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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News: Mayhem on campus . . .

In the interests of full disclosure: This posting was not published by the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the second-largest city in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States. My decision to not submit it for consideration was based on its premise, its length and my experiences with rejection in the past.

Also in the interests of full disclosure: I served as a member of the U.S. military for 22 years and another 26 years as a federal law-enforcement officer. As a result of that combined 48 years, I am not completely unfamiliar with the various ways and means one might use to commit mayhem on campus.

Mayhem on Delaware campus:

A six-year old boy in a Delaware school was recently sentenced to a five-day suspension and 45 days in a reform school for bringing a Cub Scout camping knife to class. The item was given to him when he joined the Cub Scouts. It combines a fork, spoon and knife in one tool, a tool indispensable to every Cub Scout and Boy Scout—I’m uncertain whether such tool is given to Girl Scouts and/or Brownies, and if given, whether it would be indispensable to them.

The Delaware school has a zero-tolerance policy on students bringing to school any item that could possibly be used as a weapon. The incident has gone national in our media, and many people feel that in this instance the school has gone too far, that it has overreached in its efforts to protect students from harm (and to protect themselves from lawsuits).

No, I say—they have not overreached. On the contrary, they have fallen far short. Their action indicates a lack of attention to detail—they can’t see the forest for the trees.

In any school on any day, there are many items that can be used to maim and kill. These are items that are immediately available to all students and faculty members, items as deadly or deadlier than a Cub Scout camping tool, yet they are not prohibited by the school administrators—either they are unaware of their potential for maiming and killing, or they feel that the utility of the items outweighs that potential.

Let’s make the policy on weapons in our schools truly zero-tolerance at every level, from pre-kindergartens to kindergartens to elementary schools to middle schools to high schools and to all schools awarding advanced degrees. The threat is the same at all levels. The only difference is the ages of the people involved.

Let’s ban every item that could possibly be used by a student to kill or maim another—and we probably should extend this policy to faculty members—one could always go postal (forgive me, USPS) and attempt to take out a few students or other faculty members.

All those items—every one—should be removed and banned in order to protect the children and faculty.

Let’s start with the school cafeteria:

Do the students use metal flatware in the lunchroom? If so, all metal knives and forks and spoons must be removed—each tool, even the spoon, can be used with deadly results.

Do the students use plastic tableware? If so, all plastic knives, forks and spoons must be removed. We routinely use plastic forks to stab a chicken breast to hold it in place while we cut it with a plastic knife. And yes, a plastic spoon has fine edges and can cause damage—if held properly and applied forcefully, it could easily remove an eye.

So how do we handle a zero-tableware policy? The answer is obvious—restrict the students to finger foods. And while I’m on the subject of fingers, those digits, thumbs as well as fingers, were used in early times with deadly results—they were used to blind convicted criminals by gouging out their eyes, and are still used with deadly results in gang fights on streets and in our alleys, and probably in certain Middle East, Asian and African countries.

On further thought even a stiff finger, especially the middle one, will put out an eye if properly directed with enough force into the eye of one student by another.

If you’re wondering how to deal with those deadly thumbs and fingers, that answer is also obvious—simply require students to wear mittens at all times while on school property. Also obvious is the fact that mittens would seriously impede certain activities, including writing, scratching an itch, using restroom facilities, etc. Such activities would be handled (so to speak) as they arise, possibly by a one-on-one policy of having a faculty member supervise any activity that would require the removal and replacement of one or both mittens. Such supervision would, of course, be costly—additional personnel would be required to serve as restroom monitors and in numerous other areas. One possible alternative would be to appoint a second student as monitor, and that student could assist a fellow student in such instances. In some circumstances, particularly in rest-room visits, the team should be comprised of same-sex students. Special training for identity-definition and identity-recognition will probably be required for faculty members in higher grades. Such training should reduce the possibility of appointing rest-room teams comprised of other than same-sex students.

Pencils—particularly sharpened pencils—and ball-point pens must go. Pencils and pens, held properly between two fingers of a clenched fist with the point outward and the top pressing against the heel of the hand, can maim and kill.

Press the point into an ear and push, and the eardrum is ruptured. Press the point into an eye and push, and the eye is destroyed. Press the point into the neck toward the jugular vein and push—the jugular could be punctured and the victim will bleed to death. Press the point between two ribs with enough force and internal organs can be punctured. Think about that for a moment.

Has anyone ever noticed that airport security personnel never confiscate pencils or ball-point pens? Has anyone ever noticed that security personnel at federal buildings never confiscate pencils or pens? Think about that for a moment.

Wooden rulers with a metal edge built in to facilitate paper tearing can be used to maim and kill. The metal edge is very thin, and wielded properly will slice deeply into human skin. With a strong swing and a keen eye, a child can cut deeply into another child’s neck and possibly sever the jugular vein. Even a plastic ruler will do major damage when wielded with enough force.

Any pin such as a broach or smiley-face button (and God forbid, any campaign button) can be used with equal effectiveness. Hold the item with the pin outward, as with a pencil or pen, and push or slash with force and major damage to the skin will result.

Heavy metal items abound in a school environment, items that can be wielded with enough force, even by a small child, to main and kill, including staplers, hole punches, hammers and (by larger children or staff members) folding metal chairs. Look around—see how many offensive weapons are available to any student intent on hurting another student—or teacher.

Belts and shoelaces can be used offensively and should be viewed as deadly weapons. Belts with a heavy buckle can be swung with deadly force, and either a belt or a tie can be used as a garrote. Shoelaces can be tied together and used as a garrote. Police require arrestees to give up belts, ties and shoelaces before entering a cell. This precaution is taken to prevent the arrestee from attempting suicide, but it’s also meant to protect the officers.

All the children (and the teachers) must therefore give up belts, ties and shoelaces while in school. Considering the way some boys wear their trousers, some will have a problem. Since any maiming necessarily requires the use of one hand at a minimum, the lack of a belt may reduce or prevent such incidents. Any potential maiming, by a person using both hands while wearing low-riders, would subject such person to additional charges such as indecent exposure and intent to commit a sexual assault.

This is a posting in progress—there are many more items that should be removed from the environment in which our children spend some one-third of every day while schools are in session.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

Postscript:

The School Board has reconsidered its decision in the Delaware case. The members of the Board have significantly reduced the boy’s sentence, and are making significant adjustments to the school’s zero-tolerance policy.

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Government: A three-legged stool theory . . .

Over a period of many years I have spent, and continue to spend, considerable time in the waiting rooms of various clinics in two military hospitals, Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Medical Center, both in San Antonio, Texas. I often take a paperback copy of Thoreau’s Walden along to help pass the time. In addition to Walden, the book includes Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, his classic protest against government’s interference with individual liberties. From the back cover: One of the most famous essays ever written, it came to the attention of Gandhi and formed the basis for his passive resistance movement.

While in the waiting room I also read any literature that might be available. There is always a wide selection from which to choose, donated by patients and staff—paper back books and hardbound books, detective novels, romance novels, westerns, self-help books, children’s books, medical literature, and periodicals ranging from Reader’s Digest (I love the Humor in Uniform section) to Cosmopolitan with its ubiquitous tips for good sex, usually professing to be “what women really want” or “what men really want,” all probably written by men—and then again, perhaps not.

Any publication, regardless of theme, has the potential of increasing one’s store of knowledge—one simply needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Prompted by a front-cover blurb that read, Exclusive interview! President Barack Obama, I recently read an article in Black Enterprise—Your ultimate source for wealth creation, in the issue dated April 2009. The article was written by a Black Enterprise journalist following a 15-minute telephone conversation with the president, an interview purported to be “the first black publication to get an interview with the president,” and “the first magazine to gain an exclusive with Barack Obama since he took oath on Jan. 20.” From that 15-minute phone interview, Black Enterprise journalist Derek T. Dingle produced a well-written article that covered all, or part of, five pages in the 8.5 x 11 inch, 96-page publication.

I recommend the article to any reader, regardless of one’s political affiliation. Different readers will have different opinions on its content, but there is definitely knowledge to be gleaned—and although I run the risk of repeating myself, I will repeat myself—one simply needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This is the pearl I gleaned following multiple readings of the article and an unbiased—really—attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff (yes, it’s another repetition, but it’s one that is important).

The president’s stool is wobbly.

Yes—I said it, and I believe it. The president’s stool is wobbly, and at this point I feel an urgent need to define stool, a word that has many meanings. In this context (from Wikipedia), it means a backless seat consisting of a small flat piece of wood resting on three or four legs, and specific to a milking stool, a low three-legged stool used to sit on while milking a cow.

My contention that the president’s stool is wobbly was formed on the first page of the article. The last sentence in the article’s third paragraph reads as follows: In less than a month in office, he signed the $787 billion economic recovery package, purportedly the largest overhaul of the U.S. economy in history.

The first sentence in the next paragraph reads as follows: That action, the president asserts, represents only “one leg of the stool” in his mission to revamp the economic and financial system.” In the same paragraph, the president refers to three other plans; to ensure the financial stability of banks, to help struggling homeowners modify their mortgages and stabilize home prices, and to review structuring plans of domestic automakers.

By my count the president created a four-legged stool in those two paragraphs—one leg for economic recovery, a second for bank stability, a third for mortgages and home prices, and a fourth for restructuring plans of domestic automakers. Of course, as all are aware, he has created many more “stools” in the interim, and it’s a sure bet that all have at least four legs.

In my far distant past, in addition to numerous other farm chores, I spent a significant amount of time sitting on a milking stool, one positioned properly to facilitate extracting milk from one of various milk cows. And guess what? The stool had only three legs.

A true milking stool—a professional milking stool, if you will—has only three legs. Three legs only, not four, with each leg cleverly placed equidistant from the others. The terrain on which the milking operation is performed will always be level if selected by the milker, but if selected by the milkee, the terrain may not be level. With a four-legged stool the milker will constantly be required to maintain equilibrium while milking the cow. A three-legged stool will always be stable, regardless of the terrain, and the milker can concentrate on the intricacies of his task.

Hence the three legs as opposed to four legs—the three-legged stool will provide the milker a steady platform from which to operate. The four-legged stool serves the milker well if on level terrain, but if the terrain is not level the stool will wobble, and as any old-time milker will testify, the job is precarious enough without a wobbly stool adding to the discomfort and dangers already present. The stool may be a bit canted from a true horizontal surface—in that event, the milker must compensate for the slope in order to finish the job.

In those long-gone and little-missed good old days, a milker arrived at his work site by a circuitous route, stepping over, around and sometimes in barnyard patties that often lurked in unlikely spots. Given the fact that young milkers sometimes milked in the half-light of morning and evening, plus the fact that such milkers were wont to go barefoot in summer, some missteps were predictable and numerous.

A milker often worked in extreme cold, or in extreme heat in a malodorous atmosphere, all the while ducking a constantly swishing tail and dodging hind-leg kicks aimed at the milk bucket or the milker or both, all the while attracting and stoically enduring the attention of flies, fleas, wasps and mosquitoes—a milker had no choice, because both hands were gainfully employed.

If we look closely enough, we will find that the president faces similar obstacles and distractions in his administration. I believe we can compare the president’s job with milking a cow, albeit a far more complex job, far more intricate and in a much more favorable working environment, and the effects, whether success or failure, are far more reaching than a botched milking. In a botched milking only the cow will suffer—if the president’s job is botched, our people, our nation and our future will suffer.

In summary, the president’s stool is wobbly because it has more than three legs and is not on level terrain. He should remove all legs above the count of three, ensuring that the remaining three legs are equidistant from each other. And if his stool (his presidential platform) is canted, he must compensate for the slope—he must hang on (please ignore the inadvertent pun) by using whatever muscle or muscles are available in order to finish the job .

Some may feel that I have taken an inordinate amount of time to support my contention that the president’s stool is wobbly because it is not on a firm foundation, and that he may be—nay, will be—distracted from his mission by the need to counteract its action and thereby risk failure to attain his goals, or at best attaining some but not all of his goals.

I offer no apologies to anyone—not to the president nor to my readers—not for my analysis of the Black Enterprise article nor for my analogy of the milking stool. The president is working from a precarious perch on terrain that is not level—he should either change the terrain or remove some of the legs on his perch. I believe my three-legged stool theory of government is  as plausible, as reasonable and as workable as any theory that has been formulated in the past, and I offer it up for consideration, whether for our nation, for other nations, or for the world.

An afterthought that comes to mind:

I frequently hear the term double down used in reference to political operations, meaning that by adding additional items, usually to bring specific people on board, to a change that is not gaining wide acceptance, in hopes that the change might be pushed through.

Double down is a gambling term used in blackjack—if a player is initially dealt a pair—any pair, whether aces, face cards, tens or other values—he is allowed to double his original bet by splitting the pair, giving him the opportunity of besting the dealer on two hands rather than one. However, it also means he may lose two bets instead of one. If the player splits the pair, the dealer will give each hand one or more additional cards, face up, as requested by the player using the term, “Hit me.” In all instances the dealer will insist that the player “make one hand good before looking at the other.”

I mention the term double down only because it has often been used in this president’s administration. I submit that my three-legged theory, if followed properly, would produce far better results than doubling down. However, the gambling metaphor still applies—the president should make good the first three legs of policies offered for consideration before proposing further changes—in other words, make one hand good before looking at the other.

This is a note for any readers of this posting:

There is some wheat in this posting, wheat that warrants your time and effort to search for it among the chaff and then separate it. Yes, I know, it’s another repetitionI said it’s important, remember?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2009 in Humor, Obama administration, politics

 

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Letter to the editor, SA Express-news: On polls . . .

This letter was not published because it was not presented for the editor’s review—it was not presented to him because, based on considerable personal experience accumulated over a period of many years, I felt certain it would be rejected out-of-hand by the Express-News editor—as of this posting, I have never had a letter rejected by WordPress.com—they seem to welcome my letters—never a refusal.

Letter to the editor:

San Antonio Express-News

October 4, 2009

Re: Joann Smith’s letter entitled People want reform, published in Your Turn today, rebutted a letter by Col. James Vinci concerning columnist Froma Harrop. In a recent column, Froma quoted a poll by the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that 73 percent of doctors polled were in favor of a public insurance option in the administration’s proposed changes to health care. The colonel challenged that percentage, claiming that a recent poll showed that most doctors opposed HR 3200. The author of People want reform states that Col. Vinci failed to cite which poll, and that he charged Froma with hypocritically cherry-picking statistics.

In her letter today, Joann Smith states that “Poll after poll shows that Americans, across all demographic lines, support having a public insurance option available. Check polls by ABC, CBS, AARP, Time Magazine, Kaiser. Americans want the choice of a public option.

Congress, are you listening to the people?”

Really, Ms Adams? You gave us a very short list. Why did you not list some other well-known organizations, news and otherwise, that frequently conduct polls which, ultimately and predictably, show support for the current administration regardless of the subject. The polls may be tailored to the national health program, specifically to the public insurance option, or to the administration’s stand on immigration, legal and illegal, or to the recession, or to the administration’s stand on foreign policy—how to handle Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, Israel, North Korea, China, Poland, ad infinitum.

Here are some others you could have properly cited, but you did not:

Why not NBC?

Why not NPR?

Why not the Harvard School of Public Health?

It is notable that the Kaiser Family Foundation recently joined NPR (National Public Radio) and the Harvard School of Public Health in a new poll, Survey on the Role of Health Care Interest Groups, published September 30, 2009.

Here’s the online news announcement:

New NPR/Kaiser/Harvard Poll Examines Public’s Views of the Role of Health Care Interest Groups in the Health Care Debate

It must be noted that all three entities are far to the left of center—all can legitimately be considered hard-core far-left organizations. Predictably, the poll showed wide support for the administration’s efforts to create a national health care plan, including the public  option.

It’s also notable that “Representatives of the three organizations worked together to develop the survey questionnaire and to analyze the results, with NPR maintaining editorial control over its broadcasts on the surveys,” as stated in the news announcements.

In conclusion, some special notes for Ms Adams:

Poll results are presented in numerical figures, and the results can easily be manipulated by the nature of the questions, by the demographics of the people and the area being polled and how the respondents’ answers are analyzed—in fine, Ms Adams, figures don’t lie, but liars figure—a corollary is that polls don’t lie, but pollsters figure. Some pollsters know exactly what they want from a survey, and then manipulate the various parts of the poll to accomplish the goal they desire.

In the interest of full disclosure, it must be stated that the ability to manipulate poll results is not restricted to the political left—it is also available, and is used, by centrists and by the political right. Some use that ability far more than others, and some are far more adept at skewing the results.

In the matter of politics, particularly in the matter of political polls, one should cover all the venues—books, newspapers, movies, television and talk radio—one should read, look, listen and learn in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Just a suggestion: Every one that reads this posting will profit by picking up the TV remote and channel surfing until they find a news source that uses this motto:

“We report—you decide.”

Bias exists on the channel that uses the motto, “We report—you decide” but in far less degree than other, perhaps most, news sources. It’s everywhere, similar to the air we breathe. And just as our atmosphere at some locations contains more pollution than others, the degree to which political bias exists depends on the source, whether on television, on radio, in face-to-face gatherings or in print.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Letter to AARP . . .

I received this letter in a friend’s e-mail and felt that it would be worthwhile to make it available to everyone that visits my blog—it’s a good read, regardless of one’s political preferences or affiliation. In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that the original letter, although written in the first person, was signed by two people, so I took liberties and edited it, including the substitution of the personal plurals of we, us and ours. And I, without the slightest hint of blushing, consider my editing to have significantly improved the original letter.

Hey, it’s my blog—I’m allowed to do that, especially if it adds to, and does not take from, the spirit and intent of the missive.

Okay?

Lighten up!

This is the e-mail I received—the first paragraph is by the sender of the e-mail:

This letter is well written, and it’s a good shot across the bow of AARP. I checked it out and it’s a real letter, and Miller Farms Equine Transport is real. The letter to the AARP says it all, a must read regardless of one’s age. Some people just make sense in what they say, and this couple certainly does that. Their letter was sent to Mr. Rand, the Executive Director of AARP, and is as follows:

Dear Mr. Rand,

Recently you sent a letter encouraging us to renew our lapsed membership in AARP by the requested date. We know this is not the letter you were looking for, but this is the most honest response we can give you.

Our gap in coverage is merely a microscopic symptom of the real problem, a deepening lack of faith. While we have proudly maintained our membership for several years and have long-admired AARP’s goals and principles, we regret that we cannot endorse its abdication of our values.

Your letter specifically stated that we may depend on AARP to speak up for our rights, yet the voice we hear is not ours—it’s yours. Your offer of keeping us up to date on important issues through Divided We Fail presents neither an impartial view nor the one we have come to embrace. We do believe that when two parties agree all the time on everything presented to them, one is probably not necessary. But when the opinions and long-term goals of the two parties are diametrically opposed, divorce is imminent.

This is the philosophy that spawned our 200 years of government. At one time we looked forward to being part of the senior demographic. We looked to AARP to provide certain benefits and give our voice a power we could not possibly hope to achieve on our own. AARP gave us a sense of belonging, one that we no longer enjoy. The socialist politics practiced by the present administration, and empowered by AARP, serve only to raise the blood pressure our medical insurance strives to contain—clearly a conflict of interest!

We do not understand AARP’s posture. We feel greatly betrayed by the guiding forces that we expected to map out our senior years, and we leave your ranks with a great sense of regret. We mitigate that disappointment with the relief of knowing that we are not contributing to the problem anymore by renewing our membership. There are numerous other organizations that offer discounts without threatening our way of life or offending our sensibilities.

This administration scares the living daylights out of us, not just for ourselves, but also for our proud and bloodstained heritage, and even more important, for what our children and grandchildren will inherit. Washington has rendered Soylent Green a prophetic cautionary tale rather than a fictional scare tactic.

We have never endorsed any militant or radical groups, yet now we find ourselves listening to them. We don’t have to agree with them to appreciate the fear that birthed their existence. Their borderline insanity presents little more than a balance to the voice of the socialist mindset of those in power. We became Americans by a great stroke of luck in some cosmic uterine lottery, but as adults we choose to embrace our heritage, and we embrace and nurture the freedoms it represents and the responsibilities it requires.

Your website generously offers us the opportunity to receive all communications in Spanish. Are you kidding? People are breaking into our houses and invading our homes without our invitation or consent. And now our president insists that we keep the invaders in comfort and learn their language so we can communicate our reluctant welcome to them.

We do not choose to welcome them.

We do not choose to support them.

We do not choose to educate them.

We do not choose to medicate them.

We do not choose to feed, clothe or house them.

American home invaders are arrested. Please explain to us why foreign lawbreakers enjoy privileges on American soil that Americans do not have. Legal immigrants must comply with our immigration laws to be welcomed, yet illegal “immigrants” need only break and enter to be welcomed!

We travel for a living. We transport horses all over this great country, averaging more than 10,000 miles a month. While out there we meet more people than a politician overdosed on caffeine. Of all the many good folks we met on our last 10,000 miles, the trip yielded only one supporter of this administration. Either we, or those that determine policy at AARP, are out of touch with mainstream America. Since our poll is conducted without funding, I have more faith in it than any poll which is power driven.

We have decided to forward this letter to everyone on our mailing list, and will encourage all to do the same. With several hundred people in our address book, we have faith that the eventual exponential factor will make a credible statement to you.

We are disappointed as hell.

We are scared as hell.

We are mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it any more!

Walt and Cyndy,

Miller Farms Equine Transport

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2009 in Obama administration, politics

 

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