Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The difference is that those who want to shape the message to fit their political goals have no intention of telling you the "real deal" as it would invalidate their POV. Most combat Veterans will tell you that they know the real deal and will tell it like it is, as HONOR dictates their course of actions.
Tonight, POTUS will try to claim the mantel of success for the conclusion of combat operations in Iraq. The real credit belongs to those who paid of it in blood, sweat & tears.
Vice President Biden was quoted in 2007 as saying the planned surge was a "failure" and would not succeed. You won't hear him coming out tonight to state he was wrong as that is something he is incapable of doing.
Instead, read the words of the man who knew what was best, along with what would work as he has experienced combat firsthand and has HONOR, a quality that POTUS & VPOTUS sorely lack.
The War You're Not Reading About
By John McCain
Sunday, April 8, 2007
I just returned from my fifth visit to Iraq since 2003 -- and my first since Gen. David Petraeus's new strategy has started taking effect. For the first time, our delegation was able to drive, not use helicopters, from the airport to downtown Baghdad. For the first time, we met with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province who are working with American and Iraqi forces to combat al-Qaeda. For the first time, we visited Iraqi and American forces deployed in a joint security station in Baghdad -- an integral part of the new strategy. We held a news conference to discuss what we saw: positive signs, underreported in the United States, that are reason for cautious optimism.
I observed that our delegation "stopped at a local market, where we spent well over an hour, shopping and talking with the local people, getting their views and ideas about different issues of the day." Markets in Baghdad have faced devastating terrorist attacks. A car bombing at Shorja in February, for example, killed 137 people. Today the market still faces occasional sniper attacks, but it is safer than it used to be. One innovation of the new strategy is closing markets to vehicles, thereby precluding car bombs that kill so many and garner so much media attention. Petraeus understandably wanted us to see this development.
I went to Iraq to gain a firsthand view of the progress in this difficult war, not to celebrate any victories. No one has been more critical of sunny progress reports that defied realities in Iraq. In 2003, after my first visit, I argued for more troops to provide the security necessary for political development. I disagreed with statements characterizing the insurgency as a "few dead-enders" or being in its "last throes." I repeatedly criticized the previous search-and-destroy strategy and argued for a counterinsurgency approach: separating the reconcilable population from the irreconcilable and creating enough security to facilitate the political and economic solutions that are the only way to defeat insurgents. This is exactly the course that Petraeus and the brave men and women of the American military are pursuing.
The new political-military strategy is beginning to show results. But most Americans are not aware because much of the media are not reporting it or devote far more attention to car bombs and mortar attacks that reveal little about the strategic direction of the war. I am not saying that bad news should not be reported or that horrific terrorist attacks are not newsworthy. But news coverage should also include evidence of progress. Whether Americans choose to support or oppose our efforts in Iraq, I hope they could make their decision based on as complete a picture of the situation in Iraq as is possible to report. A few examples:
· Sunni sheikhs in Anbar are now fighting al-Qaeda. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited Anbar's capital, Ramadi, to meet with Sunni tribal leaders. The newly proposed de-Baathification legislation grew out of that meeting. Police recruitment in Ramadi has increased dramatically over the past four months.
· More than 50 joint U.S.-Iraqi stations have been established in Baghdad. Regular patrols establish connections with the surrounding neighborhood, resulting in a significant increase in security and actionable intelligence.
· Extremist Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr is in hiding, his followers are not contesting American forces, sectarian violence has dropped in Baghdad and we are working with the Shiite mayor of Sadr City.
· Iraqi army and police forces are increasingly fighting on their own and with American forces, and their size and capability are growing. Iraqi army and police casualties have increased because they are fighting more.
Despite these welcome developments, we should have no illusions. This progress is not determinative. It is simply encouraging. We have a long, tough road ahead in Iraq. But for the first time since 2003, we have the right strategy. In Petraeus, we have a military professional who literally wrote the book on fighting this kind of war. And we will have the right mix and number of forces.
There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but we must try. As every sensible observer has concluded, the consequences of failure in Iraq are so grave and so threatening for the region, and to the security of the United States, that to refuse to give Petraeus's plan a chance to succeed would constitute a tragic failure of American resolve. I hope those who cite the Iraq Study Group's conclusions note that James Baker wrote on this page last week that we must have bipartisan support for giving the new strategy time to succeed. This is not a moment for partisan gamesmanship or for one-sided reporting. The stakes are just too high.
The writer is a Republican senator from Arizona.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Consider the following definition :
Taliban--fundamentalist Islamic clerics currently attempting to control Afghanistan; the Taliban have achieved worldwide notoriety for their drastic imposition of their own severe interpretation of Islamic law on the Afghan society
In the enclosed article by James Taranto, he describes what has been called "
Oikophobia or "fear of the familiar: - the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' "
I make an additional supposition... that the Liberal Elite in America are using the same methods as the Taliban. If the Taliban "have achieved worldwide notoriety for their drastic imposition of their own severe interpretation of Islamic law on the Afghan society", it is my supposition that the Liberal Elite " have achieved worldwide notoriety for their drastic imposition of their own severe interpretation of Liberal interpretations of our laws on the AMERICAN society."
The only difference is that those who are trying to make us feel shameful about the America we love have not started beheading "Infidels", re: YOU & ME.....
It's time the voters went JIHAD on the "American Liberal Taliban"....November is the time and the best weapon is your right to vote for the candidate of YOUR choice - send them a message - Fire for full effect.
Why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.
By JAMES TARANTO - WSJ
If you think it's offensive for a Muslim group to exploit the 9/11 atrocity, you're an anti-Muslim bigot and un-American to boot. It is a claim so bizarre, so twisted, so utterly at odds with common sense that it's hard to believe anyone would assert it except as some sort of dark joke. Yet for the past few weeks, it has been put forward, apparently in all seriousness, by those who fancy themselves America's best and brightest, from the mayor of New York all the way down to Peter Beinart.
What accounts for this madness? Charles Krauthammer notes a pattern:
Promiscuous charges of bigotry are precisely how our current rulers and their vast media auxiliary react to an obstreperous citizenry that insists on incorrect thinking.
-- Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.
-- Disgust and alarm with the federal government's unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.
-- Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.
-- Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia.
Now we know why the country has become "ungovernable," last year's excuse for the Democrats' failure of governance: Who can possibly govern a nation of racist, nativist, homophobic Islamophobes?
Krauthammer portrays this as a cynical game: "Note what connects these issues. In every one, liberals have lost the argument in the court of public opinion. . . . What's a liberal to do? Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument."
But this has its limits as a political strategy. Krauthammer writes that "the Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November," and no one will credit him for boldness in that prediction. Some may disagree with his reckoning as to the reason for that likely loss: that "a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them."
But can anyone argue that a show of contempt is a winning political strategy? The question answers itself and implies that the contempt is genuine.
What is the nature of this contempt? In part it is the snobbery of the cognitive elite, exemplified by a recent New York Times Web column by Timothy Egan called "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings"--or by the viciousness directed at Sarah Palin, whose folksy demeanor and state-college background seem terribly déclassé not just to liberals but to a good number of conservatives in places like New York City.
In more cerebral moments, the elitists of the left invoke a kind of Marxism Lite to explain away opinions and values that run counter to their own. Thus Barack Obama's notorious remark to the effect that economic deprivation embitters the proles, so that they cling to guns and religion. (Ironically, Obama recently said through a spokesman that he is Christian.) Here's Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's labor secretary, explaining "The Anatomy of Intolerance" to readers of TalkingPointsMemo.com:
Many Americans (and politicians who [sic] the polls) don't want a mosque at Manhattan's Ground Zero. . . .
Where is all this coming from?
It's called fear. When people are deeply anxious about holding on to their homes, their jobs, and their savings, they look for someone to blame. And all too often they find it in "the other"--in people who look or act differently, who come from foreign lands, who have what seem to be strange religions, who cross our borders illegally. . . .
Economic fear is the handmaiden of intolerance. It's used by demagogues who redirect the fear and anger toward people and groups who aren't really to blame but are easy scapegoats.
So if some Americans are afraid of people "who have what seem to be strange religions," it must be a totally irrational reaction to "economic insecurity." It couldn't possibly have anything to do with an act of mass murder committed in the name of the religion in question.
And Reich doesn't just fail to see the obvious. He dehumanizes his fellow Americans by treating their values, feelings and opinions as no more than reflexive reactions to material conditions. Americans in fact are a very tolerant people. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was no serious backlash against Muslims. What makes them angry--what makes us angry--is the bigotry of the elites.
The Ground Zero mosque is an affront to the sensibilities of ordinary Americans. "The center's association with 9/11 is intentional and its location is no geographic coincidence," as the Associated Press has reported. That Americans would find this offensive is a matter of simple common sense. The liberal elites cannot comprehend common sense, and, incredibly, they think that's a virtue. After all, common sense is so common.
The British philosopher Roger Scruton has coined a term to describe this attitude: oikophobia. Xenophobia is fear of the alien; oikophobia is fear of the familiar: "the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' " What a perfect description of the pro-mosque left.
Scruton was writing in 2004, and his focus was on Britain and Europe, not America. But his warning about the danger of oikophobes--whom he amusingly dubs "oiks"--is very pertinent on this side of the Atlantic today, and it illuminates how what are sometimes dismissed as mere matters of "culture" tie in with economic and social policy:
The oik repudiates national loyalties and defines his goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed on us from on high by the EU or the UN, though without troubling to consider Terence's question, and defining his political vision in terms of universal values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community.
The oik is, in his own eyes, a defender of enlightened universalism against local chauvinism. And it is the rise of the oik that has led to the growing crisis of legitimacy in the nation states of Europe. For we are seeing a massive expansion of the legislative burden on the people of Europe, and a relentless assault on the only loyalties that would enable them voluntarily to bear it. The explosive effect of this has already been felt in Holland and France. It will be felt soon everywhere, and the result may not be what the oiks expect.
There is one important difference between the American oik and his European counterpart. American patriotism is not a blood-and-soil nationalism but an allegiance to a country based in an idea of enlightened universalism. Thus our oiks masquerade as--and may even believe themselves to be--superpatriots, more loyal to American principles than the vast majority of Americans, whom they denounce as "un-American" for feeling an attachment to their actual country as opposed to a collection of abstractions.
Yet the oiks' vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ."
This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
It isn't that "we just don't understand" him, it is rather that HE JUST DOESN'T UNDERSTAND or "get it" when it comes to the American public....HE & his Euro-jetting wife are clueless because THEY DON"T GET IT....with "IT" being the American way of life, what Americans expect from a President or how badly they are doing because they have the wrong people in the wrong jobs in the Administration whose ideas they "think" are right are dead-wrong.....
We Just Don't Understand
Americans look at the President and see a stranger
All presidents take vacations, and all are criticized for it. It's never the right place, the right time. Ronald Reagan went to the ranch, George W. Bush to Crawford, both got knocked. Bill Clinton even poll-tested a vacation site and still was criticized. But Martha's Vineyard—elite, upscale—can't have done President Obama any good, especially following the first lady's foray in Spain. The general feeling this week was summed up by David Letterman: "He'll have plenty of time for vacations when his one term is up. Plenty of time."
The president's position is not good. The past few months have been one long loss of ground. His numbers have dipped well below 50%. Top Democrats tell Politico the House is probably lost and the Senate is in jeopardy. "Recovery summer" is coming to look like "mission accomplished." The president is losing the center.
And on top of that, he is still a mystery to a lot of people.
Actually, what is confounding is that he seems more a mystery to people now than he did when they elected him president.
The president is overexposed, yet on some level the picture is blurry. He's in your face on TV, but you still don't fully get him. People categorize him in political terms: "He's a socialist," "He's a pragmatic progressive." But beyond that disagreement, things get murky. When you think about his domestic political decisions, it's hard to tell if he's playing a higher game or a clueless game. Is he playing three-dimensional chess, or is he simply out of his depth?
Underscoring the unknowns is the continuing question about him and those around him: How did they read the public mood so well before the presidency and so poorly after? In his first 19 months on the job, the president has often focused on issues that were not the top priority of the American people. He was thinking about one thing—health care—when they were thinking about others—the general economy, deficits. He's on one subject, they're on another. He has been contradictory: I'm for the mosque, I didn't say I'm for the mosque. He's detached from the Gulf oil spill, he's all about the oil spill.
All of this strikes people, understandably, as perplexing. "I don't get what he's doing." Which becomes, in time, "I don't get who he is." In an atmosphere of such questioning they'll consider any and all possibilities, including, apparently, that he is a Muslim. Which, according to a recent Pew poll, 18% think he is. That is up from 11% in February 2009.
Liberals and the left are indignant about this, and angry. For a week all you heard from cable anchors was "PEOPLE think OBAMA is a MUSLIM. It's in the POLLS. How do you EXPLAIN it?" Every time I heard it, I'd think: Maybe it's because you keep screaming it.
Some of the reason for the relatively high number of people who believe he holds to one faith when in fact he has always said he holds to another, is the steady drumbeat of the voices arrayed against Mr. Obama, that are arrayed against any modern president, and will be against the next one too. But surely some of it is that a lot of people are just trying to figure him out. In that atmosphere they'll consider everything.
When the American people have looked at the presidents of the past few decades they could always sort of say, "I know that guy." Bill Clinton: Southern governor. Good ol' boy, drawlin', flirtin', got himself a Rhodes Scholarship. "I know that guy." George W. Bush: Texan, little rough around the edges, good family, youthful high jinks, stopped drinking, got serious. "I know that guy." Ronald Reagan was harder to peg, but you still knew him: small-town Midwesterner, moved on and up, serious about politics, humorous, patriotic. "I know that guy." Barack Obama? Sleek, cerebral, detached, an academic from Chicago by way of Hawaii and Indonesia. "You know what? I don't know that guy!"
He doesn't fit any categories. He won in 2008 by 9.5 million votes anyway because he was a break with Mr. Bush, and people assumed they'd get to know him. But his more unusual political decisions, and the sometimes contradictory and confusing nature of his leadership, haven't ameliorated or done away with his unusualness. They've heightened it.
The fact that the public doesn't fully understand or have a clear fix on the president leads to many criticisms of his leadership. One is that a leader must show and express the emotions of the people, and he's not very good at it. But I doubt people want a president who goes around emoting, and in any case it's not his job. What people really want, in part, is someone who understands their basic assumptions because, actually, he shares them. It's not "Show us you care!" it's "Be a guy I know. Be someone I get!"
The president is a person who knows how to focus and seems to have a talent for it. But again, his focus is on other things. When a president and a nation are focused together on the same things, the possibility of progress is increased. When they are focused on different things, there is more discord and tension. Mr. Obama's supporters like to compare him with Reagan: 18 months in he had difficulties in the polls too, and a recession. But Reagan was focused on what the American people were focused on: the economy, the size and role of government, the challenge of the Soviet Union. And on the eternal No. 1 issue, the economy, Reagan had a plan that seemed to make sense, in rough terms to try to cut spending and taxes, and force out inflation. People were willing to give it a try. Mr. Obama's plan, to a lot of people, does not make sense, or does not seem fully pertinent, or well-executed.
Mr. Obama seems to be a very independent person, like someone who more or less brought himself up, a child with wandering parents, and grandparents who seem to have been highly individualistic. He is focused on what individually interests him. He relies most on his own thinking. He focused on health care, seeing the higher logic. The people focused on something else. But he's always had faith in his ability to think it through.
Now he's hit a roadblock, and in November's elections he will hit another, bigger one. One wonders if he will come to reconsider his heavy reliance on his own thoughts. His predecessor did not brag about his résumé and teased himself about his lack of giant intellect, but he had utmost faith in his gut. By 2006, when he had realized he had reason to doubt even that, he flailed. The presidency has a way of winnowing you down.
The great question is what happens after November. The hope of the White House, which knows it is about to take a drubbing, is probably this: that the Republicans in Congress will devolve into a freak show, overplay their hand, lose their focus, be a little too colorful. If that meme emerges—and the media will be looking for it—the Republicans may wind up giving the president the positive definition he lacks. They could save him.
The White House must be hoping that a year from now, people will start looking at the president and saying "Hey, I do know that guy. He's the moderate."
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
In reality, 48 hours is a short time but while you are waiting in place here, it can seem like a much longer time than it is.
The interesting part is looking at the News from back home, especially when the 7 day Weather forecast includes days where you will be there to experience that day's weather.
I'll bide the remaining time and do what I can until that moment when I can get on the bus, and take that last ride out to the flightline......GOING HOME.....more sweeter words are not known to this tired desert warrior......I am ready-to-go.
“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” - Charles Dickens
Monday, August 23, 2010
To me, it comes down to two things - Tolerance & sensitivity
We have recently been "lectured" by POTUS regarding religous freedom, etc.
Thanks for the POV - Try to do your REAL job when you get a chance (when you're not on your 8th vacation), will ya? Solve the larger issues like the economy and the overtaxing of the middle class instead of wading into a issue that should be resolved by someone other than you. You really didn't help the issue and it only made you look MORE ineffective than you presently are (no small feat mind you).
My only aspect of this issue is that you don't build a prison next to a church, or a liquor store next to a daycare or a strip club near women's shelter. You should and they should understand that this issue is making it difficult to move forward for those that suffered the greatest loss.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was on the grounds of the World Trade Center. It was destroyed on 9/11 and will not be rebuilt due to bearucratic stupidity. Tell me that is something that should still be in process after 9 years. It should be back in place but POTUS is more concerned about the proposed Mosque than the Church.
The BLUE CORNER BLOG http://www.bluecollarcorner.com/blog/?p=750
has started a "HARD HAT PLEDGE" webpage where people from all over the country can sign up to support construction workers pledging not to assist or work on the proposed site of the Mosque.
The issue is not " Religous Freedom " - The issue is about common decency and an understanding that while regular Muslims did not cause the issue, they should understand that regular Americans are hurt and need the ability to grieve.
The decent thing to do would be to select an alternate site and help heal the wound from 9 years ago that will not heal as long as others continue to pick at it.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Lesson Today at School -- We canned teachers, got Federal Stimulus $$$ and now won't rehire anyone....Talk about a high crimes & treason
Virginia Lee Hunter for The New York Times
By MOTOKO RICH
Published: August 17, 2010
The money for schools to rehire teachers, counselors and support workers is instead being set aside by school districts worried about cuts to come in the current school year
As schools handed out pink slips to teachers this spring, states made a beeline to Washington to plead for money for their ravaged education budgets. But now that the federal government has come through with $10 billion, some of the nation’s biggest school districts are balking at using their share of the money to hire teachers right away.
With the economic outlook weakening, they argue that big deficits are looming for the next academic year and that they need to preserve the funds to prevent future layoffs. Los Angeles, for example, is projecting a $280 million budget shortfall next year that could threaten more jobs.
“You’ve got this herculean task to deal with next year’s deficit,” said Lydia L. Ramos, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest after New York City.
“So if there’s a way that you can lessen the blow for next year,” she said, “we feel like it would be responsible to try to do that.”
The district laid off 682 teachers and counselors and about 2,000 support workers this spring and was not sure it would be able to hire any of them back with the stimulus money. The district says it could be forced to cut 4,500 more people next year.
In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg committed to no teacher layoffs this year in exchange for not offering raises. A spokeswoman said the city’s budget had already taken the federal aid into account.
In New Jersey, where about 3,000 teachers were let go in May, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration worries that the federal aid will only forestall difficult decisions later, and it is unclear how much will be spent immediately.
“It’s a real double-edged sword,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor. “This money will not be there next year, and we’re not going to get back up to the funding that they had previously been used to.”
A $26 billion federal aid package, signed by President Obama on Aug. 10, allocates $10 billion for school districts to retain or rehire teachers, counselors, classroom aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and others — with the remainder of the money directed toward health care for the poor, emergency personnel and other state purposes.
The education measure requires states to distribute the money for the current school year, but allows school districts to spend it as late as September 2012. It also allows schools to roll back furlough days. The education department estimates it could salvage about 160,000 jobs.
“We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe,” President Obama said last week. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Though preserving jobs will be good for the economy, it will disappoint out-of-work teachers and parents who have been expecting a surge in rehiring. Many districts, like Kansas City, Kan., face the likelihood of midyear cuts, and administrators will count themselves lucky to save jobs. In the nation’s fifth-largest district in Clark County in Las Vegas, administrators are eager to hire some teachers, though they wonder what they will do when the federal money runs out.
“We’re a little wary about hiring people if we only have money for a year, but we know that’s the intent of this bill,” said Jeff Weiler, chief financial officer for Clark County schools.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry so far has rejected the new federal education dollars. Should he relent, Houston’s superintendent, Terry B. Grier, proposes to use $40 million to $70 million of it to extend the school day and year, and to hire tutors. He does not plan to rehire 414 people — including quite a few certified teachers — laid off from the central office staff.
“We can’t treat this money as if it’s a supplement to a jobs bill,” Mr. Grier said. “I want to put people to work to help children.”
Still other obstacles loom for districts, not the least of which is timing. School has resumed in many districts in struggling states, including Arizona, California and Illinois. Assigning new teachers and juggling classrooms could disrupt students. In California, the budget picture is further clouded by the state’s failure to pass its own budget for the coming year.
Even administrators in districts that start school after Labor Day have only weeks to rearrange class rosters. And with classes largely set in many places, they might more quickly deploy the money by hiring support personnel, like those tutors in Houston.
In Arizona, where most schools opened this month, nonteaching employees are more likely to be recalled. “It would be hard to add teachers this year,” said Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer. “But the funds could be used on any school-level position like counselors, after-school programs, aides, nurses or coaches.”
Teachers’ unions are strongly urging districts to use the money right away to keep class sizes manageable and to reduce the jobless rolls. “The intent is to help districts avert layoffs now,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Kids don’t have a pause button.”
Joelle Beck, a 25-year-old high school English teacher in O’Fallon, Ill., received notice in March that she would be laid off at the end of the school year. She recently was hired to oversee an in-school suspension program for just over half the pay she received as a classroom teacher.
“When the economy first started going downhill,” Ms. Beck said, “I naïvely told my husband, ‘Well, they’re always going to need teachers.’ ”
With the national unemployment rate stuck at 9.5 percent and private sector companies hiring cautiously, local governments are an important source of jobs and consumer spending power.
State and local governments have let go 102,000 more employees than they have added in the last three months, and economists are concerned that with revenue so depressed, school payrolls could shrink more in coming months.
Though grateful for the aid, districts like Los Angeles are worried about how to create some budget stability year to year. In Pomona, Calif., the district has yet to decide whether to hire back about 68 teachers laid off in the spring.
“We’re also looking at a pretty bad budget, so we may decide to hold all or some of the money for the next year,” said Steve Horowitz, assistant superintendent of personnel services at the Pomona Unified School District. He added that the money might be used for bus drivers or custodians, or to roll back five furlough days for teachers.
Administrators in South Florida hope that an economic upturn, particularly in travel and tourism, will help close their future budget gap and are planning to bring back teachers. At the Broward County Public Schools, an operating deficit of at least $145 million is expected next school year.
“Frankly, from my perspective, it’s better to hire them now,” said James F. Notter, superintendent for Broward. Of the 1,300 pink slips to school workers in the spring, about 555 went to teachers. The district has recalled nearly 400 of them and now hopes to use the federal aid to rehire the remaining 155.
Teachers who spent the summer in limbo are painfully aware that at best, the new federal aid may be a temporary lifeline. Latravis Bernard, who was laid off last spring as a physical education teacher at an elementary school in Miramar, Fla., for the second year in a row, is holding out hope he will be recalled.
In the meantime, Mr. Bernard, a 33-year-old father of four, has accepted a post as a special education intern, for half his previous pay, at a different school in the Broward district.
“Even if I get brought back this year,” he said, “what’s going to happen next year? It’s really discouraging.”
What's It Like to Be a Tourist in North Korea?
An American business professor, Patrick Chovanec, visits fields, casinos, and kindergartens in North Korea -- and explains how the Hermit Kingdom is and is not like Mordor.
INTERVIEW BY CHRISTINA LARSON AUGUST 16, 2010
ForeignPolicy.com ©2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC. All rights reserved
On special guided trips, arranged for tourists and permitted by Pyongyang, Patrick Chovanec, a professor at Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management in Beijing, has twice visited North Korea. On each trip, he and his fellow travelers were accompanied by official guides, only permitted in certain areas, and asked to delete "objectionable" photos from their digital cameras. Yet the visits afforded Chovanec a rare glimpse inside the Hermit Kingdom.
FP recently caught up with Chovanec to share his experiences to take us, vicariously, inside Kim Il Sung's mausoleum, a North Korean classroom, and a gilded casino that has seen better days. What we learned: North Korea is indeed a real place, where ordinary people must make due in extraordinary circumstances.
Foreign Policy: When were you in North Korea -- and where did you visit?
Patrick Chovanec: I've made two trips to North Korea. The first was two years ago, in October 2008. I visited the capital, Pyongyang, and some surrounding sites including the DMZ [demilitarized zone]. It was organized as part of a special U.S. citizen tour invited to witness the Mass Games. At the time, we were told our group marked the 1000th U.S. citizen to visit the country since the end of the Korean War.
I just returned from my second trip in July. This time I saw a very different part of the country, the Rason "Special Economic Zone" in the far northeast corner of North Korea, bordering Russia and China. Only a handful of Americans -- or any Westerners, for that matter -- have been allowed to go there. This is the border zone where the two U.S. journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, were captured last year.
FP: What kind of restrictions do foreign visitors face? Were you free to move about?
PC: Most Americans tend to assume that traveling to North Korea is illegal, like Cuba, but that's incorrect. There are economic sanctions, so you can't do business there, and since there are no diplomatic ties the State Department warns that you're essentially on your own. But the main barrier has always been on the North Korean side, which rarely grants visas to U.S. citizens. That's started to change in the past few years, but only a few groups are allowed in every year.
Visiting North Korea is unlike visiting any other country. It's very restrictive. You cannot bring your cell phone into the country. When you enter, they mark down any books you bring in, and you're expected to take same number out again. Bibles or anything related to [South] Korea is prohibited. Each group has two "minders" to keep an eye on everyone. You cannot leave the hotel without a minder, and when outside, you must stay with the group at all times (and that's no joke -- in 2008, a 53 year-old South Korean tourist who wandered off on her own to watch the sunrise was shot in the head and killed by a soldier). You must ask the minders' permission before taking any photo, although most visitors end up taking hundreds of photos anyway. When you exit the country, however, the border guards may review the photos in your camera and make you delete any they find objectionable.
FP: What were your impressions of Pyongyang?
PC: Pyongyang is the country's showcase. Living there is a privilege granted only to the regime's most loyal and useful subjects. But besides the grand monuments -- including a larger-than-life version of Paris' Arc de Triumph -- the buildings are all grey, concrete cinderblock structures. Few are taller than eight stories, because they have no elevators. If you look into the windows, every single room -- office or apartment -- has dual portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall. Along the street, there are no ads or commercial signage, just propaganda posters and billboards. Every few blocks, there are these little blue and white canvas kiosks that sell soft drinks. The sidewalks aren't crowded like in China, and the streets are very broad. At every intersection stands a uniformed policewoman -- handpicked, they say, for their beauty -- directing traffic with parade-ground precision. One thing that really surprised me was the number of luxury sedans and SUVs, brands like BMWs and Mercedes, on the city streets. Obviously somebody has cash and connections.
Everywhere you go in Pyongyang, the skyline is dominated by a huge 105-story concrete pyramid, the Ryugyong Hotel, which looms over the city like the pyramid-shaped Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984. It was intended to be the world's tallest hotel, but it turned out to be structurally unsound, so it was never completed. It's been standing there, abandoned, since 1992. It doesn't appear on any official maps, and nobody ever talks about it, because it's such a horrendous embarrassment.
The most memorable thing about Pyongyang, though, is the total darkness that descends at night. Because electricity is in short supply, there are hardly any lights at all -- a couple of bulbs here and there, and the headlights of passing buses. People are out and about, but all you can see are the dark shapes right beside you. Back at the hotel, you look out the window and there's just nothing. It's like the whole city was just swallowed up.
FP: What about the region you visited more recently, in the northeast? How did that compare?
PC: Rason is about as far from Pyongyang as you can get, in every sense, but it's equally important in many ways. The northeast was the epicenter of the devastating famine that took place in the 1990s. People there had to improvise to survive. They set up private marketplaces to sell vegetables they grew in their gardens, or rabbits they raised on their own. The border zone along the Tumen River became the main crossing point for refugees fleeing into China, and for smuggling Chinese goods back into North Korea. After the famine, the government tried to co-opt the situation by establishing a special economic zone, which was supposed to attract foreign investment. Other than a big gambling casino, though, nothing much has really happened.
So Rason offers a window onto a much grittier reality than Pyongyang. Most roads are unpaved. The town's main square -- emblazoned with the slogan "Kim Il Sung is the Sun of the 21st Century!" -- has long ago crumbled into potholes. At dawn, the whole town wakes to recorded patriotic songs and messages blared from loudspeakers. During the day, people walk around pushing their belongings -- including their children -- in makeshift wheelbarrows. At night, police jeeps cruise the dark like sharks, shouting harsh commands over their megaphones at passersby. The economy is very basic. Farmers rely on bony oxen to plough their fields. The local fishing fleet consists of rusted hulks that belch so much oily smoke they look like they're on fire. When you visit Pyongyang, you're shielded from a lot of these things, but in Rason, you get a better look at what life is really like for most North Koreans.
FP: Did I hear you mention a gambling casino?
PC: That's right, when the North Koreans first set up the Rason special economic zone, they cut a deal with a somewhat shady Hong Kong business tycoon to build the Emperor Hotel and Casino, a $180 million five-star seaside resort. It became a really hot spot for Chinese tour groups to come and gamble. Then in 2004, a local official from Yanbian, just across the Chinese border, blew RMB 3.5 million (nearly half a million dollars) in embezzled public funds at the Emperor's gaming tables. The Chinese launched a huge crackdown on visitors, and the place has been deserted ever since. We stopped by to check it out. The hotel is open and it's fully staffed. There's a bright red British phone booth in the lobby, a fancy buffet with an ocean view, and girls running around with big electric fly-swatters shaped like tennis rackets. Everything's ready to go, but I don't think any guests have checked in for years. It's pretty surreal.
FP: Did you encounter any other investors in the "special economic zone"?
PC: Matter of fact, we bumped into some Americans. They actually were missionaries, based just across the border in China. They can't preach in North Korea, of course, but they've come as "investors" to build and run an orphanage, a bread factory, and a soy-milk factory. These "businesses" don't make money; they're just there to help people. To this day, one of most popular themes in North Korean propaganda involves evil Christian missionaries who inject Korean children with deadly germs, before the revolution. They even put the story in comic books for kids. Officially, they're inhuman monsters. Unofficially, the government invites them in because they're the only people willing to extend a lifeline.
FP: One of the big news items in North Korea this past year was the disastrous currency revaluation. On this last visit, did you see any evidence of its effects?
PC: Only indirectly. One of the most interesting parts of our trip was when they took us to see the local market in Rason. Like I say, these markets sprang up on their own in response to the famine, and the government is very ambivalent about them, so it's rare for foreigners to be allowed to see them. No cameras were allowed, and they called out the reserves -- about a half dozen extra minders -- to keep their eyes on us.
The market was pretty lively; it was certainly packed with people from all walks of life -- soldiers, school kids, families. It was housed in a large corrugated metal building, with different sections devoted to shoes, clothing, plastic knick-knacks, and school supplies. Most of the goods appeared to be imported from China. All the vendors are middle-aged women. Because of recent crackdowns, they're the only ones still permitted to sell; everyone else was forced back to their work units. The currency change also hit hard. A lot of vendors lost all their working capital along with any profits they might have saved. Some speculate that was the intent all along.
The other group that was hit really hard by the currency revaluation was Chinese traders. They also lost their shirts, and a lot of them have stopped coming. We only saw a handful of Chinese traders staying at our hotel. Despite the fact that North Korea depends on trade with China to survive, it's not exactly an easy environment for the Chinese who try to do business there. This summer, two Chinese traders were arrested and beaten to death by North Korean border guards on suspicion of espionage, along another part of the border.
FP: What about the food situation? There are rumors North Korea might be on the verge of another famine.
PC: As you enter the market, there's an outdoor section where people are selling vegetables they have presumably grown on their own private plots. When we left, I asked whether we could take a quick walk up and down the aisles. They answer was "No, absolutely not." Food is way too sensitive an issue, and people growing and selling their own food is a real sore spot with the regime.
Some of the other members of our group, who know more about farming than I do, said the corn crops in the fields we passed looked stunted -- just knee high at a time in season when they should have been shoulder high. If that's true, it's because there's no chemical fertilizer, which requires imported oil to make. The only fertilizer they have is night soil -- human sewage -- which they collect in ox-drawn carts. They also plant the same crop year after year, depleting the nutrients in the soil. I guess they just can't afford to let any field lie fallow, because they're already living on the edge, but the result is going to be declining yields and ultimately crop failure.
There was only one time when a teenage boy came up to us to beg for food. He was very quickly hustled aside by the minders, and given a stern talking to. I hope that's all that happened. It was a very distressing situation. Even if people aren't starving, it's pretty clear that life is hard.
FP: Any other revealing experiences?
PC: We visited a kindergarten in Rason to watch a performance by the schoolchildren. While we were waiting for it to start, we had a look around. On one of the walls was a painting from a popular North Korean cartoon series showing a cute forest animal hunched behind a machine gun blasting away at his enemies. Some of the children's drawings were posted on another wall in the hallway. One showed a North Korean tank running over enemy soldiers, and another showed a North Korean jet shooting down enemy planes. Next to them were typical childhood drawings of balloons, birds, and bunny rabbits. The contrast kind of twisted your gut. Some other members of our group stumbled on a room devoted to teaching about American war crimes. The irony, we later found out, is that the school was partly funded by donations from Korean-Americans.
FP: How much are North Koreans able to travel about their own country?
PC: North Koreans are not permitted to travel freely; they must have papers. If they are stopped outside their hometown without appropriate papers, they can be arrested and imprisoned for a year or more. Work units, however, do organize mandatory "field trips" to important patriotic sites, like the Korean War museum in Pyongyang, as part of every citizen's ideological education.
The high point of the pilgrimage circuit is Kim Il Sung's mausoleum. It's housed in an immense palace on the outskirts of Pyongyang, and makes even Mao's tomb in Tiananmen Square look like a tiny cottage by comparison. The visit looks like an incredibly intense experience for most North Koreans, as they are ushered past a huge white marble statue of the Great Leader with the dawning sun glowing behind him, and into an antechamber where they hear how people all over the world wept and tore their hair when they learned of Kim's death in 1994. Finally they enter the holy of holies, where Kim's body lies in state. [When I was there in 2008] the room crackled with emotional energy. All around the body, I saw Koreans -- especially older women in traditional robes -- sobbing in tears. It was an unnerving and eye-opening experience.
Another important destination is the "International Friendship Exhibition" carved into Mt. Myohyangsan, about two hours' drive north of Pyongyang. Essentially, these are two underground museum complexes, devoted to displaying the thousands of diplomatic gifts received by Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il. (The elder Kim, though dead, is still officially the country's president, so even today he still merits a gift). Highlights include bulletproof cars from Stalin, a stuffed smiling crocodile from Nicaragua's Sandinistas, and the basketball autographed by Michael Jordan that Madeleine Albright brought to Kim Jong Il. But the most interesting rooms displayed products -- usually out-of-date VCRs, computer monitors, and MP3 players -- sent by South Korean companies under the "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North. Absolutely nothing captured the vast chasm between our world and theirs than the looks on the faces of the North Korean work units as they pressed their noses against glass to catch a better glimpse of never-before-seen treasures that, to us, looked like items at a Best Buy clearance sale.
FP: How did people react to seeing your group?
PC: North Koreans are a pretty wary bunch -- not just of foreigners, I think, but of each other as well. In public, at least, they're very guarded. During our visit to Kim Il Sung's mausoleum, we encountered looks of unmistakable fear and hostility, probably because they had just gone through a very intense experience of their own. More often, we either got blank surprised stares or people pretended not to notice us -- although maybe you'd get a shy smile if they were particularly amused. The women vendors at the market in Rason actually smiled, laughed, and waved to us, which was unusual. But, you know, there were always surprises. One border guard, once he got through checking my luggage, said "thank you" in heavily accented English and flashed me a big proud grin.
People often ask me whether we ever got the chance to talk with regular North Koreans. The answer is no. It's just not allowed. Every North Korean knows that, so they're not going to initiate any contact. In fact, going up to a North Korean and trying to talk to them could put them in danger. And I don't speak Korean anyway, so what's the point? You can talk to the minders, though, and surprisingly, they end up providing a very revealing window into the way North Koreans think. Obviously they're atypical, and they're there for a reason, but even when they're dissembling or hewing to the party line or just acting weird, if you listen and think, you can learn a lot from the interaction.
FP: The Mass Games are happening this month -- tell us about them.
PC: The Mass Games aren't games, in the competitive sense. They're a huge performance that takes place in an Olympic-size stadium and features a "cast" of over 100,000 participants. Nearly all of the young people in and around Pyongyang spend a large part of each year practicing and performing. Half of them sit in the stands opposite the audience, holding up colored cards to form elaborate mosaic-like pictures extolling the country and its leaders. The rest perform mass-synchronized dancing, karate, and gymnastics on the field itself. The resulting spectacle is kind of a cross between Cirque du Soleil and a Nuremberg rally. It was hard to know whether to stand up and cheer or be totally appalled. Some have compared North Korea's Mass Games to the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics, but what I saw in Pyongyang easily blew that away. I mean, they were literally catapulting acrobats clear across the stadium, somersaulting in mid-air with no wires, and catching them in nets. For better or worse, there's nothing else like it on Earth.
FP: Any celebrity sightings on either trip?
PC: Besides the body of Kim Il Sung, who North Koreans believe to be the greatest human being ever to live? Hey, it's hard to top that. But if you're asking whether we met Kim Jong Il, or the even more mysterious son who is supposed to succeed him, no, I'm sorry to disappoint.
Seriously, though, there was one rather amazing coincidence, during my first trip. On the bus down to the DMZ, someone mentioned that then-U.S. negotiating envoy Christopher Hill was supposed to arrive in Pyongyang any day now. But I figured he'd fly in. A few hours later, we're walking up to the North Korean reception pavilion, right on the DMZ, when out the back door comes this white guy surrounded by several assistants, about 20 feet away from us. It was Chris Hill. I wanted to shout out, "Hey, we're Americans!" -- but that's not something you do on the northern side of the DMZ, surrounded by heavily armed border guards. It's pretty tense up there. So we just watched as he hopped in a van and headed off to Pyongyang. That was our brush with history.
Another tour group was taken by the North Koreans to witness them blowing up part of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. So, really, you never know what you're going to see.
FP: What's the most important thing you learned?
PC: One big difference is that now North Korea is a real place to me. For most of us, I think, North Korea occupies the same imaginary plane of existence as Mordor. But it is real, and one thing I came to appreciate is that most North Koreans are normal people living in abnormal conditions. It's the only world they know, and they try to make sense of it, and cope with it, as best they can. I don't know how things will play out, but one can only hope they find their way to join the rest of us intact.
The second important thing I learned is gratitude. It sounds corny, but it's not. It really wasn't all that long ago that a big chunk of mankind lived under systems like this. We look back now and it seems inevitable -- the fall of the Berlin Wall, China opening up -- but it wasn't inevitable. I'm grateful to be able to go home at the end of my trip, and I'm grateful for the people whose convictions and sacrifices made it so this kind of place is an anomaly in today's world, and not the rule.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
There's a lot to remember in November - POTUS needs a serious course correction...and a Arse Kicking.
August 15th, 2010
Herman Cain - Author & Political Commentator
As primary elections are settled around the country, it is not too early to start remembering what people should remember in November. With all of the distractions coming out of Washington through the filter of the media, it is easy for people to forget come Election Day.
This writer will not forget. Here are some of the things this administration and Congress have done to deceive, mislead and insult the American people:
This is just dishonest – to tell the public one thing and then change the law later to be able to add to the national debt instead of reducing it.\
TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program): $750 billion
When the financial institutions started paying the taxpayers back with interest, the Democrats, led by Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), wanted to use the interest for other purposes instead of paying down debt as specified in the legislation.
Stimulus spending bill: $862 billion
the stimulus bill has not worked, the administration and Congress keep spending and plan on raising taxes.
This was a deceptive bill. It was supposed to keep unemployment below 8 percent and create jobs. It did not. Instead, the administration concocted a “saved jobs” concept to help disguise the deception. Gross Domestic Product growth is still sluggish, and unemployment has remained high at 9.5 percent. Businesses are in a state of “survive” rather than a growth mode because of all the uncertainties created by the administration and Congress. Even though
Health Care Deform legislation: $1 trillion
Americans want this legislation repealed and the president and Congress continue to ignore their wishes. And more insulting, Democrats voting for the legislation did not read it. Speaker Pelosi even said “We must pass it so we can then tell you what’s in it”.
The president and the Democrat-controlled Congress passed this legislation against the will of the majority of the American people. Currently, an even larger majority of
Cap & Trade & Tax & Kill bill
No members of Congress read this bill either as it sailed through the House with only Democrats and one freshman Republican voting for it. Fortunately, the outcry by the people caused it to not go through the Senate as fast and it is still on the back burner, where it should die a quiet death.This legislation is a tax on our economy and businesses, and is based on faulty science which has been exposed. The Democrats and the president want to pass it anyway.
The largest annual deficit for President George Bush was during his last year in office ($455 billion in FY 2008). The annual deficits under President Obama’s first two years of FY 2009 and FY 2010 were $1.7 trillion and $1.6 trillion, respectively. This is why the national debt is growing so fast. President Obama said in December 2008: “Deficits don’t matter”. They do matter to the American people and the future of this country.
National Debt is nearly $14 trillion
Nearly $4 trillion has been added to the national debt since President Obama took office less than two years ago with a Democrat-controlled Congress. This is in contrast to the $4 trillion added to the national debt during eight years of the Bush administration. The Congressional Budget Office and others have warned that this isunsustainable, but the president and the Democrats continue to ignore these warnings.
Financial Deform legislation
another unnecessary new bureaucracy created by the same two Members of Congress (Senator Dodd and Rep. Frank) who chaired Congressional Committees that allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fail. Their failure was the catalyst for the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009. Get this! The new legislation excludes Fannie and Freddie from oversight by the newly created bureaucracy. Fannie Mae is now seeking a second bailout of $1.5 billion after 12 straight quarters of loses, and Freddie Mac is asking for $1.8 billion of additional bailout money.
This legislation is
Another $26.1 billion
“snow jobs” bill.
Speaker Pelosi called Members of Congress back from August recess to pass this “emergency” jobs bill. Sixteen billion dollars went to the states that had done the worst job of managing their Medicaid program, and $10 billion were targeted to save teacher jobs. Right! One caller last week appropriately called it a
The political arrogance, waste of taxpayers’ money and abuse of power by this administration and Congress has been unprecedented. If people remember in November, we can make an unprecedented change of control in Congress.
It’s November or never.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Example number one this week is Marsha Brunelle, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen. She has instituted a new set of rules for weekly Selectmen Meetings that effectively stifles all public dissent from occurring. The new rules are so restrictive that it would be near impossible for a town citizen to appear to speak unless they have full approval from the Board.
This is not only counter to what the purpose of the Selectmen's Weekly Meeting is for, it is against the long standing tradition of being able to show up, listen to the deliberations of the board and contribute in a respectful manner to the discussion.
Marsha Brunelle has had a series of ethics issues, mainly due to her inability to proper handle the responsiblity of her position, and being married to the Director of IT for the town, Roger Brunelle, another person who has had a long standing history of ethical issues. The two of them act like they can do whatever they please and there is no one who can hold them accountable.
Marsha wants to cut off all dissenting opinions which is further evidence that she should not be in the position of deciding town matters as her use of the "rules" to limit challenge to her position is a sign of her lack of ethical behavior. No person should see themselves as above reproach. All of those who work in public service should be willing to have all their actions subject to review and comment from the public. If you are unwilling to do so, then STEP DOWN.
There is no gray area in this issue - it is purely black & white. You should allow the public to contribute in an open and traditional manner as you were elected to manage the town's affair as a representative of the people's will. If you put in place restrictive rules stifling dissent, you have become a dictictorial Hypocrite who is unworthy of the position.
Enclosed is a copy of the editorial from this week's Middleboro Gazette.....Time to go MARSHA....take your less than ethical bag of troubles with you, and retire with your HACK husband to somewhere you won't deprive others of their right to challenge town leadership. You'll be living off the taxpayers for the rest of your life, not caring who has to pay the bill.
The disgusting abuses of the municipal pay & retirement system is rife in our town and others across the country. The self-serving people who were trusted with the public well-being have instead turned the rules around to satisfy their own needs. It is a total betrayal of the public's trust and a perversion of what was established as a way of providing a retirement.
Alllowing Muncipal Governments to get out of control and become unresponsive to the avergae citizen is something we and our children will regret for the rest of our lives.
A spirited discussion may be shaping up here
August 12, 2010 11:07 AM
Jane Lopes - Middleboro Gazette
I had a dream last night that was more like a premonition. I dreamed that I saw Vic Sylvia, Paul Stiga and Larry Carver marching on Town Hall.
Well, it might have been a dream but there's no doubt in my mind that if it's possible for people who have passed on to make a return appearance, this trio will be at the next selectmen's meeting.
Vic, Paul and Larry no doubt have better things to do now, but surely they glanced down Monday night as they heard the selectmen talking about a proposal drafted by Chairman Marsha Brunelle that would, as one onlooker put it, severely restrict if not stifle the public's ability to participate in meetings of the Board of Selectmen.
After a majority of the selectmen twice rejected a proposal that they adopt Robert's Rules of Order as their guidelines for conducting meetings, the board received a letter from former selectman Adam Bond suggesting that they need some sort of rules to run meetings by, and offering guidelines adopted by other communities as examples. Ms. Brunelle instead came up with a six-page document that goes well beyond providing a structure for the board's weekly meetings. In terms of the meetings themselves, the document — which was not voted upon Monday night — Ms. Brunelle is calling for "all matters to be placed on the agenda" to be submitted by noon on Wednesday prior to a Monday night meeting. And that goes for anything that a resident might want to bring up during the "public comment period" that Ms. Brunelle reluctantly retained when she took over again as chairman from former selectman Pat Rogers earlier this year.
"If a resident desires to make an inquiry or comment during the public comment portion of the meeting, notice to do so must be given to the Board's secretary by the deadline stated above (Wednesday noon). This allows time for appropriate research if required," the proposed rule reads.
Resident Allin Frawley, who regularly takes advantage of the "public comment period" opportunity, read this paragraph and rightly envisioned, well, a muzzle. After the meeting, Ms. Brunelle allowed that she is aiming to limit what she views as obstructive chatter from the audience. And the alleged obstructionists are not limited to the audience, since the proposal to require board members to get on the agenda in order to speak is also designed to limit discussion — say, like the proposals to adopt Robert's Rules, which came up under "Other." "Other," an agenda item designed for board members to raise issues, is to be as circumscribed as the "public comment period."
Mr. Frawley's consternation would surely be echoed by the aforementioned Vic, Paul and Larry were they available for comment Monday night. Because Allin Frawley and the others who regulary participate in selectmen's meetings come from a long and honorable tradition in Middleboro, one that has been fiercely defended by Vic, Paul, Larry and others like them over the years. Two of the three men, Vic and Larry, served as selectmen at different times, but for most of their public lives they, like Paul Stiga, made their contributions from the audience in the selectmen's room at Town Hall on Monday nights.
The chairman of the board suggests that other government bodies do not provide for the public input that Middleboro residents enjoy. Well, Ms. Brunelle, we live in Middleboro, and in Middleboro we speak our piece. As chairman you have the right to cut off someone who is disrespectful, who has long since made his or her point, who is holding forth on the subject of apples while the board's discussion involved oranges. It's up to the chairman to ensure that meetings run effectively and adjourn in a timely manner unless there's pressing business that dictates otherwise. But the tradition in Middleboro is that the selectmen's meetings on Monday night are the place where people can get their questions answered and make their opinions known, albeit certainly within reason.
There was little comment Monday night about the proposed guidelines, and it was indicated that there will be discussion at the next meeting. Since Ms. Brunelle seems to have already adopted her own recommendations, given the lack of input allowed from the floor Monday night, the discussion may be limited to the board members themselves. The proposed guidelines are available on the town web site with the Aug. 9 selectmen's agenda items for those who want to read for themselves.
So far the Town Hall has been investigated for paranormal activity and spirit beings with limited results — mostly a ghostly voice or mysterious light source here or there. The investigators might want to stop by for the next selectmen's meeting. I'd be surprised if some folks weren't there in spirit. Certainly someone needs to be present to object to the those physically present in the audience being seen, but not heard.