibly see it and so, I wonder how a fellow fly-fisherman can be so fatally flawed in philosophy and politic, yet see and understand the moments of perfection and its observation, only possible on a trout stream.


In my observation, Mr. Rossie wrote most of his opinion and political work, not to persuade, but to berate, to punish, to belittle the opposing viewpoint and its adherents.  I always thought this stemmed from the fact that Mr. Rossie was obviously cognizant of the need to sell newspapers, even at the expense of good measure.  As the occasional guest writer, I am not so encumbered, persuading otherwise not by rant and rave, but by lesson and logic.  Mr. Rossie appealed more to the emotion; even I dare say the hysterical, dependent of the gusting winds of outrage, indignation and sometimes fears to make his points.


Mr. Rossi’s famous school bus story is recognized as his best work because he took the rare occasion to use the emotional power to paint in yellow, a familiar story, apolitical and free of vitriol.


Mr. Rossie made his livelihood by writing, an enviable achievement from the viewpoint of this writer who can only beg to be published on occasion, Mr. Rossie was paid for doing what he loved, a grand and enviable achievement.


I wish Mr. Rossie all the best, and I will miss, not his written missives, but my pleasure, now removed, in refuting them.


Minimum Wage, Maximum Liberal

The scheme of increasing the minimum wage is a deviously clever four-pronged pitchfork of economic failure.  First, it compels force of law to transfer arbitrarily wealth from businesses to workers.  Second, this enriches without justification the constituents of the liberal politicians who hatch such schemes.  Third, this swells payroll tax revenues from the despised “wealthy business owners.”  And forth, it buys liberal votes with other peoples money, the perfect storm of unethical economics.


This “take from the rich and give to the poor” theory fails to consider the unintended consequences.  Most obvious is the fact that in business, all expenses are measured against their cost of conducting that business.  All associated costs are factored into the determination of the final price of the product or service.  As any of those costs increase, so too does the final price, the expenses are simply passed along.


For example, imagine we are all on our own boats in a harbor.  Some boats are small, some medium, large, some really large, all shapes, sizes and conditions.  Your boat represents the current minimum wage.  Your boat is small, and your view of the sunset, the ocean, the landscape, all of it is blocked by the presence of these other, bigger boats.  The water level represents the minimum wage at low tide.  You determine that by raising the minimum wage, your boat will rise above all of the other boats, and your unfettered view will be re-established.  What this model of economic voodoo fails to consider is that the rising tide lifts all of the boats and in the end, the views remains unchanged.


Economics represents a complicated formula whereby every condition, every change, every action is set in a string of variables representing a complicated equation that can actually be calculated.  Like all equations, changing one variable changes everything else and then the solutions and outcomes need to be adjusted and recalculated.  You cannot make a change as dramatic as increasing the minimum wage, without addressing the affect doing so will have on the entire equation, especially the outcome.


What no one in support of this scheme has offered is any indication that these affected workers will all of a sudden be dramatically more productive.  In the real world, free of artificial governmental manipulation, when you ask for a 66% increase in your wage, you had better have provided proof of a 166% increase in your productivity in order to justify that request.


When the largest retail employer in the world, Wal-Mart, had 11000 applicants for 400 jobs that paid $10 per hour, that my friend is the actual marketplace telling you that $10 per hour was too high.  Now Wal-Mart is closing 150 stores and with them will vanish 10,000 jobs.  You do the math.


Liberals dream of rising tides.  Conservatives believe that people competing in a fair marketplace will find incentives to build newer, bigger and better boats.  When free market capitalism and competition merge with the American spirit, we are anything but minimum.