Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA and the School of the Cowering

Published: The Huffington Post 2010-11-22

Last week I got a robo call on the cell phone from my school district. They had an emergency drill! They were happy. They felt the need to interrupt everyone's day to tell the world that they sent trained police dogs into the high school to sniff out lockers. They were soooo proud they found nothing.

(I don't think the administrators have noticed that none of the kids use their lockers anymore for fear of drug sniffing dogs. The tip-off should have come when they would see kids with chiropractic problems lugging 60 pound backpacks everywhere. But, that will be our little secret.)

And they had a lockdown drill too! They just couldn't contain themselves as they told the parents they were training our kids in case of a terrorist break-in in suburbia!

As the media goes nuts with the "Don't Touch My Junk" guy, I think we have reached the stage where we have to talk, as a society, about the Fear Jail we have placed ourselves in.

Can anyone say we are the Land of the Free anymore when we allow TSA agents to grope us in the name of some sort of secure utopia? When commenting on this, I was really blown away by a guy online telling me, "What's the big deal, it's just like getting arrested." I am really sorry, but, I think the reason we had (note the past tense) an amendment about illegal search and seizure was to address a government police state playing either "Cop-a-Feel" or "Scan-UR-Boobs."

Can we say we are the Home of the Brave anymore when we teach our kids to cower in a classroom as part of a drill? Seriously, that is what the schools are teaching our kids. To sit down, hide, and be afraid. Be very afraid. "Hey, someone is coming into your school with a gun to hunt all of you down. Here is what you do. Hide in the corner of your classroom at an off-angle to the door so the shooter won't see you." Yes, it is cowering when you all line up against a door so some 21st Century Angel of Death can pass through your high school halls.

These kids are being trained to think someone is coming to kill them! How can train kids to hold Freedom dear when they are trained to be afraid of everything?

I got some news for the cowards that pass themselves off as Americans Educational Administrators. If someone is breaking in to your little suburban fortress to kill people, they are going to know exactly where they are going. They will have a clue as to which classroom they are going. Stacking the kids together in one corner of the room only makes it easier for them to kill more kids at once. If you have someone crazy enough to break in with weapons, they know they aren't getting out. They will be trying to take as many people with them as possible. Grouping people together just makes the lunatics' jobs easier.

This grouping also prevents anyone from standing up to these would be terrorists; you know maybe an act of bravery by some kid? Have any of you administrators ever taken a look at what happened at Pearl Harbor? The airplanes were all grouped together. The Japanese took them out quickly. Had those planes been spread out, there would have been more resistance to the attack that day.

But that would fly in the face of everything schools teach. A Japanese proverb that every nail that sticks up will be hammered down is the effective mandate.

Gone is the real individualism of what we think or thought America was. How are we teaching our kids to question authority? What would happen if a kid actually questioned why we need to be prepared for a Red Dawn style attack on our schools? How do our institutions react to questions they can't answer? How many times has a Columbine tragedy occurred in the last decade? What does it tell our kids when we need to fear something that is statistically minuscule? What perspective are we giving these young adults as they venture in to the world?

The scariest thing is these kids cannot define Freedom.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Middle is Starting to Win

Published: The Huffington Post 2010-11-18

On Thursday, November 18, 2010 the following link announced:
"Philadelphia's 'Big Talker' makes big changes with Smerconish, Beck, Hannity"

Beck and Hannity are leaving Philly!

As those on the center and left start to whoop and holler, this seismic change in the radio market means the middle is starting to win.

"Michael Smerconish is moving to the PM Drive."

It is interesting that of the three, only Smerconish did NOT make any of the montages at the Rally for Sanity.

It may be that the ratings are falling, or that the BigTalker realizes that there is a market in moderation. The Big Talker (WPHT), a 50,000 watt flamethrower of a station, broadcasts on 1210 AM and is a clear channel station. I have picked up St Joes' basketball games from as far away as Western Massachusetts on this station. Aside from being based in Philly, the fourth largest radio market in the country and the second largest on the east coast, WPHT can be picked up in New York and DC in the evenings.

The station management realizes how both ends of the political spectrum are polarizing and people are tired of it. Over the years, Smerconish has intentionally moved from a political hard right position to the center.

Smerconish' morning show starts with Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You." The radio show means it. Smerconish, while very polite, makes it clear that both ends of the spectrum leave a lot to be desired. As someone who has listened to talk radio for years, this movement is really appreciated.

All of this is a calculated risk for him. He could have played it safe and stayed as a ranting right-winger. But sometimes an opportunity is too good not to take a shot at. The talk radio landscapes in major markets are populated with the right wing. You can almost look out on a vista a see a long plain of untapped potential marketing. Cater to these folks, and you have a shot.

Air America Radio failed because they set up a mirror image from a position standpoint. We'll just set up shop on the left and they'll come to us.

What Smerconish did, and is doing, is much smarter. From a position of success and strength on the right, he is slowly moving the window to the center. As he is doing that he is pulling those listeners from his right-leaning base with him. He is also adding people from the middle and the left as he moves to the center. There is real talk on this talk radio program. We don't have to think the same, but we can talk respectfully.

A side effect of this movement is Smerconish appears to be more comfortable in the skin of a moderate rather than a right winger. Growth and growing is a matter of maturity. None of us are where we were 20 or 30 years ago. If we look back at positions we held then, or what was acceptable to us then, we might upbraid ourselves now.

He doubled down on his wager when he left the GOP earlier this year. It appears to be paying recent dividends as he got a second shot to talk one-on-one with the President in late October, now a week-long gig on Hardball subbing for Chris Matthews. The radio show is now syndicated across the country -- including DC and New York. If you aren't getting the station directly, you can stream it live from his site.

As a moderate, I am hoping that Smerconish will get more gigs at a national level.

Here's to hoping that he can clone himself.

Disclaimer: I have a blog here because Michael Smerconish allowed me to ask the President if his knees were buckling a year ago. In the hours after that, I asked the folks at HuffPo if I could blog for them. Thanks, Michael for the shot...






i am available for cloning....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eighty Students Needed to Cover College Football Losses

Published: The Huffington Post 2010-11-15

Some things are really starting to tick me off.

I got three kids and am looking at college costs.

They all play sports, but not the holy game of football.

My oldest is going to a small liberal arts school in the Lehigh Valley. Part of the reason he chose the school was they had a lacrosse team with a lousy record and a great guy coaching it. Liberal arts are all about learning and participation (yeah, we bought that line).

Unfortunately, the school discontinued the program right before the opening of the lacrosse season last year. They allowed the kids to play the year and got their fannies whooped by the other teams. But their small squad compared to the other schools' made me realize that my freshman son was getting more field time in one year that the other school's players would be getting in four years.

When the parents group from the lacrosse program tried to find out what was going on, it was the head of the football boosters that was one of the ones appointed by the school to "calm us down." I went away with a low opinion of the school, a lower opinion of college athletics, and an even lower opinion of football programs (I really think football is afraid of lacrosse.)

In today's paper was this article about Villanova Football trying to go to the Big East. (Disclaimer: I am a Temple grad, so I cheer for the Owls and anyone playing Villanova.) But the following passage struck me hard as a parent who is looking at schools as my high schoolers are getting to that age.

The following is from the middle of the article:

Q: Can Villanova make money playing Big East football?

A: That's not the right question. Villanova loses money now playing football in the Colonial Athletic Association at the Football Championship Series level, even as the defending national champion. The school spends almost $5 million, while taking in just $1 million in revenues. Expect the school to try to hit roughly that same mark right off the bat in the Big East, allowing for about a $4 million hit. The difference is that the school's spending will triple, but the TV and bowl shares would make up for it.

Q: What is the biggest expenditure?
A: Right off the bat, Villanova knows it can't keep housing the football offices underneath the stands at Villanova Stadium. It will need to build a facility for football like it did the Davis Center for basketball. If the Davis Center cost roughly $20 million, think more than $30 million for a football center, with offices, locker room, weight room, etc. That's outside of the yearly expenses.

I was immediately drawn to the $4,000,000 number. I wrote it out for effect. I then decided to take a look at how much tuition was at Nova. If you go down to the middle of the page you will see the following:

Estimated Annual Freshman Cost 2010 - 2011

Tuition $39,350
Room - Average of Types 3, 4, and 5 $5,640
Board - "The Alternative" meal plan $5,000
General Fee $300
Health Fee $280
Freshmen - All Colleges (includes laptop) $50,570

I like math. I am glad they get a laptop.

To cover the costs of the football program right now, Villanova is looking at, in terms of per student:

$4,000,000 it loses in the football program / $50,000 (we'll round down) = 80 students.

As a parent who is looking to educate my child, it is taking 80 kids' tuition -- or, rather, their parents' -- to field a football team that loses money. Maybe some people need to look into a good business school (Hey, Nova has one! link). Hmm... tuition for 2010-2011 is $92,000? Maybe not.

I could depress you even more by doing the math for the $20,000,000 or $30,000,000 figures put up in the article.

Yes, I know I can do this exercise for Temple or Moravian or whatever school. But part of the point also to be made here is that Colleges cost a bundle to deal with. What are the values of the particular college? Where are they putting your cash once they get it, or get it from your kids' future earnings?

With all the data coming out on head injuries coming from the sport of football, isn't it ironic that a student athlete will be taking on a huge debt to have an education concussed right out of his head before he leaves the school?

Instead of expanding this sport, would it be more ethical from a financial and physical standpoint to start constricting it?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Actually, 15 Percent of the People Are Telling 85 Percent What to Do

Published: The Huffington Post 2010-11-08 23:28:31

Post has been updated !!! The flaw revealed below...

The United States Elections Project is an information source for the United States electoral system. The mission of the project is to provide timely and accurate election statistics, electoral laws, research reports, and other useful information regarding the United States electoral system. By providing this information, the project seeks to inform the people of the United States on how their electoral system works, how it may be improved, and how they can participate in it.

Dr. Michael McDonald, Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University

This is all from their website (link).

They have a quick analysis of the 2010 General Election (link). I am sure the numbers will be updated and are in a state of flux.

Based on his early analysis, Dr. McDonald finds that 218 million people were eligible to vote in the election (Voting-Eligible Population column to the right).

Only 87 million availed themselves of the activity (Highest Office (est.) column to the right).

Let's work with those numbers.

87 / 218 = .399 is just under 40% turnout.

I did a cursory look around at the margins of victory for the GOP, just some old fashioned gut-truthiness and pulled a number of 53% as a margin of victory for argument sake. Going up or down with that percentage won't diminish the point I am about to make.

39.9% * 53% = 21.9 %

That means roughly 22 % of those who are eligible to vote are telling the other 78% what to do.

Do you still feel like you live in a Democracy?

Is this acceptable to you?

(I'll send you a prize if you can find the error I left in my analysis...)


Here is the flaw...

We have 300 million people in the country.

The 87 million * 53% of GOP voters set the rules for everyone.

That number of 46 million voters going for the GOP Team gets to tell the total of 300 million Americans what to do.

46 million / 300 million = about 15%.

That means in reality 15% is telling the other 85% what to do.

It was just a little bit too depressing and confusing to put out there first.

Sorry, no one got it. But there were some really good tries...
I may try this again sometime...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hey MSNBC -- Help Us!

Published: The Huffington Post 2010-11-07 21:53:00


Oh, a two day suspension.

Wow that hurt.

This weekend's blogosphere looked like an asylum where the escaped pyromaniacs were torching all the uberKEITHS hair.

I really think this thing was played for ratings by ranting.

MSNBC obviously was feeling the heat from the heat Professional Left web sites. Enough people were signing boycott petitions, almost as many as a Rally for Sanity...

MSNBC could not cut the cash cow. It doesn't matter of a bunch if suspected GOP hatchet men are rumored at the door ready to burn the place down from the inside. The name of the game here is money and ratings.

THE KEITH has proved he is viable. Honestly, if they let the guy go, how long do you think it would be for him to land at CNN or start his own shop? They had to keep him. Give him a couple of days off and call it even.

There was a triumphant return for THE KEITH.

However, THE KEITH played it cute on Tuesday. That is ok. He is also a citizen with the same rights that we have or any corporation has to donate what he wants to whom he wants and now he can keep it secret if he chooses (I hope he incorporates himself, like Michael Moore suggested...).

There really is no journalism now, only media activism. FOX gets this, MSNBC doesn't.

If MSNBC wants to do something, they need to help those of us at the grass roots levels organize. I am sorry, but the 1950's are gone. Murrow is gone. Thurber is dead.

MSNBC is playing against a team that has updated the 1890's Yellow Journalism Handbook. Anyone notice media similarities between the Spanish-American War and the Iraq War?

FOX is organizing for the Right Wing. The Left needs the assistance on the how to get involved in stuff. Many places will have local elections next year.

Will Fox be using this as a dry run for the GOTV and organizing efforts of 2012?

It is time for MSNBC to step up and do right by the Left Wing. Point-and-Snark ain't cutting it. You guys have the bully pulpit. HELP US !

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's Keithier to Keep Him on the Shelf ... for Now

Published: The Huffington Post 2010-11-05

First reaction to the latest Keith Olbermann-sticks-his-foot-in-it episode is:

The longer MSNBC keeps Olbermann suspended the more they come off like holier than thou boobs.

MSNBC is playing by the 1950's Marquess of Queensbury journalism rules.
Fox is playing by the 1890 yellow journalism rules.
MSNBC is getting their heads handed to them.

Kudos for Olbermann for putting some money where his mouth is.

Shame on MSNBC for playing the game halfway.

Put this as my Facebook status and a whole load of people seemed to like it...

As I expounded -- I realized something. This could be a ratings bonanza for a serial ranter.

Think about it. This is lighting up the internet for Keith!

But Olbermann is actually fighting for attention.

Part of me is wondering if there is some theater going on in the background. Olbermann donated quite some time ago to the campaigns. He knows the rules. He's a smart guy. The exposure of this donation and suspension actually is causing a firestorm in Blogland. I wonder if this is a manipulation for ratings and to rally around THE KEITH.

There will be a triumphant return of THE KEITH!

There is a sweet spot to keep Keith off the air to maximize attention, while not allowing attrition to other things, like say, Comedy Central. (If I were programming at Comedy Central, I might put the previous evening's re-runs of Stewart and Colbert against the suspended Olbermann spot, just to see what happens. What about going live at 8 for Stewart?)

But more than an apology or whatever mealy mouthed words stuffed in Keith's mouth by the corporate suits need to come out when Olbermann comes back. He needs to come back with an attitude. He and the rest of the MSNBC Crew need to start playing the game like FOX.

We could use some blue astro-turf over here. As I said before, MSNBC is only going half way. I am not asking them to go with half truths or no truths, but hammering truths. The left needs a counter balance.

Keith needs to help with some how-to stuff on activism. How do we do this at home? The left needs grass roots help. Enough with the point-and-snark!

I really think some of this is being driven by all the attention the Comedy Central folks have earned. They are eating MSNBC's lunch right in front of them.

I am looking forward to MSNBC retooling a little bit and to start coming out swinging. The 1950's Edward R. Murrow stuff ain't cutting it. We, not the Center, not the Left, but the country needs a legitimate counter-balance to FOX. I like Thurber, but he's been dead a while.

I want to see MSNBC partying like it's a yellow 1899!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Direct Political Result of the Rally for Sanity

Published: The Huffington Post 11/1/2010

The image below is a direct political result of the Rally for Sanity.

Voters in Lower Providence and Worcester Townships in Pennsylvania will see the following sign at their poll on Tuesday.

It is highly unusual for a political party to endorse a person outside its party.

The state has a closed Primary system, but allows citizens to cross-file for the position of School Board Director.

The Democratic Party in these towns are opening up the process for their endorsement in next years' school board races to all citizens.

The political parties need to act sanely if they want to be respected.

There is no reason why anyone who is a member of a political party cannot petition their local party to do something like this.