Please God I’m 16 and Didn’t Try to Get Murdered

You didn’t know me, and I never met you. Still, you act like I need to apologize to you because I died.

I don’t think you understand, but I wasn’t ready to die.

I experienced what I once read, seemingly a long time ago, maybe yesterday, perhaps this morning, from a Dear Abby column that Mom or possibly Dad put on the door of the refrigerator. YOU DID NOT!

I think it was like this, but I don’t know for sure. You’re yelling for all to hear, but I can’t hear you. I’M THE ONE WHO GOT MURDERED!

A portion of that column on the refrigerator door:

“It doesn`t matter how the accident happened. I was goofing off–going too fast. Taking crazy chances. But I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard a deafening crash and I felt a terrible jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream.

Suddenly I awakened; it was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. Then I saw a doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Strange that I couldn`t feel anything.

Hey, don`t pull that sheet over my head! I can`t be dead. I`m only 17. I`ve got a date tonight. I`m supposed to grow up and have a wonderful life. I haven`t lived yet. I can`t be dead.

Later I was placed in a drawer. My folks had to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at Mom`s eyes when she faced the most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked like an old man. He told the man in charge, “Yes, he is my son.“

The funeral was a weird experience. I saw all my relatives and friends walk toward the casket. They passed by, one by one, and looked at me with the saddest eyes I`ve ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of the girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked away.

Please–somebody–wake me up! Get me out of here! I can`t bear to see my mom and dad so broken up. My grandparents are so racked with grief they can hardly walk. My brother and sisters are like zombies. They move like robots. In a daze, everybody! No one can believe this. And I can`t believe it, either. Please don`t bury me! I`m not dead! I have a lot of living to do! I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please don`t put me in the ground. I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I`ll be the most careful driver in the whole world. All I want is one more chance.

Please, God, I`m only 17!”

I wasn’t in a car, on the road. I did not see or feel glass and steel everywhere. I wasn’t goofing off or taking crazy chances. I was sitting in my desk in English class. I was listening to Coach Arnold recite a poem by Emily Dickinson.

“ I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air –

Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –

And Breaths were gathering firm

For that last Onset – when the King

Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away

What portions of me be

Assignable – and then it was

There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –

Between the light – and me –

And then the Windows failed – and then

I could not see to see –

I never had the opportunity. Well maybe I did, but I never thought about willing my keepsakes away.

I did not see a fly or hear it buzz.

I HEARD SCREAMS. I HEARD GUNSHOTS COMING FASTER THAN I COULD COUNT.

The only other thing I recall is Please God, I’m only 16. I won’t be 17 until the summer.

MY MURDER HAS INCONVENIENCED YOUR LIFE AND YOU TALK ABOUT WHY:

Look, I’m sorry that more people die in car accidents. I lost a close friend because something ran into the road, and he swerved. He would have been OK if it had happened at any other place on that road, but it happened where they were working on the highway. Instead of just being stuck in the ditch, his car hit that big machine and it fell, crushing my friend’s car.

A gun is something that can kill. That’s the purpose of the tool, just like a garden hose is manufactured to transport water some distance away from the spigot. Practically anything can kill. Some can kill more animals or people faster; some requires skill and training to use to kill one or many; some only require a finger, a toe, or anything to pull a trigger.

I admit that I don’t know much about guns. Dad owns several that he keeps locked in his gun safe. He can break each down and put it back together blindfolded, but I can’t.

Last winter, he took me hunting and I shot and killed a deer. He said it was a spike. I only know that it had antlers, and we ate the venison. I’ve shot all of his guns at one time or another. He always supervised and was strict that I do exactly as he told me whenever I handled a gun. No, he wasn’t mean. He spoke with me the same way when he showed me how to use any of his tools. Mom did the same helping me learn how to drive the car. I don’t love guns, but I don’t hate them either. I’d just rather ski in the winter or do anything where I’m running or jumping than just sitting and waiting for some deer to walk by.

People talk about guns for self-defense, but I’ve never carried a gun for that purpose. I have studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for four years now. We focus about how to avoid an attack. If an attack cannot be avoided, we learn how to escape. If we cannot escape, we learn how to control the attacker. Mom has been studying for the last two years with me. She even used what she learned when a thug tried mugging her. Even Dad, who was a Marine for 20 years has started training.

Is it foolproof? I don’t think so, but what is? If I gun was then why do police officers get killed? If it’s gun free zones, why did all those officers and others get murdered in Texas? Whether it’s one person or 1000 people, murder is still murder.

WOULD CARRYING A GUN PROTECT ME? I DON’T KNOW. I DIDN’T EVEN SEE THE PERSON WHO MURDERED ME SO IT PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE MATTERED.

I know that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires muscle memory. So does skiing. So does soccer. Your skills fade without practice. Handling a gun can’t be any different.

Dad doesn’t have the same muscle memory or efficiency with a weapon like he had while serving in the military. He doesn’t have the same level of awareness that he had out on the battlefield. My Uncle who is a police officer is required to do a lot of training each year. Maybe you could get lucky with your handgun and avoid 30 rounds while landing one to stop a killer. If my Uncle can’t do it all the time during his training simulations when he knows that he will have to shoot. If Dad could not do it on the battlefield when he knew the enemy was likely in the next building. Don’t claim that I could. If you can, prove it to our military and law enforcement and get a job helping them if you are that good.

I don’t see the relevancy that you do but for your information, I can’t tell anyone anything about Planned Parenthood or the NRA. I can, however, name every member of my state’s congressional delegation thanks to Mrs. Rhodes and Civics class. I made and A in my history class. I can talk about the Constitution because I compete in the oratory contest that the American Legion holds. This year I came close to going to nationals in Indianapolis. I finished second in the entire state. I wasn’t disappointed because this was only my second year to compete in the contest. Thanks Mrs. Rhodes, Coach Arnold for the public speaking help, and of course Mr. Perkins for teaching history and helping me find primary sources for my speeches. Maybe next year…

Wait, there isn’t a next year. Someone walked into my classroom and murdered me.

I appreciate the thoughts and prayers. Really I do.

I just want to know why you seem so put off, so vocal, so demanding that my death somehow hurts your rights?

Why does my death mean less than all these statistics you cite about how other people died?

Why are my friends and classmates being vilified for asking questions and wanting to prevent others and even themselves from being murdered like me?

They don’t have a magical solution that’s 100 percent effective.

You don’t either.

They’re concerned because they experienced this terror.

You’re concerned why?  It’s not because you think you’ll be next.  It’s because my being murdered is a threat to your way of life.

I’M SORRY THAT OTHER PEOPLE DIED BEFORE ME. I’M MEETING SOME OF THOSE PEOPLE WHERE I’M AT RIGHT NOW. SOME WERE MURDERED JUST LIKE ME. WHO DID AND IT AND HOW THEY DID IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER TO US RIGHT NOW. WE’RE ALL DEAD, AND I KNOW THAT I WASN’T READY TO DIE JUST YET.

IF I MEET SOMEONE MURDERED WHO WAS READY TO BE MURDERED, I’LL TRY TO LET YOU KNOW.

For now, I’ll just say that I’m sorry that my being murdered makes you feel like someone will make your life inconvenient. No offense, but I feel more sorry for my family and friends who knew me. I just want to limit the chances of someone else getting murdered. My friends feel the same way. That’s why we’re trying to be heard.

I’M SORRY MY BEING MURDERED INCONVENIENCES YOU!!!!

PLEASE GOD, PLEASE EVERYONE, I WAS ONLY 16.

Advertisements

Fake News, CBO scores, Bama fires Saban, and other Gumbo fixings sans the Roux.

In modern vernacular “fake news” means anything the reader or viewer doesn’t like. For example, “Saints Lose and Dirty Birds Win” could be classified as “fake news” if I accepted the modern popular definition.

I reckon that LSU won the College World Series and Nick Saban has a losing record as coach and will likely be fired are reality since mainstream media reports the opposite along with people who went to Omaha or who have watched Bama roll for quite a spell.

At some point while I wasn’t looking, predictions and opinions became the same as reporting news.  The distinctions have been blurred, but doesn’t it seem like fewer and fewer today recognize the difference or even care?

Instead, if one agrees then it is real news or if they disagree it is apparently “fake” instead of just being inaccurate.

Makes one wonder if Dewey really beat Truman and served as President. Did Foreman win the Rumble in the Jungle? Mike Tyson never got busted by Buster. OJ must still be running through airports for Hertz, so the white Bronco chase must have been filmed on the same stage as the moon landing. With my very own eyes, I forgot that I witnessed the New England Patriots a few years back win the Super Bowl to become the second NFL team to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. To suggest otherwise is: FAKE, FAKE, FAKE by those dastardly dirty rottens of MSM.

The above is ridiculous, but if I chose to give a fancy little spin or chum the waters with a little bait to create a feeding frenzy, a significant number would believe.  It’s both sad and scary.

Fake and mistake rhyme but that’s it. Prediction after-the-fact is quite easy but before-the-fact ain’t as easy. Opinion and who are connected directly.  When an eyewitness or anyone is giving an account of what is happening their perspective matters as to what they can and cannot see.

CBO scores are not an absolute science. They’re assessments based upon a multitude of variables. Whether proven right or wrong, the thoroughness of the methodology to derive that score is the most important factor to determining worth. It’s not fake. It’s a prediction. In the 43 years of existence, one really must cherry pick to label the CBO as partisan. Even when people try, they often neglect the fact that it is the majority party who appoints the director and all staff serve at the pleasure of the director.

It’s not a perfect system, but it has proven better than the OMB in the role it plays. The problem is that too few people have any idea about who or what the CBO is. Reading a WAPO opinion from two WH staffers ahead of the CBO score on the latest Senate health bill is evidence of the ignorance. The assessment from the CBO may prove incorrect, but it is not “FAKE NEWS” and is not partisan.

One of the better overviews which sadly I have never seen cited in the click baits, partisan press, or by the vast majority of pundits because it requires some actual reading comprehension is this working paper from the Hutchins Center back in 2015.

If only it were so simple that anything reported that we did not like were in fact fake.  Credibility for any given source seems to depend upon whether one agrees with the source.  Legitimacy is based upon if one’s confirmation bias is supported.

That’s one of the problems that limits possibilities for solutions.

Educators and educational institutions are being discredited.  In the work force, in some respects at least the focus has shifted to using specialized tools before even trying to understand the problem.  Need to do something, and there is an app for that.  New doesn’t necessarily mean improved, but are we losing that ability or desire to think for ourselves?

Food for thought…

An Aside:

I have never sought or accepted any payment or donations for this blog.  My position hasn’t changed, but I wanted share some good news.

After 10 years of marriage, my wife and I are in the final stages of adopting a son from an international orphanage.  We would most appreciate your thoughts and prayers for our son and us as soon-to-be parents to more than fur babies.  I hope that people read and follow because you either gather some information or at least see something that causes you to think.  We’re not conducting any fundraising with crowd sourcing sites or other means.  Nobody goes into the education field to become wealthy, but it’s a valuable reward when former students remain in communication or drop in unexpectedly to say that you made them think, believe, or made a difference.  Students, colleagues, peers, readers, and others have inquired so if anyone would like to make a monetary donation to help us with airfare primarily or other expenses associated with adoption, below is a link to a PayPal donation account that I have set up.  Any donation would be appreciated, but it is certainly not necessary to continue whatever connection we share.

https://www.paypal.me/LABLouisianaBoy

 

How a local school becomes lost

I’m sad for Albany and Springfield today along with the Hungarian Settlement between the two schools.

Today there was an election in both areas of Livingston Parish to increase the millage rates for ad valorem taxes dedicated to the respective schools.  In Springfield the proposal was to build a new high school.  In Albany it was to build a new elementary school.  Neither area has paid ad valorem taxes dedicated to schools for the past four (4) years.  The new millage proposals would have resulted in a significant property tax increase for some.

Both proposals failed, but that is not why I’m sad.

I’m sad because of the lies, disdain, condemnation, jealousy, selfishness, and hate.

Me personally, I cannot offer a learned opinion as to whether or not new elementary or high school buildings are needed.  Why?  Because even though I did enjoy a girls’ basketball game during my brief trip back in January and pointed out the state championship banners to a distinguished academic and internationally known physicist who flew down from DC with me for a conference presentation in New Orleans, I did not evaluate any facilities.  Heck I cannot tell you what grades are at the old high school building or at the old elementary school.  I only recall being at the junior high campus once and that was to help judge a social studies fair and to talk to some students  with a watered down version of my “History in Your Backyard” presentation that I once delivered to a number of communities.

Down in Springfield, I know I attended a playoff game years ago there between Albany and Newman.  I remember Archie Manning signing autographs on torn paper cups, but I don’t remember if Peyton played on that basketball team or if it was Eli (it may have been Cooper).  I may have driven past the school on many occasions since including back in January, but I do not recall being on campus since.

Admittedly my gut feeling is that a need exists for the new and additional campuses.  It’s not because of the age of the structures or the fact that a good portion of maintenance over the years has utilized the donated labor of students, teachers, administrators, and members of the community.  Money came from donations along with school and community fundraisers because tax dollars never seemed to be enough.

My gut feeling is that new and additional campuses are needed because the area has grown in development and population.  Get off at ole Exit 32 and head north and it looks like you got off the interstate in freakin’ Walker or Denham Springs, and that impression has nothing to do with the removal of the cattle guard.  Such development has its positive aspects, but admittedly I’m a bit nostalgic for the way things were.

Still I’m sad today not because of the past, and I really don’t care if anyone favors or opposes the millages on the respective ballots.  They do increase the tax burden for many.  Regardless of vote here, this burden will increase for all due to the state’s budget disaster.  Blame the new governor all you want, but that blame should be directed to his time as a state legislator.  His votes at that time aren’t the issue.  The issue is that he along with 143 other people were members of a body elected to represent the people while Bobby and his minions dismantled and devoured the state like boll weevils in a cotton field.

Opponents can spout welfare, Obama, and all these other reasons, but remember that thanks to Bobby and the “trickle down” mantra your state tax dollars paid $2.7 million of the $9 million Tom Cruise made in salary to film a movie.  Your state taxes paid Valero $10 million to create a total of 43 jobs in Norco.  Your parish tax dollars help subsidize Bass Pro and who knows how many Wally Worlds.  Yes these businesses have jobs, but are they the same pay and benefits an employee earned at a local Mom and Pop?  Yes these businesses bring in outside business, but do the financials offset the breaks?  What happened to the local and Mom and Pop businesses who did not receive the tax credits given to these giant chains?

Combine all the free loaders in the state, and they take significantly less than what is doled out in “corporate welfare” at the upper rungs of the economic ladder.  Blame Obama and the Democrats at the federal level but realize that Louisiana is one of the states that receive far more in federal assistance than it pays in federal taxes.  My current neighbors see our federal taxes subsidize people of Louisiana, both working and the so-called free loaders, and many people I know in Louisiana have more money saved and buying power than we do because of the cost of living differences.

It boils the bile in my gut, and I want to explode in anger because when I hear Members of Congress talking about “lazy good-for-nothing” people living off the hard work of others, they aren’t talking about the people I labeled as “takers” back home.  They are talking about the hardworking honest people who bust their tails to put food on the table for their families; people like my Dad and Albany and Springfield classmates.  That’s bull@#$^, but it’s a fact of national politics.

Now why did I type “lies, disdain, condemnation, jealousy, selfishness, and hate?”

The amounts some claim that these ad valorem taxes will increase property taxes are insane and flat out lies.  This is a millage spike, especially considering that neither community has paid ad valorem taxes for schools in the past 4 years and rates before that were artificially low.  Still why lie about the amount?  If it’s an honest mistake on your part, I think that’s an argument in favor of both school millage increases.

I typed disdain and condemnation because it’s always someone else’s fault.  They claim that teachers aren’t doing their jobs.  Well in some respects that is true but they aren’t doing their jobs as teachers because they are forced to spend time trying to parent the students.  Some even want teachers to be the religious instructors as well even though these same people contend those teachers aren’t doing their jobs.

Folks I have yet to confront anything strong enough to kick God out of anything.  Now I think it’s possible not to let God in, but once God is there it’s the people who leave.  Nothing has ever prevented me from praying or worshipping whenever I choose.  My reason to pray or worship is not for others to see me in the act; it’s because I feel the need; have the desire; and have the hope and responsibility that my body of work as a whole will help and inspire others to treat others as neighbors and equals.  It’s not easy being the only person who looks different or believes differently than the thousand in the same area, but at times it is necessary.

Jealousy and selfishness because some are arguing well I have more property and will pay more than you so your opinion is worth less than mine.  Some propose why should I pay for others who will pay less or nothing.  It’s a dog eat dog world, survival of the fittest.  Start building levies then higher than the sky because if your small pond overflows or if something breaches your levy and you find yourself in a larger pond, remember that your survival of the fittest still applies.

Just because something was good enough for you or me doesn’t mean that others should have the same ceilings or be faced with the same limitations.  What if the residents say 25 years ago had not paid millages in the 80 range?  What if they had received that 4 year break of zero ad valorem taxes for schools?  Heck what if they had only agreed to pay initial rates below 50?

Hate is a strong word and perhaps unjust, but why didn’t people castigating those supporting these proposals now bring up their concerns back at the school board meetings?  If they were uninformed about what was happening, perhaps they don’t have enough knowledge or desire to learn enough to make them qualified to discuss the matter.  That’s why lies and innuendo are necessary to bolster their position.  It takes work to develop alternative measures, and just like national politics even locals are discovering that it’s much easier to just blame someone else, complain, wait for someone else to fix things, and find fault no matter what.

I’ve seen some well thought out reasons to vote NO.  Some of those I personally would not consider valid, but I certainly respect them because they are facts and honest assessments.  I can say the same about voting YES.  Some I consider as valid arguments and others are not convincing to me.

I do not have a vote.  Honestly I’m glad because I do not have enough information to make what I consider an informed choice.  I can say, however, that if I were vehemently opposed I would have been speaking out at the school board meetings prior to the election.  I’d bombard them with a narrative much longer this post, and I would have at minimum triple the amount of citations to the current codes, historical data, and comparative analyses.  That’s an ole fashioned approach, and it takes both knowledge and effort.

My opinion is that this election is sad result from many perspectives including the influence of inaccurate information, some possibly malicious in origin, but disheartening because of an apparent lack of knowledge of Louisiana constitutional law and Parish governance.  STEM disciplines are needed and should be stressed.  Many fulfilling and necessary vocations require skills and knowledge that are acquired in manners other than higher education.  Degrees do not equate success and multiple paths exist to careers to provide for one’s family and to be vital parts of a community.  Disciplines within Humanities and Social Sciences are often discredited for a lack of job specific training, but even rudimentary knowledge in fields such as history and political science would have minimized the effects of the misrepresentations and votes based upon false fears because the system has already negated that possibility.  Fields of sociology, art, languages, music, all help us to communicate which even with technology often seems a lost art today.

I’m not “friends” on social media with the people former classmates told me were some of the most vocal in opposition.  I do recognize the families because of last names, but most of these people I do not know personally.  Some screenshots sent to me, however, illustrate why we need to emphasize education in the Humanities and Social Sciences because many of those vehemently opposed had no clue about where to find election results before the late night local news out of either Baton Rouge or New Orleans.

I no longer reside in the area so I’m not qualified to offer learned opinions as to whether or not the new construction in both Albany and Springfield was in fact needed.  I’m just thankful that during my public schooling members of the community were willing to approve even higher millage rates dedicated to the schools than the amounts proposed on this ballot.  Thank you to people like Ms. Nancy and Mr. Russell, Mr. Jessie (RIP), my Mom (RIP), Uncle (RIP), who may have not been official teachers but gave and sacrificed for community, school, and we students because they wanted better for us than they had.

It’s funny to current colleagues how I can relate grades K through 12 as Ms. Mary through her brother Coach; principals along that path being Mr. Johnny, Mr. Gerald, and Mr. P; caring teachers too numerous to name without unintentionally leaving off some who influenced me well beyond the classroom.  Funny because despite degrees later earned, I still begin answering the question of where did I go to school by saying Albany regardless of my residence at the time or if the person asking answers the same question with a place like Doyle or Live Oak or today when their answer is usually Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Emory, or Duke.  See I was blessed to attend a community centered public school.

If it’s easy enough to just point a finger at someone, then it won’t be long or take much for someone to be pointing a finger back.  They were them right up until the point that we became one of them and then they and we were us.

Police Officer escorted from GA college classroom: Hogwash and Soap Aftermath

Another example of molehills into mountains, danged if you do and danged if you don’t, sensationalized “media,” clickbait, and as I might say “impatience will find one wallowing in hogwash or being pelted by nutria nuts.”

FOX News Headline:  “Cop in uniform tossed from college classroom by ‘uncomfortable’ teacher”

The Blaze Headline:  “Care to Guess Why a Cop Who’s Also a College Student Was Escorted From Class? (Hint: He Was in Full Uniform)”

Breitbart Headline:  “Uniformed Officer ‘Escorted’ From Classroom: Teacher ‘Uncomfortable’ With Gun”

IJReview Headline:  “College Student Gets Kicked Out of Class After Professor Sees His Gun. There’s Just One Problem…”

Freedom Daily Conservative News Headline:  “Georgia: Leftist Teacher tosses Police officer out of his college classroom — for being in full uniform”

It’s obvious that these “media” outlets relied upon the information supplied by local news affiliate WALB TV.

WALB TV Headline:  “Police officer escorted out of Darton College classroom”

NOTE:  I once worked at this institution.

As for the local TV news I appeared on WALB dozens of times either being interviewed or providing comments about various stories or events.  It’s both the ABC and NBC television affiliate for the area.  The dual affiliation from my limited knowledge seems common in smaller markets.  They operate with limited resources.  For example while being interviewed in my office for the news telecast, the reporter often operated the camera instead of having a separate camera person.  The other major affiliate, WFXL, for the area had similar procedures.

Obviously the WALB or WFXL coverage and reporting in my personal opinion is not at the level of say a WBRZ or WAFB in BR, WWL or WDSU in NOLA, and especially WRC, WUSA, or WJLA here in the DC region, but it is comparable to similar small markets.  Many reporters are just starting out in the profession and like all careers some improve and advance while others leave for other professions.  Some of your more experienced reporters and anchors have ties to the area and have chosen to remain for that reason.  It’s not because they lack in quality.

Back to this “fully armed officer and liberal professor” WALB updated their original story:

The local newspaper, the Albany Herald, reported this update:

Please consider:

Now if you are an employee, patron, or merely a passerby and see something suspicious are you trained to or encouraged to ignore it?

At one of the GOP debates, the issue of people failing to report activity because they feared our supposed “PC” environment became a topic of discussion.

On the other side of the aisle individuals calling 911 to report seeing people walking with long guns became the targets of harassment and threats by open carry proponents in Texas.

How can you distinguish between a “good guy with a gun” and a “bad guy with a gun?”  Does the same formula apply to a “woman with a gun?”

Here it appears that the student in question was not dressed in the “typical” police uniform.  I have no personal experience, but I would think that one could purchase a “typical” police uniform for legal activities such as a Halloween costume so even the uniform isn’t always a 100 percent identifier.

As for polo shirts, I’ve never been in law enforcement but at various times in my life I have owned shirts given to me for belonging to local sheriff’s organizations which had insignia.  Honestly I have no idea if the insignia differed from those same shirts given to members who were actual law enforcement personnel from the insignia on the shirts given to civilian supporters such as me.  I can only say that I never pretended nor was I ever mistaken for being a law enforcement officer when someone happened to see me wearing the shirt or ball cap.

My point is that we are all sliding in the direction of believing what we want to believe and discrediting challenges.  Regardless of what we might think, an echo chamber rests at our fingertips thanks to technology.  We also have an industry profiting from emotions, gullibility, and in some cases the lack of time to ask for or to demand proof.

Will any of the national or partisan media outlets who ran with the story have updated headlines with updates about how the story is less exciting?

If by some chance akin to those of winning Powerball they do will those who caste quick conclusive judgements care?

We still do not know if the student presented campus security, which by the way did not exist when I worked for the institution as city and county law enforcement served in that capacity, with identification proving that he or she was a law enforcement officer.

If anyone misinterpreted existing law in any manner, in this specific situation that failure did not cause anyone harm.  If anything the additional minutes spent reviewing the events will reinforce the applicable laws.

Yes I expect to hear the “what if,” “this is a start,” and all these other dire predictions of both present and future.  My response is that when common sense and rudimentary precautions are deemed “evil,” “oppressive,” or “politically motivated” then we are less of a society.

If you really think about it, it doesn’t matter how fancy, how nice the cover, how pretty it’s packaged because BS is still BS, hogwash, pig puddles, cow cookies, nutria nuts, and so on are still the same.  We can wallow in it; we can choose to take the high road over the top or path around.  We can find some soap to help clear away any muck.  The choice is ours.

Is it more dangerous to know all, nothing, or just enough to think you know?

One of my favorite philosophical questions is which is more powerful, the truth, or what one wrongfully believes to be the truth?

With that question in our noggins, classmates, colleagues, friends, please lend me your ears (well eyes) for a friendly, non-credit, journey to discover how any and all can engage in a combination of basic political history, political science, and statistics in the legislative area.  Also for the actual intelligent people like my Dad with his high school diploma or my maternal Grandpa who never went to school and who I regard as the smartest individual I ever knew to this day of sometimes hobnobbing with these Johns Hopkins and Ivy league professors and alumni, the never outdated good ole stuff you learn out in the berry field, on the river or lake, in the woods, or just doing common sense work around your place.

Combining all of these disciplines and types of knowledge, we’re going to construct a non-partisan legislative analysis.  Now many don’t want a non-partisan analysis because they think everything has to be exactly the way they want things to be.  My problem is that I live in the world and not in some little convenient box where everything is controlled and have discovered that while I can fantasize about everything going as planned and being perfect, in reality that just ain’t gonna happen so why sit and whine and moan accomplishing nothing when you can just get the unpleasant finished and whine and moan at the same time.  Yep, honest multi-tasking or as Grandpa would say this field needs to be plowed, do it any way you want, but just do it right because you won’t have time to redo it.

First is some academician citation because that’s one of things that separate people in my field from those who are popular and get a lot of people they don’t know giving them heaps of money for just saying what those people want to hear whether it’s true or not.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=9810878&jid=JPS&volumeId=45&issueId=03&aid=9810877&bodyId=&membershipNumber=&societyETOCSession=&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S000712341400043X

OK, I know y’all don’t want to read a political science journal article, and good golly Miss Molly, I ain’t gonna make it a requirement for anyone to continue this journey with me because I’m just a country boy.

Now I know that the rich pundits who you don’t know will look at the citation and say Global Warming….hogwash, and be done in time to cash those checks for their opinions.  But this here is little old me so I ain’t worrying about Global Warming or even climate change which is my preferred terminology for the subject (just sayin’ there).

Seriously all I need y’all to do start out on our journey together is to take a gander at these 4 sentences from that article.

“Politicians’ incentives are asymmetrical; encouraging people to stay misinformed and politically active is often easier and produces larger pay-offs compared to encouraging them to obtain correct factual knowledge or persuading the disengaged to use their existing knowledge in the public arena.

In contrast, being informed and engaged requires, by definition, psychic and cognitive energy. But it can also involve gratification, reward and even enjoyment. So political actors are likely to obtain good results by cultivating their partisan activists; this engagement is essential and takes a good deal of time and energy, but it is not especially difficult.”

Those sentences are academic speak for sayings such as:

  • “Thar Be Profit in Ignorance,”
  • “Tell People What they want to hear, and they will eat from your hand,”
  • “Just drown it in butter, and it will taste better,” and others.

See this really ain’t hard when you put things into your own words.

OK, we’re nearing the bend, so I want y’all to picture the most negative image of what you think a person receiving welfare might look like. It ain’t a real person. We all know some people who have had a run of bad luck, and those people are often the folks who when things are different will give others the shirts off their backs just because that’s who they are.

Just picture the worst in your mind.  I mean draw the laziest, crooked est, egg suckin, kick yo dog, low-life, smellin worse than a wet chicken swimming in a septic tank, fetch me my rifle and a shovel, lower than a snake’s belly type of  “they can’t be human” scum that you can.

Here can we just agree that this scum (remember we ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no actual person we know even though we all have kinfolk or at times ourselves at least stunk like a wet chicken sprayed by a skunk) is possibly using some type of illegal drugs because it would take a heck of a lot to get that nasty without chemical assistance? Well we can hope that they had help getting that wretched.

Now at the bend in our journey, we’re gonna test this scum, well him or her, for drugs because we shouldn’t be paying for trash.

Now I think we can all agree here as well that none of us wants to pay for trash.  I’m not talkin’ ‘bout paying someone to haul it away. I’m talkin’ ‘bout delivery to our door. (Flashback time to Mr. Rollie when he was on the Parish Council and made a delivery to the Waste Management offices of the product they claimed at the time to have picked up….ah part of the good ole days of politicking I enjoyed…it wasn’t mudslinging but garbage tossing).

Rounding the bend so back to reality….

Last year the state of Mississippi passed a law which started as House Bill 49.  It’s got a long title, but in a walnut shell it says that anyone who receives TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or the welfare as some call it, would first have to fill out this written form and if the answers on that form brought about any suspicions then that person would have to pass a drug screening to get any money.  That might sound reasonable.

This academician citation thing again, so if you want, you can read the law at the link below.

You can read about the actual requirements and benefits of TANF at the link below.

Now it doesn’t matter for my purposes if you paused to read the law and program info or not ‘cause we done gone ‘round the bend and are almost finished our trek.

Let’s clear some brush so everyone can see just where we are heading.

A company called SASSI provides the paperwork questionnaire.  You can read about them at the link below.

If an actual drug test is deemed necessary, a company called MedScreens does that.  You can read about them at the link below.

Shucks, classroom technology glitch, and I cannot access my source for the actual number of applicants filling out the questionnaire and those who then had drug screens.

Over a 5 month period, there were approximately 3700 applicants and of those about 50 had actual drug screens, so we ain’t talking overwhelming numbers here.

Sorry I have that academician versus money making pundit thing again without having a source to cite, so here’s a 9 July 2015 CRS report prepared by Gene Falk, “The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions,” which shows my numbers are in the ballpark although I suspect most of y’all think my numbers are low.

Now back walking following the brush clearing and my little misstep.

The cost of the questionnaires from SASSI isn’t outrageous as these things tend to be.  According to my old grad school days neighbor, the paper screening cost is $2 for each applicant. (I was going to use a factor of $10 for this journey, but heck I’d rather spend $2 than $10 for the same thing).

The cost of the actual drug testing is $48 for each applicant which is a heck of a lot cheaper than my insurance listed for the last time someone drew blood from me, or I took a leak into a cup so again I’ll take the lower amount instead of source since the lower the cost makes it harder to debate what happens when we finish.

From all of these questionnaires and the 50 or so drug tests performed, 2 people tested positively for drugs and had assistance denied. (A number of outlets provide those numbers, so I’ll let you pick from your preferred news source for a citation).

Since we’re almost to the finish, and I asked you to find your own citation, let’s have you push yourself just a bit.  Please take a peek at this NIH survey of drug use and health.

Actually the numbers on the NIH survey were higher than I thought.  Are that many people doing illicit drugs?  Sheesh!

Anywho, let’s think positive and squeeze those numbers far more than one would do with statistics. Heck, because those survey high numbers are so disheartening, let’s put them into the vice and see if we can break that vice. (Higher numbers actually support my suspicion of what will find at tend which is why I’m making them smaller to see if that will still separate fact from fiction).

So let’s do some figurin’ using our fingers and toes with our brains.  Imagine if MS only had 100 applicants and from that pool 2 tested positive then that would be 2 percent. That percentage is already an outlier from the percentages of the NIH survey, so 2 out of 3800 really ain’t necessary to calculate.

Now even with 2 percent, would the cost of testing be a wise investment?

Again let’s use round numbers for simplicity, and it’s fun use a good vice again since I’m hoping to come across an old vice in a yard sale.  Have y’all have looked at vices at Lowes, Home Depot, or local tool shops?  I declare those things ain’t built to the same standards of the vices we had when I was a kid. Today for a vice with a similar heft of one of Grandpa’s baby 5 inch vices from a machine shop, people like us ain’t got that type of money. Gracious, one could bargain for a bateau with trolling motor, battery, and trailer for the same amount as a heavy solid vice; probably pick up a fancy store bought paddle; and still have money to buy a 6 pack and a couple cans of Spam or them little Vienna sausages.

Back from nostalgia and my whining to our journey:

We have 3,000 applicants at $2 each for the questionnaire which comes to $6,000.  Of those 3,000 let’s make 20 have an actual drug test, and let’s even discount the drug test (special introductory offer) to $25 each which comes to $500 for the lot just stay with round numbers.

Simply, we done spent $6,500 of taxpayer money to save how much?

Well let’s say that the 2 people disqualified had households of 8 people each (I have no clue as to what the maximum number of additional people is allowed in MS for claims and pulled 8 from the air since it is likely larger than reality, but below you’ll see how funds are granted).

With 8 people each that amounts to $290 going to each applicant or $580 total.

The allocation is broken down in the following manner:

  • $110 for the applicant
  • $36 for the second person
  • $24 for each additional person

We just spent $6,500 to save $580 and lost $5,900 plus a $20 because we think that our welfare image is accurate and wanted this testing conducted.

Now your pundits will argue, and argue correctly I will say, that my little journey with y’all just ain’t fair because I put all the money into one plate when in reality it’s in multiple plates.

They are right, but using that common sense training I mentioned at the beginning, in my book money I spend is spent and money I save is saved. When I stash money into a corner the amount doesn’t multiply and increase fast enough to keep up with the amount of devaluation with the interest rates available to me for that amount of investment. The type of people I know are not going to earn enough interest to be able to survive off that interest.  You need a barn stacked to the rafters with money to get enough in interest to fill something the size of a 2 hole privy.

Now maybe I don’t know the right place to invest is an argument some will give, but the money the pundits like to show with that plate observation isn’t earning any interest at all as it sits on that plate because by statute one is prevented from using that money for any other expense or investment.

Obviously some folks will argue that the most important thing is that the 2 cheats got caught, and you can’t put a price tag on that.

I’ll agree with that in theory, but the boy out on the river part of me thinks that if I paid for the entire sack of crawfish when it comes boil time do I anticipate feeling full or happy, happy, if I only 2 in that sack can be eaten?

I’d probably be like that critter up in that tree with John that time out coon hunting with Mr. Jerry Clower when he was a boy.  Context is important.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AX9QoFhEhI

So as we look back upon this brief journey of basic political history, political science, and statistics to construct a legislative analysis what have we discovered?

  • Please refer back to the 4 sentences quoted from the political science journal entry.

NOW accept the disheartening common sense reality, in that most are incapable or unwilling to discover anything different from what they thought at the beginning of the journey.

From the academic perspective and journal entry:

“Thus to move a person who is misinformed but engaged into the realm of informed engagement takes a great deal of effort. She must be induced to forsake her group, recognize and renounce false beliefs, learn new facts, come to a new understanding of appropriate policy choices, develop new group ties and partisan loyalties, and then overcome the usual inertia of political inactivity in order to take action. Forging all of the links in this chain is hard, and any one of them is easily broken. As a result, political actors and parties seldom believe it is worthwhile to invest the resources needed to forge the new chain. In contrast, the party that benefits from engaging the misinformed has a strong incentive to keep them loyal, misinformed, and attached, and to reward them for their mistaken policy views or votes.”

In the Louisianaboy speak of the Hungarian Settlement, we are often too busy doing other things to take the time to embark even upon such a brief journey. Working in education, my experience is that many people today will not even finish reading this piece, so how can you expect anyone to read all of say 191 pages of the Iran negotiations.  That’s just sad in my opinion.

Isn’t it odd how we tend to accept that we cannot perform open heart surgery, but will cause $1000s of damage because we thought we knew enough to repair that electrical, plumbing, or mechanical problem?  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise when some believe that anyone can teach, talk about history, solve governmental and world problems. I’ve heard one reason for that assessment more than Carter has liver pills.  It’s usually presented in some manner of heck, we know what we know and others agree with us and if y’all disagree then y’all have a problem.  That’s a softer version of my Mama said, my Daddy said, or I read it on the internet so it’s got to be the Gospel truth. Others simply know it all because they ain’t never done that type of work.

If any remain, thanks for walking this journey with me and participating in this noncredit course.  No grades or even lagniappe points are being assigned; no certificates or trophies have been earned or offered.  I haven’t earned 2 bits or even a penny flattened upon the railroad tracks, but unlike what you would have received from some unknown pundit or group operating as an echo chamber, I’m not taking your money to make myself rich or to build your ego.

I’ll say nice things about you behind your back to others, and I’ll say any negative I might think directly to your face.

If I want or need, I ask and really it is up to you whether you can or even care to help. I’ll disagree and fight you with everything I got, take a break to sit down and break bread with you, and return to the fight after we eat. If I knock you down, I’ll offer a hand to help you up, and I’d appreciate the same even if it only results in getting knocked flat again. Afterwards we can agree, disagree, or agree to disagree; that really doesn’t matter in my book because we’ll just move since friendship is more than a singular issue; respect and admiration are difficult to earn, and just as difficult to cast aside.

True Dat for the Who Dats!

For anyone who thinks that I am making callous and bad taste judgments about individuals receiving TANF, SNAP, or other means of assistance, please read a few of my other pieces related to the subject before condemning.

https://lablouisianaboy.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/cutting-snap-and-requiring-work-aint-that-simple/
https://lablouisianaboy.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/food-stamps-the-snap-of-snap-and-laundry-on-the-field/
https://lablouisianaboy.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/what-its-like/
 

Will Louisiana Higher Education be Murdered?

When I read about the current state of higher education back in Louisiana, I wonder if I am reading excerpts from a poorly written fictional tome of travesty. When I speak with friends and peers back home, the conversations are surreal as the travesty is not a work of fiction. Higher education is dying, and it is not from natural causes.

Other sources have acknowledged the twists and turns along this sad path. Please refer to sources such as The Times Picayune, Tom Aswell’s Louisiana Voice, Dayne Sherman’s Talk About the South , and Bob Mann’s Something Like the Truth. There are other news and personal blog sites with writers who conduct high quality research and provide citations to their sources via links such as those I mentioned, but making such lists often results in inadvertent omissions even with due diligence and not off the cuff writing as I am doing here.

The issue back home is that Louisiana faces a budget deficit of $1.6 billion. To cut straight to the bone, the state must make additional cuts or bring in more revenue. The problem is how to make things work in this situation.

In this case the debacle did not happen suddenly and without warning. The drop in oil prices did not create the shortfall but simply added to it. Years of tax breaks resulted in less recurring revenue and non-recurring, one time money served as the means to balance previous budgets. Some call that kicking the can down the road, my analogy is Louisiana allows a can to rust and then begins the process of kicking that rusty can down the road.

Along with the rusty can, the state constitution specifically protects funding for certain areas which in turn channels any cuts to areas such as higher education.

A short term patch would have been collecting the lost revenue by repealing the tax breaks, closing loopholes, likely instituting new taxes. Before anyone throws the tax and spend accusations, this patch only applies after cuts have been made. Sometimes, though, there ain’t nothing left to cut.

Long term solutions would involve revising or rewriting the state constitution and making systematic changes. As I’ve written before, I am not privy to enough numbers to promote specific steps. One does not need access to the numbers, however, to realize that “fixes” such as the inventory tax idea would not result in immediate revenue regardless of whether or not one likes the proposal.

Now one would think that those who are privy to the numbers would consider a $1.6 billion deficit of the utmost importance. The state legislature begins day 10 of the state mandated 45 legislative days within a 60 day period today. Still, the House has yet to conduct any session lasting more than 4 hours. Yesterday’s session lasted all of 95 minutes. The Senate has conducted a single session lasting more than 4 hours once, but they also have 4 sessions convened and adjourned in less than an hour.

http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Times.aspx?sid=15RS&c=H

http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Times.aspx?sid=15RS&c=S

Kristy Nichols, the Commissioner of Administration, assures the people that all will be fine. According to her, “Louisiana’s leaders have been working around the clock to protect higher education and ensure our young people can continue to receive a quality education within our borders.”

Now as a professor, my definition of “around the clock” apparently differs from someone of her stature. As someone reared in a rural area on a berry farm, my definition differs as well.  As someone who has worked in occupations such as shingling roofs, plumbing, shrimping, crabbing, mechanical work, and while not me personally observed my Dad working at K&B, my definition differs.  As someone who despite my “non-work ready degrees in history” is currently refinishing our basement and using a shovel and hoe turned about 3000 pounds of topsoil, compost, and manure into our front yard to create proper sloping away from the foundation along with hopes of transforming red clay and stones into a fertile planting zone, my definition differs. It’s true that working a 12+ hour day in academia is different from blue or no collar work.  One stresses the mind and wrecks the body through lack of exercise; the other can offer a mental stress outlet via physical exertion but it ultimately wears the body out. All are valuable and most are underappreciated up until the point when someone has a direct, immediate need.

Of course those who have never taught think it’s easy. Professor Mann, an individual who holds a prestigious position at LSU as the Manship Chair of Journalism, recently came under attack by LSU Board Member and Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister for not having a workload to justify his salary.

https://www.businessreport.com/politics/rolfe-mccollister-survey-reveals-contradictions-confusion

Professor Mann provided an eloquent response on his blog.

http://bobmannblog.com/2015/04/17/my-manifesto-or-why-i-wont-stop-writing-this-blasted-blog/

Partisan blog The Hayride and its founder Scott McKay continued the attack about salary and work hours. I’m paraphrasing Mr. McKay from a radio debate with Dayne Sherman on the The Jim Engster Show, but apparently one must work 40 hours a week in the private sector to earn a salary just north of $100,000.  Now I could earn significantly more working the private sector as opposed to teaching and possibly work less hours doing so, and I do not have the same level of experience, credentials, and contacts of Bob Mann. I am younger, but he could earn more in the private sector or just by leaving the state to teach in another higher education system.

Some may believe Kristy Nichols. Some may have faith that the legislature will find the funding. I hope they do, but it’s not something that can be delayed. If state leaders were “working around the clock” and truly appreciating the overall impact of just the uncertainty, I would expect them to at least try to mitigate the short term damage by hinting that some plans were in the works.

What’s happened is that:

The worst case scenario for higher education is in excess of an 80 percent decrease in funding on top of all the previous cuts the past 7 years. Here’s an idea of what only a 35 percent decrease would do to the LSU system.

http://www.rkylealagood.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-LSU-Campus-Budget-Scenarios.pdf

At best LSU and other schools in the state would be in a fight to keep accreditation for the few programs which might remain. “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.”

For LSU and the colleges and universities in Louisiana accreditation comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACS). Essentially without accreditation, degrees from an institution are worth less than the paper upon which they are printed. Credits earned will generally not transfer to another school. Simply you lose all credibility.  For more specific information, please see Bob Mann’s “Shots fired: What’s the meaning and the fallout over LSU’s decision to threaten exigency?”

Unfortunately as some outside of academia believe, it’s not as easy as simply moving revenue from athletics to academics.

Even if you do not believe my arguments justifying the salaries of individuals such as Professor Mann, please take a look at how much adjuncts earn at any institution. Educated, highly qualified, and frankly some of the best teachers on any given campus, these adjuncts earn amounts that most of us would not be able to survive if that were our sole source of income. People sacrifice financially to teach, and I never want to experience a world without teachers. Would anyone?

Yes, we do have a problem and one would think that everything would be placed on the table to prevent damage.

Does it really matter if one believes that damage is minimal natural erosion or the result of a catastrophic hurricane?

One would think that ending tax credits or passing new taxes for revenue would be part of the discussion.

In a logical world that answer would be yes but not in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal is one of those individuals who has pledged allegiance to lobbyist Grover Norquist which takes precedence over the state constitution or even the Constitution of the United States of America. The Governor believes that he must receive clearance from Grover and Americans for Tax Reform to take any type of action.  Sadly to some these allegiances are patriotic and like Bobby they accuse the President of redefining the American dream.

At present Bobby points to corporate welfare as the enemy, and he has received permission from Grover to make those statements. Are we really expected to forget that much of this corporate welfare in the form of tax credits and rebates happened because Bobby endorsed such programs?  Actually Bobby is the modern version of the 1952 Platform Double Talk commercial for Adlai Stevenson.

http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1952

The legislature has been just as indecisive with their double talk.  The decisions or lack of action regarding Louisiana’s film tax credit is a prime example.

http://theadvocate.com/news/12227839-123/house-committee-favors-capping-film

Some people have argued that if the ‘phit hits the shan’ the legislature will authorize tax increases which Governor Bobby will veto and then the legislature simply overrides that veto to save higher education and Bobby’s delusional Presidential aspirations viable and his pledge to Grover intact.

While technically possible, a veto is unlikely under state law. In Louisiana a majority in both Chambers must declare in writing that a veto session is necessary. If a veto session convenes, it does so 40 days after the conclusion of the regular session. That might not sound daunting, but veto sessions are rare in Louisiana. I may have forgotten something, but I do not recall any vetoes since the provision went into effect in 1974.

(Bob Mann in his “The Governor of Oz” piece at http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/05/the_governor_of_oz_robert_mann.html provides a citation showing that since 1974, 2 vetoes have been successfully challenged by the state legislature. HB 112 in 1991 signed by Buddy Roemer and HB 1229 signed by Edwin Edwards in 1993. The only bill that came to my mind was the anti-abortion bill vetoed by Buddy Roemer in 1990.  The Senate voted to overturn with approximately 23 votes which in Louisiana is 3 votes short of the required 2/3 majority.  Professor Mann’s source of information concerning Louisiana vetoes is available here.)

Even with my incorrect assertion about the successful override of vetoes, it is still rare as the chart illustrates the number of bill vetoes and line item vetoes since the state Constitution went into effect. To me the concern remains the same.  Who knows how much additional damage will be inflicted during that delay and period of uncertainty.

Of course I could be wrong and Bobby Jindal might have some interests in trying to save higher education. That interest, however, is not apparent with his speechifying in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina for early presidential votes or raising funds from any and all Christian Conservative groups by pushing what he obviously believes is the most important bill before the Louisiana legislature.

That bill is HB 707, the “Marriage and Conscience Act.”

  • Bobby’s op-ed for the New York Times can be read here.
  • An interesting take by Rabbi Gabriel Greenberg on that bill can be read here.
  • The text of the bill is available here:

Sadly I believe the goal is to break down and privatize in the same manner as health care. I hope that I am proven wrong. If the people back home do not speak out, the ramifications will be far greater than many realize. It’s a virus destroying a state and nobody is immune.

Higher education back home in Louisiana is dying. The cause is attempted murder by poisoning. If people turn a blind eye, attempted will be stricken from the records, and higher education will be a lifeless body. It is We the People who will have to deal with the residuals and the ‘stink’ of death.  After the lifeless body decays the maggots and parasitic organisms will seek another host and everyone is a potential target.

Prelude to Speak Not Professors

I often use the weakest link in a chain analogy because of how easy it is to explain a harsh truth that every country boy or girl has heard, seen, and often experienced no matter how well they learned the lesson.  We sometimes have it happen because a weak link might not be readily apparent.

Even if you have never pulled a car from a ditch with a tractor, dragged logs out from the woods, or anything similar in one way, shape, or form, I suspect that everyone reading this understands that regardless of how strong something is that strength is only going to maintain itself until the weakest point gives way. Hence, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

To me that’s basic and really just plain ole common knowledge. The hardest thing is locating that weak link or section and then finding a way to overcome or bypass that weakness.  Often you can just shorten the distance and not use a known weak link. I’ve used hooks or smaller chains which allow me to bypass that weak section. While the accidents can result in a need for the procedure, the process itself ain’t brain surgery; actually it’s physics, engineering, etc., but since I don’t want to scare friends, just stuff you learn by observing, doing, and because you have to git-r-done.

Examples:

Now I can recite historical bibliography in my primary fields ad nauseam. I most likely cannot explain to anyone how to correctly dissect a circle into equal parts, but I sure as heck can take the appropriate markings on a hunk of metal and use an acetylene torch to cut you those equal parts. No, I cannot lecture on the chemistry or relate specific temperatures either. I just need to feel the metal, use some thingamabobs to determine my sections, look at the color of my torch flame, and listen to the sound of the torch both before and during the actual cutting to know what adjustments are needed. Many of my friends regardless of formal schooling or current occupation would do the exact same except they might use whatchamacallits, thingamajigs, or doohickeys instead of thingamabobs for their measurements. Heck some will even use a compass or that hinged pointy jabber stick.

You also don’t keep problems hidden or neglect to tell someone that you did a quick patch job to make something work. That problem will just get worse or that patch job will be unknowingly stressed to the point of failure resulting in unnecessary expense, time, and energy.  Showing someone that you used a piece you cut from an old inner tube and some electrical tape to make a quick patch on a radiator hose in order to finish bushhogging a field ain’t the same as airing your dirty laundry in public.

The first brings attention to the problem with the desire being to ultimately fix the problem. The second just tries to hide the problem behind a veil of stink. Unfortunately the breezes often change directions, and that stench comes up and drowns you instead of whatever or whoever happens to be over yonder.

Folks the previous two paragraphs describe some of the happenings in higher education back home in Louisiana.  It is sad what has happened within my birth state; where I attended the same public school in Livingston Parish from K through 12 and graduated as valedictorian; where I earned both BA and MA degrees before leaving the state for additional graduate school work with an intent to perhaps return and teach at one of the institutions of higher education in the state.

Please read The Sadness of LSU and Higher Education in Louisiana:  Speak Not Professors

Speak Not Professors: The Sadness of LSU and Higher Education in Louisiana

Anyone with past or present experience in the Bayou State cannot deny that significant damage has occurred in higher education.  Personally I think one of the myriad of problems is too many higher education systems exist. My opinion is that some could be merged and better coordination could take place. Whether or not that would have a major financial impact, I do not have the data to say. I think, however, that efficiency would improve leading to an easier transfer of credits among institutions with different missions and to create a better network for employment possibilities for students whether they are at a CC, the flagship, or any institution in between.

Damage, well looking at the state’s flagship university, LSU, one will see quite a number of distinguished faculty members and others who I would surmise to be quite capable administrators who have left the institution for positions in other states. That exodus diminishes the quality of a university in more ways than could be explained here. Obviously something is amiss.

In the state, the financial budgeting has been a quagmire.  The governor is more concerned with a fleeting dream of becoming president and places more credence in a pledge to a lobbyist than to the state or the country. That’s my opinion, and in a future piece I will cite multiple examples which helped shape my opinion.

Patronage, the good ole boy system remains in place. It’s not what you know, but who you know. More precisely it has progressed into not questioning who you know, but doing so not in order to thrive but just survive.

It’s sad and faculty members at LSU actually need to fear doing their jobs in a professional manner.  That may sound absurd, but a recent article from an individual appointed to the LSU Board of Supervisors did not attempt to disguise the threat to faculty for not toeing the “correct” political line.  While Supervisor Rolfe McCollister directed his threats to Professor Bob Mann, how could any faculty member not fear for his or her job?

Bob Mann is most certainly a representative of a distinguished faculty member with his research. I don’t believe my assessment is biased because I really do not know Professor Mann personally.  He was courteous and helpful back in my graduate school days when I sought assistance in locating resources for my research. Even without that minor and brief connection, I would still be an advocate for his scholarship. His initial book, Legacy to Power:  Senator Russell Long of Louisiana sits on my primary book shelf of history biographies. The Walls of Jericho and When Freedom Would Triumph are among my often recommended tomes on the Civil Rights Movement.  One of his more recent works, Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds is a shorter piece looking at primarily one specific aspect and many of my students have used it as supplemental reading for topics on Goldwater, LBJ, and the Cold War.

Publications of that quality attract top level students to research institutions. Quality research and quality teaching draws quality students, and it doesn’t take much to realize that.

What bothers me is that even if I did not have a long ago appreciation for sharing some contact information for individuals at the Old State Capitol and state archives among other places; even if I would have merely read and given those books he penned to students or colleagues instead of carrying them up and down so many flights of stairs in a number of states; even with no connection at all; I wonder why the Board Member McCollister’s criticisms against Professor Mann are ad hominin attacks instead of addressing the issues?

In Professor Mann’s columns for the Times Picayune at http://www.nola.com or on is personal blog Something Like the Truth, he writes about what he sees as problems at LSU within the scope of problems in state government. Agree or disagree with his positions, he cites his sources.  He’s informing others about the weak links of which he is aware along with the temporary patches.

If someone wishes, challenge him about a specific weak link.  If I were in the state, I’m certain that I would find points of agreement along with points of disagreement.  When disagreeing I would offer evidence to support my reasoning. If Mr. McCollister believes that Professor Mann is wrong, I would expect him or any member of the Board of Supervisors to present material which conflicts with Professor Mann’s writings. Instead, the arguments are personal.

Based upon Professor Mann’s scholarship, I think that he would welcome the conflicting information or to weigh and evaluate competing and supporting evidence. That opinion is not new or extraordinary for him or any other professor because that’s what people in our profession do. We seek out multiple sources and perspectives, evaluate, and try to convey what we have learned to others.

Instead, like I wrote above, ad hominin attacks.  The fact that Professor Mann previously worked for Senator John Breaux, Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, et al, needs to be stretched to the point of shredding to fit into debates concerning the state’s current budget debacles.

I do not know if Mr. McCollister in his personal attack of Mr. Mann along with the implied threat to other faculty members realizes that he is actually discrediting the very institution for which he serves on the Board of Supervisors. Is his failure to address the funding issues because he believes that these are not legitimate issues involving the university? As state funding has dropped, does Mr. McCollister believe that replacing that money with revenue generated by increasing student tuition and fees is the correct path?

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Mr. McCollister is 100 percent correct in his assessment of Professor Mann. What does that say about the institution where Professor Mann holds a distinguished professorship, the Manship Chair? Would the published remarks by a sitting member of the Board of Supervisor’s about a full professor foster a desire for me to enroll as a student at that university?

Even without knowledge of the state budget woes and faculty exodus, if I were some aspiring assistant professor I would not accept a job at LSU even if that were the only offer I had on the table. Why would I risk my career by not supporting the “correct” political figure?  As an associate or full professor who might bring beaucoup grant money to an institution, I would likely feel terrified thinking of working for LSU because of the politics.

Please read the articles yourselves.  Which individual is seeking to identify and find ways to replace or to fix the weak links so that the chain can still perform its job?  Which individual is simply airing the dirty laundry and spreading the stink beyond where it already smells?

I’ll shed a tear tonight for family and friends back home while being thankful that my days as a student in the state have long since passed and that my career has led me to positions outside the great state of Louisiana.

http://www.businessreport.com/politics/rolfe-mccollister-survey-reveals-contradictions-confusion

http://bobmannblog.com/2015/03/31/lsu-board-member-rolfe-mccollister-faculty-who-criticize-lsu-in-print-are-unethical/

http://bobmannblog.com/2015/03/30/in-1992-then-lsu-board-member-rolfe-mccollister-demanded-edwin-edwards-arrest-over-college-budget-cuts/

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/lsu_board_jindal_resign.html

The Attack on Louisiana: The Curious Conundrum of public and higher education, taxes, business, LABI and Mann

I am a strong supporter of public education at all levels. Admittedly I am biased when it comes to K through 12 schools and the power of public education because I attended a small rural school throughout those grades. Many teachers had been the classmates of our parents, and many of the older teachers had taught our parents. We knew our teachers, and they knew us even before stepping into the classrooms.

With that connection teachers had more than a professional obligation; they had a personal interest. Our parents respected the teachers and so did we. No I wasn’t in school back in 1969, but the sentiment of this cartoon which I believe was originally of French origin and has been replicated in numerous iterations summarizes my parent, teacher, student relationships during my public schooling.

Education Yesterday and Today

Likewise the community was vested in the school as the school was the center of the community. When people feel like the school is a piece of them, they treat it differently. It matters. When the local businesses and individuals take pride in the school, it spills over onto the students, instructional and support staffs, and the school principal.

I realize that type of continuity that we enjoyed didn’t exist everywhere even back in my day. Perhaps if I had attended an urban school or even another rural school where it was normal for families to move away from and into the area for reasons such as employment, the preceding paragraphs would in fact be rose colored glasses tinted recollections instead of an honest first person assessment.

One size fits all solutions do not exist in my opinion as each school has unique challenges. I believe that starting points, however, share common roots. Regardless of location we as a society need to respect education and the teachers. We as a society need to make our communities safe and stable environments. Children will never achieve to their fullest potential if they are afraid at home, on the way to school, or on the school grounds. They will never fully concentrate if their stomach grumbles from hunger. If children feel like nobody cares about them, what reason do they really have to care about others?

Until societal problems are addressed, the classroom problems can only be patched temporarily instead of being repaired.  Teachers alone cannot solve all the ills of the world, but from evaluations and statements by governing boards it appears that ability is expected. It is classic pass the buck ideology when it comes to blame.

I also support public universities, and again all of my degrees have been earned at public institutions. Critics today often accuse professors of indoctrination. Well if indoctrination were the goal, my professors failed.

As a student I thought that my professors worked. As an undergraduate, I found them inside their offices during their posted office hours. As a graduate student, I often had my professors assisting me at times other than official office hours. As I progressed further along the path of grad student serfdom, I found myself working alongside my major professors far away from their offices.

From the other side of the desk as a professor, I can attest that the vast majority of us work far more hours than we are technically “required” by our contracts. At a community college, the teaching load is usually a 5/5 which means 5 courses a semester. At a regional university, you might teach a 4/4.  Some research institutions have implemented 3/3 or 3/2, and now it is typically the select few which have something in line with a 2/2 or lower number of courses.

What many do not understand, however, is that the time inside the classroom whether it is 5 courses or single course is often the “break” from the workload. Preparing for that class consumes more time. At the universities you must conduct research. Many CC professors also conduct research within their disciplines, and often excellent research, even though for many that is not an official job requirement. Regardless of institution mission, we all have the responsibility to stay current in our disciplines.

Add into the “subject” hours of preparation, staying current, and research an equivalent amount of time performing college and community service. By this point, you have put in a 40 to 50 hour week which honestly ain’t bad in my opinion, but you still have to find additional time for individual meetings with current students, requests from former students for letters of recommendations or guidance on applications and other career pursuits.  At this stage, one has put in maybe 60 or so hours for the week. Again, not that bad of a workload, but now you get to start the reading and grading of papers, exams, and other assignments.

Think about this sad fact, many people today find 1000 words too long to read. Now imagine reading 40 papers that are 4 pages in length or approximately 1000 words each, marking content and grammar.  The time left in the day seems to dwindle faster than the remaining papers in the stack yet to be graded.  Still, we can do that because that is our job.  Once we complete grading those 40 papers, we just begin the papers from another section after taking a deep breath and quietly thinking “one down – 4 more sections to go.”

To compare and contrast:

I’ve worked out in fields on the farm from before sunup to well after sundown, and that’s a tough honest day’s work. I’ve laid out sewer lines and did plumbing work, mechanical work, worked inside a distribution plant, and out on the water shrimping and crabbing. I’ve seen my Dad work retail at the K&B and heard stories about when he worked as a welder. All of these types of work are admittedly different from that of a professor, but honestly each is easier in some ways and harder in other ways and ultimately become more or less the equivalent of each other.

That sweat and body aches from the farm do allow you to enjoy some fresh air and a chance to relax the mind.  If one takes breaks to stretch and move around, sitting at a desk is far less harsh on breaking down the body than the physical labor required for other jobs.

Simply stated, my research and paper grading does not result in the same aches and pains to the body that I experienced working in other areas, but the mind can become tightly wound without ready access to pressure releasing valves such as breaking apart a pipe with a hammer or just slapping the water as you haul in your traps. It may be different pains and strains, but it can be the same.  All things have their positives and negatives, and what might be a negative for you is a positive for me at our respective stages in life.  What stressed me 15 years ago is nothing today, and things that cause me physical discomfort today were nothing 15 years ago. There is nothing wrong about that because we are different, and we all change. To me the important thing isn’t necessarily what you do, but the pride and effort you put into whatever work you do.

Now all that I wrote above merely puts some of the idiocy taking place back home into context.

Higher education in the state of Louisiana has been decimated.  The state constitution does make higher education one of the two losers when budget problems occur, but that fact doesn’t excuse the budget problems. It would take a master’s thesis to describe the cuts, and that information is readily available in a variety of sources.

I do not have access to actual figures, so some of my thoughts need to be taken with a grain of salt. One, I have always thought that Louisiana has too many higher education systems and boards.  I believe some should be combined under one umbrella. While this work has been done a number of times, I think it is a good practice to continually review programs at the regional universities and make efforts to further reduce duplication while using any additional resources to strengthen specific programs at the different institutions.

I feel like Louisiana dropped the ball in how long it delayed in starting a real community college system. Likewise I believe that the community colleges are not being used to their full potential. The CCs should be the place for students who desire 4 year degrees to strengthen weaknesses in their academic and personal preparation. That type of grounding should be minimal at the 4 year institution level. CCs should be a lower cost alternative for students to earn many of the survey level credits they need with easy transfer to 4 year institutions. CCs should be the place to learn skills and receive certifications for specific jobs.  CCs should be an avenue for anyone wanting to make a career change or transition.

Yes some of that is taking place, but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be improved. What I’m asserting is that CCs need the ability to adapt to the area they serve to fulfill the needs of the business and industry in that area. Community colleges need to be ready to provide the skills necessary to perform the jobs which are available and needed within the area. Those areas could always be a state of continual flux.

The same can be said of the universities, but that adaptation is with different areas that often need more time for tangible success to become readily apparent.

I agree that we need more STEM graduates, and remember that my degrees are in history. Let me qualify though that we need STEM graduates, but we need STEM graduates who also have backgrounds in Liberal Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, or whatever umbrella grouping you wish to give. Without that background, many STEM graduates have been trained to complete specific jobs. That’s not a criticism of either student or professor. It’s just a reflection about a different type of knowledge which needs to be conveyed within many disciplines. When one adds knowledge of the Liberal Arts, those STEM graduates have a better understanding of how to think outside the box, and to adjust their skills to better meet the needs at hand. Yes, some can think outside the box without Liberal Arts, but those subjects help hone important skills.  It might not be readily obvious, but those with Liberal Arts degrees can thrive in business and technical fields using the lessons learned in a variety of diverse courses.

On a personal level I might only have graduate degrees in history, and my wife might only have graduate degrees in Political Science, but we are both able to read, comprehend, and evaluate scientific and medical journal articles about vestibular conditions and certain neurological processes. We did not start that reading for enjoyment, but because of the vestibular disruption that left me bedridden for a year 6 years ago.

At Johns Hopkins, an MD PhD who examined me started giving me some literature written for the layperson.  He then remarked, “he^& you’re a history professor, not a scientist, so you’re probably a better reader than me,” and began making photocopies from professional journals while sending a resident to his office to retrieve copies of some of his research in progress. His concluding words were to contact him if I had terminology questions or wanted references for background reading to clarify the research conclusions. Being non-STEM trained people, it mostly entailed our “normal” practice of reading footnotes and then reading the source from which that footnote had been taken before really digging into the sources to find information when necessary.

Of course I’m not going to write something for a medical journal or attempt to diagnose a patient, but I adapted the steps I learned from the study of history to be able to read and understand the medical.  It’s not much different than back on the farm and my Grandfather telling me that I needed to get stuff from over yonder to the work shed.  It’s not much different than my junior high science teacher, Mr. Frank, asking me to figure out and then explain why the door to this storage shed on the campus no longer closed, fix the problem for now and then prevent it from happening again.

A boy learns about leverage, using pulleys, block and tackles, and making what we called stone sleds to move stuff many times his weight. A boy sees how humidity causes an interior wooden door to swell when it was wrongly placed outdoors. Then it really involved common sense to use a hand plane to shave the door down so that it could open and close.  Using treated lumber and properly sealing it for a new door is neither rocket science nor reading the Odyssey. It’s just realizing that education is not just knowledge, but being able to apply knowledge when needed. A history professor and political scientist can learn medical terminology and jargon. Education is book learning, experience, making mistakes, figuring out why you made a mistake and then rectifying that cause, and so much more.

It’s the failure to recognize the connections that scare me.

When I read the piece written by Professor Bob Mann linked below on his blog, Something Like the Truth, the LABI silence had me puzzled at first. Puzzled, that is until I read the identity of the new leader at LABI.

http://bobmannblog.com/2015/03/04/labi-higher-education/

Then I read these tweets which are linked below

http://bobmannblog.com/2015/03/05/this-is-what-happens-when-a-college-professor-criticizes-labi/

Those tweets illustrate a factor that I’m going to coin as the “Curious Conundrum,” on the same vein as Kenneth Stamp described slavery as the Peculiar Institution.  The Curious Conundrum is that if you cannot address the questions or accept the criticism, just blame the person who posed the questions. It just seems a step or two beyond the usual ad hominem responses so common today.

Sadly, it’s not about education. It’s not about what is in the best interests of business and the state. It’s about personal profit and political aspirations.

It’s about people and groups with no ties or connections making the decisions that lead to destruction for many who do not have the means or desire to escape because they believe that their community is a part of them just as they are vital part of the community.

Professor Mann’s column linked below in the New Orleans paper is just one of many examples about the influence of outside factors which relegate common sense into obsolescence. It’s one of my common subjects as people who know me can attest.

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/in_jindals_world_tax_is_a_tax.html

It was not so long ago that The Kingfish, Huey Long, had his Louisiana Progress to spread his message. All state employees subscribed to the paper and specific individuals and agencies were encouraged to take out advertisements. Failure to subscribe resulted in a lack of knowledge which typically meant you lost your job. Failing to buy an advertisement would deter financials which ultimately caused the closure of the business or dismantling of the agency. Corrupt as those practices may have been, Huey really made those facts perfectly clear to everyone.

Today, a desire to be the next Huey Long in terms of power may be there, but the methods in attempting to achieve that goal are not freely admitted.  One reason is that current attempts to become a Kingfish are not even to the level of happiness one receives when the speckled trout on his line turns into a hardhead catfish once pulled out of the Gulf.

You have not only lost that satisfying anticipation taste of the speck, but in trying to free that hardhead from your hook the fish catches you with that spine causing significant physical pain. {That’s sarcastic font, and I experienced that speck and hardhead switch many times down at Grand Isle which are not so fond memories}

Actually after reading the tweets it appears that the ideas of education, community, and business working together are akin to the combination of water and the BP oil that spilled into the Gulf.

When that oil and water attempted to mix, the impact upon every aspect of the Gulf Coast resulted in the end of an era of history, the lifestyle of the present, the end of businesses many generations old, and nobody can really tell what the future might be.  Education and health care in Louisiana are facing similar devastation, and it seems like the Governor and groups like LABI have at best limited interests when they should be totally vested.

It’s a sad, yet Curious Conundrum.

Susan Collins from University of Michigan, Kelly File, I hate Republicans flapping air

The Problem with “News”

Often it ain’t news. Often it’s sensationalized rhetoric meant to appease one’s base. Often even the most rudimentary level of knowledge or research blows the entire story until…heck until it blows. Disclaimer: I’m subjected to far fewer examples of MSNBC or so-called liberal “news” than I was 15 years ago, but I’m confident to opinionate that “news” from that side blew then and blows harder today. In my opinion neither ideological side has a monopoly on either good or bad reporting.

A “news” example for today:

Here is FOX News Insider and an excerpt from the Kelly File with Mike Huckabee as in studio guest where the host and former Governor discussed “I hate Republicans.” To its credit, those who read this FOX blog actually read the 132 words receive more factual information than from the 5 minute 27 second report from the Kelly File. The reason is because the blog actually links the original column by Susan Collins of the University of Michigan originally titled “We Can’t All Just Get Along” and subsequently changed in electronic copies to “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.”

http://insider.foxnews.com/2014/12/18/university-michigan-professor-pens-why-i-hate-republicans-column

She does not cite references for some of her assertions and statistics. For example, I cannot verify the numbers, but I believe this hypothesis to be correct with some caveats such as I would need some accounting for regional data especially for the 1960 contention. I would also need some modes in place in account for the concept of variable change in my statistical analysis.

While I have only perused her primary citation: “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization” by Shanto Iyengar (Chandler Chair of Communication and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and Sean J. Westwood (Post-Doctoral Researcher at Princeton University), it is more valid research than that suggested by Governor Huckabee or Megan Kelly.

http://pcl.stanford.edu/research/2014/iyengar-ajps-group-polarization.pdf

While Collins does not cite a source for the two core dimensions of conservative thought, much of the older political theory literature supports the idea of “resistance to change” or in my vernacular “same ole, same ole.” More recent literature, however, challenges the two core dimension idea. Likewise, if inequality does exist, the maintenance of that inequality would be conservative by definition of the ideological term. Personally my feeling would be more in line with the more recent literature as I have a difficult time with a static two sides approach on many issues. In my discipline of history, we have schools of historical bibliography where the difference in interpretation is often a differing perspective and not the introduction of new source material. In the brief piece by Collins, a trained political scientist would likely question more of her contentions just as she as a communications professor would question my statements within her field. Obviously the political historian combined with being a southern historian is going to contradict with the political scientist as will be evidenced by the discussions my wife and I will likely have later concerning this blog entry.

As Collins wrote:

“According to researchers, the two core dimensions of conservative thought are resistance to change and support for inequality. These, in turn, are core elements of social intolerance. The need for certainty, the need to manage fear of social change, lead to black-and-white thinking and an embrace of stereotypes. Which could certainly lead to a desire to deride those not like you—whether people of color, LGBT people or Democrats. And, especially since the early 1990s, Republican politicians and pundits have been feeding these needs with a single-minded, uncomplicated, good-vs.-evil worldview that vilifies Democrats.

So now we hate them back. And for good reason. Which is too bad. I miss the Fred Lippitts of yore and the civilized discourse and political accomplishments they made possible. And so do millions of totally fed-up Americans.”

http://inthesetimes.com/article/17426/theres_good_reason_to_hate_republicans

Simply put it would be quite easy to write a similar piece with the opening “I hate Democrats.” When placing those openings in the context of this article or another written in the same style, the argument will be the same. That argument is the increasing continuum of polarization.

Looking at the comments from the online article linked in the FOX blog, that fact remains evident. Obviously FOX, Megan Kelly, and Governor Huckabee did not put forth even a minimal effort to read either the article penned by Collins, the paper written by Iyengar and Westwood, or any of the approximately 6 pages of references which they include in a brief bibliography for their research.

Is it news reporting…not so much. Regardless of personal ideological feelings, it is a necessity to utilize multiple sources from different perspectives and to read the primary source materials if you want some degree of accuracy.

As for me, I’ll sing:  Whar oh whar has the Blue Dog Gone, whar oh whar can he be? Could he be with the Progressive GOP? Could it be they’re both lost at sea? Oh whar oh whar can both be to end all this bickering and crying that we see?