Thursday, September 27, 2012

Some football; some politics

Professional football will be considerable better this weekend.  Actually, it began Thursday night.  The NFL owners have ended the lockout of the regular officials and so the absolute terrible officiating by replacements we've had to endure the past three weeks has ended.

Although each game has had some problems, it all came to a head Monday night on one of the worst blown calls I've ever seen in officiating.  I don't often say nasty things about officials as they are human and can make mistakes.  I have been certified in two different sports and served in numerous events over the years until I hung up my counter (ball/strikes in baseball) and whistle (in swimming) in the late 1980s.

Although I never made a mistake . . . just kidding of course; as my dad used to say, "I called 'em as I saw 'em." . . . well, perhaps there are some folk who might disagree, I did gain a respect for officials that continues.  Or should I say "continued" until the NFL lockout?

A blown call of an official last Monday night cost one team a win and brought irrevocable cynicism of the totally unqualified replacement officials.  Thousands of "Tweets," Facebook entries, columns, comments by sports writers and radio/TV sports announcers and e-mails flooded the communications world.  The outcry by fans could not be overcome by the NFL and very quickly it reached about the same agreement with their professional officials that they could have accomplished months ago.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did apologize to the fans for subjecting us to the horrible replacements.  I don't recall reading about his apologizing for letting the worst call of all, the last play Monday night, stand as called.

But, at least one part of the world is back to normal.

The future of the United States is still questionable.  We have an election to get through in just over a month.  Unfortunately Republican nominee Mitt Romney seems Hell bent for leather to give the nation away to President Obama.  I think Romney had a better chance of beating Obama before he began to open his mouth.  Instead, he is proving what many of us thought from the beginning of the process:  He isn't the man for the job.  (No, Maine Ron Paul supporters, Paul wasn't the answer, either.)

Since the President cannot run on his record as he doesn't have one, all he has to do is what he does best:  Slightly change Romney's words and turn them against him.  Take his gaff about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay taxes, for example.  Using government figures Romney said that 47 percent doesn't pay INCOME taxes.  That, according to government figures is true.  Obama jumped all over that saying all Americans pay taxes.

Ignoring the "income" part of it, the President's ad says we all pay sales taxes, property taxes and a whole host of others.  Then he says, accurately, that Romney only pays 14% of the 13 million dollars in income in income taxes.  That alone is a whole lot more than 99% of us have totally earned in our lifetimes.  The ad also doesn't point out that, like all of us, Romney also pays that sales tax, real estate tax and the other taxes we all pay...only a lot more.  The ad works.  How many now will not support Romney because of that one statement.

That's not the only ad that has people wanting to vote against Romney.  The President has convinced us poor folk that Romney is a millionaire who has no real feelings for us.  Have you examined the President's net worth lately?  No matter, even though he has done nothing but drive our economy close to the cliff and if given another four years might complete the drive, he cares for us.  Check his worth.

We can go on and on but the simple truth is is that the Ptresident has nothing to show what he's done for us so he must resort to his only course...attack.  One attack track is taxes.  He says a Romney presidency will cause the middle class, which is now fewer than ever thanks to his policies, to have to pay more taxes so Romney's rich friends can get a tax break.  The President says he will not increase any taxes but forgets his health plan is going to cost us all several thousand dollars more in the years to come.  (I've been urging you for two years to read the tax act yourselves to see what it really contains.  Have you done it yet?  If not, you're in for some shock.)

Unfortunately, neither Romney nor the Republican Party has any clue on how to fight back.

Are you watching the uprisings in other countries?  Did you read about the American ambassador that was murdered and dragged through the streets?  What did our President do?  Do you feel the unrest at all right here in the United States?  The Occupy Movement, for example?  What are you going to do about it when it comes?

It's easy to understand why people don't want Romney as their President but it's harder to understand why some Americans want Obama to be reelected.  Just what has he accomplished for you, for this country?


Monday, September 24, 2012

A little this, a little that

Another Monday and once again I'm not too excited about events so I'll make this one short.  There is one good thing on my calendar for the week:  Wednesday is the last one this month so the little gathering of several of us retirees will be heading to our monthly lunch.  I look forward to those days which have been continuing ever since we retired in 1996.  Actually, the group has changed over the years as we've been both joined and abandoned.

Nothing has change for me, though.  I still enjoy the monthly sessions of good conversation. 

 Even though the Red Sox had a nice win Sunday, mercifully, the regular Major League Baseball season is drawing to close.  The Red Sox have had miserable seasons most of my life, but I can't remember one quite as bad as this one.  The Sox, as you already know, will be ending its season when the regular games end.  There is some hope for the future, though.  The Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A team of the Sox, won the Triple-A championship this year and some players will be heading for Boston for the next season.

The NFL Players union has sent a letter to the owners demanding the lockout of the regular referees be resolved immediately for the safety of the players.  Complaints have been numerous about the quality of the replacement officials.  My observation of a couple of games Sunday indicated that the quality hasn't improved after two weeks experience.  Even some replay calls were miscalled.  And the calls didn't get any better Sunday.  --Edited Tues AM:  And then there was Monday Night Football.--Pitiful.

It amazes me that the NFL can fine players and coaches for complaining about the calls yet it appears the officials may get a reprimand for a missed call, but no real punishment occurs, at least that we know of.  Oh, yes, there was one well-publicized suspension of one replacement who openly admitted he was a fan of one of the teams he was about to officiate.

And speaking of the NFL, one of the games I watched Sunday was the New York Jets game which the Jets won in overtime.  It's been apparent that either the Jets don't know how to handle Gator Tim Tebow or teach him how to play the game their way or the pundits have been right all along, Tebow simply isn't an NFL quality quarterback.

Only 40 or so days left before the November elections.  Even though I usually just hang up on robocalls, they continue to drive me batty.  Some might say (FF?) that I'm already batty, but those calls continue to irritate me.  I'll start my tally sheet and vote against the candidates or issues that bother me the most.

I already know how I'll vote, probably so do you.  Those calls absolutely will not influence me unless they drive me away.  Wouldn't it be nice if the computer recorded the number of hangups and eliminated that number from their lists?  We know that won't happen.


Friday, September 21, 2012

A cartoon to educators

A cartoon sent by Gov. LePage to various education officials has caused some of those officials questioning the accuracy of the cartoon.  Some have even said they didn’t understand it.  I laughed when I saw it and said silently, “Right on, Gov.”

The cartoon by syndicated San Diego cartoonist Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune shows a student telling a teacher, or perhaps a guidance counselor, “This fall, I’m going to trade school to be a welder.”  There’s a block pointing to him that says, “Starting salary upon graduation $50,000.”  The school person is thinking, “Loser.”  The block point to that person says, “Starting salary upon graduation from a pricey, 4-year school with a liberal arts degree $25,000.”  There’s another parenthetical phrase in that frame I cannot read.

The cartoon was an attempt by the governor to show educators that everyone doesn’t need a college education and society does need some of those trade people.  I agree with the governor except I’d add that at least some college work wouldn’t hurt anyone.  Let me just pop this in here:  I did graduate from one of the South’s best universities, the University of Florida, thus the Gator designation.

Way back in the early 1960s I was teaching in a Portland school when one of my students was telling his friends he was quitting school to become a bulldozer operator.  Believing in the importance of at the very least a high school diploma, I tried to talk him out of quitting.  As I recall, it really was a good, non-confrontational conversation as he explained how he simply couldn’t stand the learning stuff at all and could make good money in the trade.  I tried to explain to him that how income grew with each level of education and that dropouts were at the bottom.  It meant nothing to him.

A few days later he was not in class.  “He’s gone,” a friend of his told me and already is working on a job.  I was disappointed.

Several months went by and one afternoon, the young man appeared in my classroom.  “Are you coming back?” I asked.

“Oh, no!” he smiled.  “It’s just you tried to talk me out of quitting and I liked you so I thought I share where I am with you.”  He was really happy and confident at his success.  We talked for a while before he offered, “I happen to have a pay stub with me and thought you’d like to compare yours with mine.”

He was earning twice as much each week as I was earning bi-monthly.  “As soon as I’m 18,” he said, “I’m going to buy my own machine and then I’ll be able to earn some real money.”

It’s true; this fellow’s experience was not typical of high school dropouts.  Also, I have no idea what ultimately happened to him so it’s possible he never did get his own machine, it’s possible he no longer drives one, it’s possible he ended up on the low end of the wage scale.  Sure, but it does illustrate that not everyone, at least in their teens, didn’t need a college education.

Before she retired, my wife worked many years in the office of Portland Regional Vocational Technical High School which became Portland Arts and Technology High School.  She was saddened when the change took place because, as she said then, it marked the beginning of the end of vocational education. Fewer and fewer young people graduated from the school as excellent mechanics, machinists, brick layers, small engine repairers, electricians, and the list could go on and on.

She told me that “sending schools” were discouraging students from attending or putting other roadblocks in front of them.  Instead, many students attending were encouraged to take what they called general trades.

Meanwhile the emphasis was placed on college preparation.  I think even the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) was adopted as the Junior Year standard test to measure progress.  It’s hard to accept the schools’ challenge to the assertion that preparation for college had become the prime goal of schools when a college entrance test was used to measure the students’ achievement.

Yes.  Every student should be encouraged to accomplish goals as high and perhaps higher than that person is capable of achieving, but the schools should also have strong ways for those wishing to study for a trade to also achieve at the top.

After all, where would we be without plumbers, electricians, engine repair people, roofers, mechanics, constructors, you name it.  I think that’s the purpose of Gov. LePage’s plea in his use of the cartoon.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Mailings and I don't always agree on the truth

A couple of days ago my wife received a mailing from the Democrat Party that explained to her the evils of supporting a Republican in the November elections.  My wife is an Independent which should tell you she's not enrolled in either party.  The mailing she received severely attacked the Maine House member in the district in which we live.

I read the propaganda; she did not.

Naturally, my version of the truth and that of the democrats doesn't exactly coincide.  I wasn't targeted, at least to receive that mailing, but I was turned against the democrats even more than I was a few years ago when a prominent state senator stood on my back porch and outright lied to me about what he would do if elected. I'm sorry but I'm glad he finally termed out.

I had a short discussion with my state House representative, the one targeted in the mailing, during the caucus season earlier this year.  I was disappointed at one of her votes to support a measure I opposed and told her then I couldn't sign her re-election petition.  I thought about the accomplishments of the Legislature and, although I still think that one vote was unfair, realized she was supportive of the agenda to improve our state.

Before the caucus ended, I found her and signed her petition.  I'll gladly vote for her again in November and, while I'm here, also tell you I'll gladly vote for the Republican candidate to replace that Democrat who is termed out.  I had already signed my future state senator's petition.

Over the weekend I received an e-mail from the Maine Republican Party whose version of the truth naturally is much closer to mine.  But the e-mail takes many of the Dem's arguments point by point and tells us exactly what the accomplishments of the last Legislature to start -- note, start --- the process of making Maine once again an affordable and great place in which to live.

One of the claims by democrats that the e-mail rebutted concerned taxes.  The Dems tell us that the republican controlled Legislature has increased the taxes on most of us and cut the taxes of the richest 10 percent.  Simply 't'ain't so.  Actually, according to the e-mail, everyone will be paying less taxes due to a cut in the tax rate, That cut will, however, result in a net 2% increase for those "rich."

Since the rate changes will give all of us a tax break, even take several thousand currently paying income tax off the rolls, the truth is the result lowers just about everyone's income taxes in Maine.  Unfortunately, from my point of view, the Legislature, trying to appease democrat concerns, had the tax reductions phased in rather than taking place immediately.  Therefore, we haven't seen too much tax relief yet, but it'll be here by 2015.

The e-mail also debunked other aspects of the dems' claims in their mailer including health care reforms, clean election reforms, reforms in state issued prescription drugs,  and Head Start (a federal education program for pre-schoolers).

The e-mail asks us to forward it so I wanted to include a link to it here, but that link which worked directly from the e-mail just fine wouldn't let me make it work here.  A "Forward this e-mail" link at the end of the message wanted it forwarded through the Republican Party so about all I'll do here is suggest you try and see if they have a rebuttal there.

I'd suggest, as I often do, not to simply believe mailings but to get the factual information yourself to make an informed decision.  I think I'd say the same thing about robocalls, too, but I don't know what they say.  I follow the advice in today's Press Herald to just hang up, which I've been doing for years, when I get a robocall.

A couple of weeks ago I said I thought this might be a long season for my Florida Gators football team.  Now, a couple of weeks later, I'm changing my mind as the last two wins (They're 3-0 so far this season.) have given me hope for at least a successful year.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

A sad attack

I'm glad my little disclaimer over there on the rights says that, even though I could be wrong sometimes, I do offer my unsubstantiated thoughts.  This is one of those times.

We are all saddened by the deaths of four Americans in Libya the other day and also saddened by the unrest and attacks on U.S. embassies in other Mid East countries as well, most notable Egypt.  What did surprise me at the lack of security the U.S. has provided to protect our people there.  That is a disgrace. 

This nation should not have been taken by surprise by the attacks.  Centuries have passed since the first such determination to rule themselves.  The earliest I remember reading about were the Crusades when the Saxons in England failed.  It does settle down periodically, but that anti-anything not Muslim rises again and again.

It's also not surprising that, coincidentally or planned, this year's outburst coincided with the Sept. 11 attack on New York and Washington 11 years ago.  What is surprising is our government having its proverbial head in the sand thinking it wouldn't happen.

The reaction of our presidential candidates was about as expected.  Government spokespersons seemed to be apologizing.  They all, of course, speak only with the O.K. of the President.  President Obama told us on that first day that the Ambassador in Libya was killed by terrorists and that the Libyan government forces tried to save the Ambassador and even got him to a hospital.  Later video clips, however, seemed to show him being dragged through the streets.

President Obama said he will work diligently with the Libyan officials to bring the perpetrators to justice.  (Updated Fri. AM) Libyan officials have announced they have made arrests and their investigation is continuing.  Also, reports that the U.S. was warned days ago of the impending attacks and apparently did nothing have been leaking out.  I have not confirmed these allegations.  Nor have I confirmed another allegation that Pres. Obama skips most security advisory meetings at the White House.  And another item being circulated this morning is what security there was consisted of personel without live ammunition.  (End of update)

Republican nominee Mitt Romney was critical of the handling of the affair and said the U.S. simply wasn't prepared for the attacks.  If he is elected, he indicated, Americans serving abroad will be protected.

None of us want another war, but like the response to the bombing of the U.S. Navy warship Cole several years ago, the response this time seems tepid.

We'll pray for the Americans and patiently wait for more information.

In the meantime, I hope you have a great weekend.


Monday, September 10, 2012

A September ramble

I knew the Obama/Romney campaign would be a tough one.  I'm already sick of it. 

Have I ever mentioned here how much I hate robo calls?  There are some caller I.D. numbers I simply ignore.  I do answer them, sort of.  Those that show ( ), 800-Service, or some exchanges I've learned are political, I simply press the "talk" button then the "end" button on my phone.  I no longer care and am not interested in those calls.

What's worse is that a big majority of the calls come in just when we're sitting down for supper.  Yea, I still call that evening meal "supper."  I can't help but wonder if any of the calling services have researched on how much, if any, damage is done to their cause or candidate by such calls.  I don't think I've ever heard anyone say, "Wow!  Those political calls and surveys are terrific!  I can't wait to get them!"

There's another political item that has me doubting its validity: the poll.  Polls are also another part of the political season that I'd like to see go away.  It seems like there's a new poll released every couple of hours, or at least every day.  Of course a poll is designed to attempt to sway us toward a particular side of a cause or candidate.  Since all polls are highly selective and the polling item so worded so that a certain result is almost guaranteed, I don't pay any attention to them. 

I believe most people answer polling questions according to who's calling and not necessarily the way they really feel.  The only fun part of polls is after an election when we get to see just how wrong most of them are.

A couple of new issues from our state government have caught my attention.  One is a ruling by the state's attorney general that prescriptions cannot be bought through the mail from a certain Canadian pharmacy.  According to news reports, about 12-hundred Maine families will have to pay higher prescription costs as a result.  Since Maine workers and some municipal workers are covered by local insurance contracts, it could add more than 3-million dollars to budgets.

The problem, apparently, is that Canadian firm can't be registered in Maine due to state law.  The AG's job is not to create laws or procedures but is to interpret and enforced those made by the Legislature.  At least one legislator says a correction to the law is already being formulated but it'll be up to the next legislature to allow those Canadian services.

Meanwhile, Mainers who have gotten lower priced drugs via mail order from Canada will have to pay higher prices, including copays, to buy their prescriptions here.  I don't use mail order prescription services, but I know people who do.  It's going to hurt them.

The other item deals with new rules regarding restraining children in school.  I haven't studied this too hard yet, but it seems teachers, administrators, or any other school official cannot not use any type of force to restrain out-of-control students.  A youngster can literally be tearing a room apart, throwing chairs, etc., breaking furniture, expensive computer equipment, or just about anything else one can imagine and no one can do anything about it except call the police. 

Schools are also required to have at least one staff member trained to calm a student down.  All situations must be reported by incident reports to be discussed by a committee, sent to superintendents for more discussion, and then on to the Department of Education for consideration. 

Teachers no longer can simply take a student by the arm or hand and guide him or her to the principal's office for discipline. Reminds me of when I was a kid.  Being sent or taken to the principal's office was the second worst thing that could possible happen to a youngster.  The worst, of course, was having to face parents when we got home.  Unfortunately, parents today don't believe in discipline.  (A truly unfounded blanket statement.)

One item for all of us to face as a result of these new conditions:  Now we can look forward to higher property taxes for schools.


Friday, September 7, 2012

It just might get even dirtier!

Finally, we officially have what we've all known for months or longer, President Obama is the Democratic nominee for President in the Nov. elections and Mitt Romney will vie for the office under the Republican banner. Both of them along with their vice presidential nominees, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan respectively, and their spouses will begin the head to head battle today (Friday) in New Hampshire.

It would be extremely nice if the charges and counter charges between now and November focused on the issues facing us, but one of the candidates would have a hard time defending his record while the other will be probably also be dodging the issues.  So, one might think we're in for perhaps the dirtiest presidential election season we've ever seen.

We've heard the nominees speak their pieces.  Unfortunately, my Daddy taught me a most valuable lesson about words.  It is generally easy to say them, but they are really meaningless until deeds are performed.  I can promise my wife I'll fix her a special meal and she'd be pleased.  But then when I served a fluffer-nutter sandwich, she might be just a little suspicious of my real intentions. 

I feel pretty much the same way about convention speeches, or just about any speech for that matter.  For the last four years we've heard one of the candidates tell us what wonderful things he's going to do for America.  He promised to cut the deficit, for example and his result was to grow it by more than five trillion dollars.  I'm still waiting.  The other nominee is also telling us great things can be accomplished, but he has never been in the Oval Office.  It's a wait and see game.

On the economy:  Why is it that every time government creates a new rule, task force, or law to make life better for us, it ends up taking more money out of our pockets making us poorer?  I'm not sure either of the nominees will improve that condition. 

And on Obamacare, I got a cartoon in e-mail today, you know, one of those "Forwards."  It said, "If Obamacare is so great, why did he exempt himself?"

I don't think I'll add anything at this time.

Shucks, I just think it's time to hope you have a super weekend.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One convention over; the second is underway.

Labor Day is now behind us for another year.  Except for a dampish glitch Saturday, it was a nice weekend.  Labor Day itself turned out a little cool in our yard, but the sun was shining, and that's good.  Let's see.  What's next?  Not a holiday, but the beautiful season is just around the corner.

The Republican Party convention is also behind us, but for longer than another year.  I guess I can't claim to be a "good Republican" as I didn't watch any of the festivities.  I caught the snippets that the news media wanted me to see.  Naturally, most of the snippets were attempts to denigrate the GOPers.  The two or three brief looks at "The Empty Chair" made me wish I'd seen all of that section.  Clint Eastwood seemed to have a funny sketch.  Several million Internet followers have caused the YouTube version race around the nation and world.

I neither read nor heard any surprises out of the convention.  We were told just how rotten this nation is heading and that the solution to returning America to its greatness was to elect Republicans in November.  You already know how I feel about those sentiments.

Now it's the Democrats' turn.  Their convention is underway this week.  We'll be told that President Obama just needs another four years to move us forward and his outcome will be much better than anything the Republicans can deliver.  He says he has the plans for a future.  Well, we've seen how well his plans have worked for the past four years and that leaves us wondering if his version of "forward" is to continue to move us forward into the abyss of oblivion.

When the Dem convention is over, wouldn't it be nice if the name calling and absurdities ended and the two sides finally begin discussing the solutions to fixing the nation's economy, lack of employment, taxes, healthcare, and other issues facing us?

Naw!  Won't happen!

One of the best things about this time of year is football.  You know I love football, especially the college variety.  It looks like we'll be seeing games all through the week and not only Saturdays this year.  That works for me.  Unfortunately for me, that might be high among the least favorite TV offerings for my bride.  A couple nights each week, she goes to bed early as she has a part time job that requires a very early rising two or three days.  Now, let's hope that schedule coincides with the football games.

Speaking of football, I watched the Gators win their opener last Saturday.  As I said they won, but I sure came away with the feeling this could be one mighty long season.