Saturday, October 22, 2005

Thought Control in Higher Education

John Leo, a writer for the U.S. News and World Report, has an article in the 10/24/05 issue titled “Class(room) Warriors.” He writes about the cultural left trying to enforce political conformity in schools of education. It’s called “disposition theory” and in effect it works like this: education schools have the unbounded power over what teaching candidates may think or do, what they may believe and value. The rules in certain offices of higher education are that all teachers would be judged by “their knowledge, skills and dispositions.” What are dispositions? This edict was imposed by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

The NCATE vehemently denies that is imposing groupthink, but the ed schools, essentially a liberal monoculture, use the “dispositions theory” to require support for diversity and a culturally left agenda, including opposition to what the schools sometimes call “institutional racism, classism, and heterosexism.” Predictably some students concluded that thought control would make classroom dissent dangerous. A few students rebelled when a teacher at Brooklyn College School of Education showed Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11 in class and dismissed “white English” as “the language of oppressors.” Five students filed written complaints and received no formal reply from the college. One was told to leave the school and take an equivalent course at a community college. Two of the complaining students were then accused of plagiarism and marked down one letter grade. The two were refused permission to bring a witness to the classroom, a tape recorder, or a lawyer to meet with a den to discuss the matter.

A history professor who defended the dissenting students became a target himself when he wrote an article attacking “dispositions” as a form of mind control. He then faced a possible investigation by an Integrity Committee. Yes these communistic occurrences do happen in the U.S. Enter Philadelphia based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a national civil liberties group that does what the ACLU should be doing but usually won’t. FIRE said that “Brooklyn College must confirm that it tolerates dissent, that it is not conducting secret investigations of its own professors.” FIRE says the college has “disavowed any secret investigations.”

The article goes on to detail other cases and concludes that you should say what you think ( I suspect within reason) in class and if the administration moves against you, give FIRE a call.

As a parent, I advise you to not send a child to a college or university, unless you know that the faculty presents and allows free discussion on events, past and present and allows dissent or contrary views. Colleges faculties should teach kids how to think; not what to think. Most kids figure it out but some believe in what the liberal left tries to force them to believe. Some professors are subtle in their approach to “indoctrinating” some of their “moonstruck” students. These are the ones who end up in all kind of marches of protest or do stupid actions like burning the American flag. Most eventually become good citizens in spite of their college education. I did.

For those of you with a conservative bent, I highly recommend Hillsdale University, a small school of higher education in Hillsdale, Michigan. Hillsdale is a private school that does not accept any government money.

School Vouchers

An Editorial in the WJS on 10/14/05 reads “Last month the Bush Administration proposed using federal vouchers to meet the educational needs of 372,000 Louisiana and Mississippi children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Up to $7,500.00 would follow student evacuees “wherever they are enrolled.” Democrat Ted Kennedy doesn’t want to give parents the money directly so they can decide where to send their children to school. Keeping the money in “the system” allows him and his teacher-union supporters to maintain their political control.

Democrat Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who sent her children to private schools last year and didn’t support a pilot voucher program for the poorest of the poor in the District of Columbia. Post-Katrina, she’s cosponsoring a bill as part of a larger relief package that would use federal dollars to cover tuition at private and religious schools. Even Democrat Senator Dodd of Connecticut, another longtime voucher opponent, now says he could support them on a temporary basis.

The kids in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward could have used the voucher system long ago. Better late than never.” End of quotes.

As I’ve warned before, we have only so many years left to bring our schools systems up to the needs of the current world. If it takes vouchers, private schools and religious schools, to do it let’s get moving.

Incentive Pay for Teachers

“How One School Found a Way to Spell Success” by columnist Daniel Henninger is an article in the WSJ dated 10/14/05 Henniger writes about Meadowcliff Elementary School located in Little Rock, Ark. He writes, “About 90% of the K-5 school is black. It sits in a neighborhood of neat, very modest homes. About 92 % of the K-5 students are definable as living at or below the poverty level. Principal Karen Carter abhors the term, poverty level, because most of the parents work at one or two jobs. This refusal to bend to stereotypes likely explains what happened last year at Meadowcliff.”

Henniger writes “The school’s scores on the Stanford achievement course rose by an average of 17% in one year. Against the National norm, the school’s 246 students rose to the 35th percentile from the 25th. For math in the 2nd grade and higher 177 students rose to the 32nd percentile from the 32nd. What happened in nine months?

Meadowcliff has two of the elements well established as necessary to a schools success-a strong and gifted principal, and a motivated teaching staff. Both are difficult to find in urban school systems. Last year this public school added a third element; individual teacher bonuses, sometimes known as “pay for performance.”

Paying teacher on merit is one of the most popular ideas in education. It is also arguably the most opposed idea in public education, anathema to the unions and their supporters. Meadowcliff’s program arrived through a back door. No money was available so they went to the Public Education Foundation of Little Rock but the Foundation had no money for her. So the Foundation produced a private, anonymous, which made union approval unnecessary.

Details were worked out using the Stanford test results to determine the bonus pay. For each student in a teacher’s charge whose score rose up to 4% over the year, the teacher gets $100; 5% to 9%--$200; 10% to 14%--$300; and more than 15%--$400. This straight-line pay-for-performance formula awarded teachers objectively in a way that squares with popular notions of fairness and skirts fears of subjective judgment. In most merit-based lines of work, like baseball, it’s called getting paid for “putting numbers on the board.”

Twelve teacher received performance bonuses ranging from $1800 to $8600. The rest of the school’s staff shared in the bonus pool; that included the cafeteria employees, who started eating with the she students instead of eating in a nearby lounge, and the custodian who the student’s saw taking books out of the library to read.

Total cost: 134,000. The test cost $10,000.

The Meadowcliff bonus program is now in its 2nd year, amid more phenomena rarely witnessed in “school reform.” Last years bonuses were paid by an anonymous donor; this year the school board voted to put he pay for performance bonuses on the district’s budget. The teacher union insisted that Meadowcliff’s teacher vote for a contract waiver: 100% voted for the waiver. Another grade school, with private funding, will now try the Meadowcliff model.

The Meadowcliff program has the support of both Little Rock’s superintendent and Arkansas director of education. 100 administrative positions from the central bureaucracy were cut and the dollars saved, 3.8 million dollars, were rerouted back to the schools.

Financial incentives of some sort are needed to stop math and science teachers from jumping to private industry. School districts have to innovate fast because jobs and populations are migrating internally. The district hired 180 new teachers this year and Little Rock has to find a way to hold its best teachers. The teachers seen at Meadowbrook Elementary seemed pretty happy there.”

As I watched and listened to a presentation by District #150 officials to the League of Women’s Voters, I am a member of LWV, on the closing and building of school, I hope that the Board and Administration is looking for ways to raise student performance and keep and attract competent principals and teachers. I know they are but this district cannot afford to wait another day to implement programs that will keep good teachers and attract better principals and administrators.

Where and when and how much money can be raised is a question on most every bodies mind these days. No one wants a property tax rise unless they can see a direct benefit to the community now, because this community is becoming harder to convince that so many projects deemed to be in everybody’s best interest having not worked out to well.

Promising those fleeing the city that help is on the way without raising our already too high property taxes will not hold them unless they see improvement in this school year of 2005-2006. That is where the communities’ interest lies right now and has lain for the past number of year.

Too many projects in this community are dependent on a cash strapped state and federal government. Maybe more wealth people will step forward and finance more of these local projects starting with the #1 priority in the City of Peoria, the public school systems. A good place to start is with a model of Meadowcliff’s financial performance incentives and a Vo-Tech Center staffed with certified teachers and skilled volunteers. We have stalled these projects way too long and the negative results are becoming more visible each day.

P.S. Anyone wanting to read this complete Henninger copy can retrieve it from the libraries or I will fax you a copy. Let me know on this site or send me an email.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Some Observations

Drive to the junction of the new Charter Oak Drive, Allen Road and Rt. 150. Observe the beautiful landscaped sloping roadsides; observe the dirt washing off these slopes, the pieces of the of sod slopes that slide down these hills, look at the dirt washing down these slopes into ditches that eventually drain into the Illinois River. Ask yourself if the entities that designed these eroded slopes had any experience in landscaping? Did they earn a bonus for finishing this ugly landscape job early? Or is this just typical of the designing of some IDOT engineers? Were these eroding landscapes purposefully designed to create more work later on? Is the idea to put more mud in the Illinois River so we can ship it to Chicago or New Orleans? Do these eroding slopes give visitors a good impression of Peoria? Surely I am not the only one that noticed this sloppy job?

On October 13, 2005 a headline in the JS stated “Ameren’s (Cilco) Future is Cloudy.” “Utility officials raise possibility of corporate bankruptcy.” The article quotes Warner Baxter, Ameren’s executive v-p and chief financial officer as saying “If Ameren’s utilities are not allowed to recover their costs through the rates charged to the consumer, a variety of “adverse consequences” could develop. Those consequences could include “the extreme, which could be a sort of bankruptcy situation, and we certainly have no hope and trying to go down that path because really no one wins.”

Flash back to 2004 where a headline in the JS stated that “Ameren/Cilco provided a “lead gift of $500,000.00” to the children’s playhouse.” This playhouse will occupy the remodeled old pavilion soon to be vacated as the Peoria Park District moves their headquarters “temporarily” into the old IDOT building on Knoxville. It appears that Ameren wants to raise the rates to it’s customers to avoid bankruptcy. It appears that the public may pay higher rates to Ameren so they don’t go “bankrupt” and Ameren takes part of our money and gives it to the Peoria Playhouse in their name and takes credit as being the “generous benefactor”. Hmmmm.

In a presentation to the Peoria Park Board on 10/12/05 by a member of the Junior League, the board was told that the annual operating budget of the Playhouse would be $413,100.00 and the Playhouse would be “self-sustaining. Remember that number because at some point the $100.00 may become significant!! (Have I heard the phrase self-sustaining before?) Sounds familiar; was it the RiverPlex?”

An article in the JS dated 12/12/02 and titled “Park (Peoria) officials set to discuss softball site. Passed over project could be a boon to Peoria in 2006.” Park Superintendent Bonnie Noble said “board members have been working on this for several months and this project could provide Peoria with enough fields to host the National Softball Association 2006 regional girl’s fast-pitch tournament.”

I don’t believe I am the only bearer of the bad news that no matter what miracle Ms. Noble is capable of pulling out of increased property taxes and increased fees, no new tournament approved softball fields will be completed in time for a tournament 8 months from now. But some of those hundreds of kids and their families playing over in East Peoria will spend some of their money on the Peoria side of the river if they have any money left when they leave the Paradise, also in East Peoria. A win-win; right?

Probably not.

Now if my friend Dan Daly, you know Dan from the Civic Center board who somehow underestimated costs of the new expansion by quite a bunch, will look up his notes, I believe he will find that a new softball complex was part of the vision that Tim Cassidy, Peoria Park District President, presented to Dan and to the public, along with a vision of a $32 Million dollar expanded African Zoo, a new skateboard park and a financially solvent park district. All this without raising property taxes or selling more bonds than they pay off yearly. (Now around 23 million owed) The “vision” included a financially solvent RiverPlex (lost $7 million dollars in the first 40 months of operations) and the saving of the Peoria Park District from those who wished to destroy the parks. I quote an article in the JS (3/17/03) in which Mr. Cassidy said “elect me and save the Peoria Park District.” Hmmmmm.

Another observation was that the Peoria Park Board cancelled a number of full board meeting this year. A board member said the reason was that they had NOTHING to talk about. Hmmmm.

Just an observation but it appears some things are going wrong with a lot of the “visions” presented to us by some of our leadership. Just an observation.

Well, enough observations for one evening except I might mention that the Peoria County Board will NOT be raising your property tax rates for next year. In fact the rate is expected to decrease slightly. And yes, I will be running for another term on the Peoria County Board because even at my advanced age, I know something about the “fiscal responsibility" of an elected official to the people who elected him.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Take Back the Right

Before we vote next spring and next November, we need to read and listen to all sides of all issue that will be presented. “Take back the Right, How the Neocons and the Religious Right have betrayed the Conservative Movement,” by Author Philip Gold should be on your “to read” list. While this book is talking mostly about the party of which I am a member, it should be good reading for anyone. I will quote some of the statements Mr. Gold makes (he lists an extensive bibliography) that I think are noteworthy:

Gold quotes Ortega y Gasset in his book the “Revolt of the Masses” who writes “If you want to make use of the advantage of civilization, but are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization-you are done. For me nobility is synonymous with a life of effort, ever set on excelling oneself, in passing beyond what is to what one sets up as a duty and an obligation.”

Gold says author Bruno Snell noted what happened when the ancients began to question their ways. He wrote “men had very decided notions of what was expected of them. But when human behavior became an object of detailed investigation, many practices which had earlier been regarded as highly estimable did not withstand the pressure of the new criticism.... As more of sections of society became aware of their own merit, they are less willing to conform to the ideal of the once-dominant class. It is discovered that the ways of men are diverse.”

Gold quotes Barry Goldwater “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Goldwater spoke of how “America had lost the brisk pace of diversity and the genius of individual creativity.”

Gold tells the story of a young psychoanalyst, new to his trade and ardent about it’s possibilities, who sought the master for advice. According to the tale, Dr. Freud listened politely, then answered: “Don’t try to save people. They don’t want to be saved.” Wise counsel. Then and now.

Gold quotes Alexander Haig, upon being asked by somebody why he talked the way he did, is alleged to have replied “Sometimes it’s better to be not understood than to be misunderstood.” He may have been on to something.

Gold quotes Liberal Sharon Krause as saying “Four features of honor as a quality of character are elaborated: its high ambition, the balance of reverence and reflexibility, partiality, and the mix of recognition and resistance. The substantive codes of honor may vary.

To the extent that we obscure our own aristocratic capacities and liberal democracy’s aristocratic elements, we deny ourselves potentially powerful sources of individual agency and withhold crucial support for individual’s liberties. Those with honor above all else refuse to believe they are victims of circumstances.”

Gold continues “Neocons are, I believe a transient political and intellectual phenomenon. They have no power of their own. A few hold high-level positions but none hold a genuinely inner – circle position, and none of the present crop has ever won, or could win, a serious election.”

When JFK’s geniuses where being extolled to then House Speaker Sam Rayburn, the old pol listened politely and said “you may be right and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say. But I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.”

Gold continues Neocons don’t run for sheriff, or anything else. They are Idea Men. They think Geostrategic Big Thoughts. And they are ever more hated within the conservative movement. Some find their arrogance unendurable. Other wonder if their commitment to Israel might not be a bit too ardent, especially since so many of them are Jewish. Most of the Neocons have the same arrogance that led to Vietnam. Whatever we do is good because we do it. And we can do whatever we please.”

Gold continues “The first generation of Neocons brought to conservatism-or could have brought-exactly the kind of humane aristocratic sensibility and demand for responsible excellence that conservatism needed.”

Gold quotes writer Robert Kaplan from his book “The Coming Anarchy”---a condition demanding the sternest of Pagan virtues and no delusions concerning the redemption of others. There will be resources to fight over, especially oil and water. Religion will also be a global casus belli, especially between Islamic minorities and Christian and other majorities and Islamic majorities from Egypt to Indonesia. In truth, all these struggles, and more, interlock. And since 9/11, and certainly since the United States undertook to redeem Iraq, America has groped for a new way of understanding the world encompassing these struggles, and our role in it.”

Gold concludes “we must take back the right to be citizens, effective participants in the public world. This is how we must learn to live, once again. And this is what; above all else, a new conservatism must strive for.”

Anyway, the book is worth reading. Most of the above reflects my own feeling.
However, there are numerous statements by Mr. Gold that I would doubt.

I’ll close with quotes from Cal Thomas in today’s JS: “Many people are drawn to power less to advance certain policies than for ego satisfaction and future job prospects. Bush needs contrarians on his staff and he should meet with “average” people as often as possible.”

What goes on in our highest ranks of government reflect what goes on in our cities and local communities. Does anybody out there believe that the Civic Federation, The Chamber of Commerce Executive Council, the Peoria Park Board, the Zoological Society, the Museum Board, the Peoria Public Library Board, the Civic Center Board to name some of the most prominent, I’ll exclude political parties and some unions, would have average people or ESPECIALLY people with contrarians views on their boards?

Isn’t the way societies are run is by all agreeing with the ones who have the power and the gold or for those who have other peoples gold with charismatic or “gang type” leadership qualities who can lead people into act of violence; those people who ordinarily wouldn’t smash police cars, burn buildings and loot? For these “leaders” once an idea is conceived, there is no turning back no matter how wrong or untimely the conception.

As you read this, millions of people are planning to rob you, kill you, or harm you in endless ways and turn this planet into utter chaos while a too large part of our citizenry sit slumped at their desks, bored by their teachers and their lives, watch endless hours of mindless Sitcoms and endless baseball, football and baseball seasons. Other millions are working hard preparing themselves to succeed for the benefit of mankind, especially in the United States; people both in this country and all across the world. Many of them do have your best interests at heart; many don’t. Those of you involved or not involved, had better hope we have more students and adults’ preparing themselves to be good citizens and leaders in the United States. Much information suggests we are “losing ground” to many other countries.

My advice; get involved in the politics of this community and this country, hopefully as a conservative and a liberal; of course, in the OLD meaning of the two terms. If you have no interest in your community or your countries politics and promote the status quo, don’t complain about the decisions made by our Neocons, our aristocratic, our selfish and our poor or bad leadership. Try not to make public opinions in criticism of the country you profess to love; these opinions when appearing in diverse medias, give our enemies the backbone they lack. Our enemies use our own words and actions to kill those we wish to save. Many of them do plan ways to kill us; Neocons, liberals, conservatives, far left and far right “leaners” and poor or disadvantaged people. Our enemies will make no distinctions. Sorry.

But we hope we can always keep the right to disagree. But we are obligated to do more than just complain. In many countries such as in the Middle East, you do not have that right even to complain; or many other rights.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

How Sports Helped Mold My Life

Even though I spent at least forty-four years of my life playing and thinking about sports, I have only blogged on the subject a couple of times. Tonight, I’ll throw out some thoughts how sports rescued me from the farm; where I told one of my older sisters, that I was day dreaming my life away. My interest began as a Cub fan in 1939 and I fantasized my way thru grade school as being a good ball player. I told my brother-in-law that I hit a home run in a softball game when actually the ball went thru the shortstop and by the time everybody got done fumbling the ball, I circled the bases. My relative of course didn’t believe me because I was a scrawny kid and we only played a couple of softball games a year. Our one-room school teacher packed the whole school into two or three cars and we went to play another rural grade school team. Everybody played that wanted to play including the girls.

On the farm, I hit so many rocks with a broomstick off our driveway that my Dad made me go out in the cornfield and pick them all up. With nine of us in the family; seven sisters and a brother 11 years older than I, it was a rare treat when Dad had time to hit me a few balls and our yard was only about 40 feet wide so it wasn’t till I arrived in high school that I ever had a real baseball experience.

I had never shot a real basketball or played in a gym until my freshman year. Marbles was my game and I was still playing marbles as a freshman until my more sophisticated city slicker classmates (Congerville) started making fun of me. I was so bad in basketball that when I made my first basket as a sophomore playing on the “B” squad, the whole bench erupted.

In 1942, I was a senior and cut from the basketball squad with my only connection to sports being a spectator and the Sports Editor of our high school paper. That year, NCHS made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” State Basketball Tournament as it was called back then. Normal lost in the opening round to Streator by the score of 47-37. I was sad that three of my friends sat on the bench and never got to say they actually played in a State Tournament. When I was writing the article describing the game, I wanted to praise the coach for coaching the team to the State but wanted to criticize him for not letting everybody play even if for only 10 or 20 seconds. That day, I decided to become a coach.

For five years I was a head high school backtrack coach and three years I was also head grade school coach. One night I played 40 out of 51 boys eligible by having them play each other between halves of the lightweight and heavy weight games. The kids were always changing shirts when they went in and out. I don’t recall ever coaching a complete game without everybody dressed for the game playing at least a little at some point in the game.

The Daily Pantagraph called me one of the most successful grade school coaches in Central Illinois and my Varsity record was 60 wins and 58 losses, 13 wins my first and last year combined and 47 wins in the middle three. My grade school teams won 27 trophies most of them in two years, trophies that included a 2nd place in the state.

In the three years after high school, between the ages of 16 and 19, I grew five inches and became as Fred Young, the legendary sports Editor of the Daily Pantagraph said “one of the best basketball shooters in the Bloomington-Normal area.” Fred ran a “Did You Know” column and all we jocks wanted to see our names in his column. He wanted me to attend Wesleyan University but I thought Wesleyan was for rich and snooty kids. I was less than half right.

I started at ISNU (It was Illinois State Normal University back then) where my friends were and finished at Western in Macomb because I needed to get away from my friends so I could study and graduate before my GI Bill ran out. I did.

Back in the forties and fifties, independent sports were all the rage for so inclined young men. I played on three Championship baseball teams including Danvers in the Sunday afternoon Tri-County-we won sixteen in a row- I got three hits in that game and still have the clipping along with dozens of other clippings because all independent sports results in baseball, softball and basketball made the Pantagraph sports page. I played on the Heyworth Sangamon Valley Championship Sunday afternoon league batting either 2nd or 5th with the cleanup hitter from Illinois Wesleyan, Ed White and the Illinois State cleanup-hitter Loren “Buck” Weaver hitting 3rd and cleanup. Weaver had a promising baseball career abruptly ended when he came down hard on his right shoulder, an injury from which he did not recover. Loren still lives in Tucson and now has Alzheimer’s. I lost track of Ed White years ago. I still see some of my old teammates from time to time including Jim Dixson, formerly from Danvers, who lives in E. Peoria. I’ve probably misspelled his name.

I played for the coach most considers the best athlete to ever play sports at ISU; Pim Goff. Goff lettered and starred in football, basketball, baseball, tennis and track, winning five letters in one year, a feat impossible to repeat by anyone today. Pim got angry (his eventual downfall as a coach was his temper and he died in his late fifties) with me when I grounded out to end a ballgame and benched me. I was eventually traded to Eureka-Williams, yes we had official contracts in the Bloomington-Normal Municipal League, and E-W won the league championship. I was so proud to wear my new jacket with League Champions emblazed on it when I attended Western that fall. I felt at home with all the jocks from Chicago that wore similar jackets. Unfortunately, I had no high school record in baseball and none in basketball except my one Air Force season. Almost all the players were recruited on their high school records and I didn’t get much chance to show my ability as a walk on.

During my few years playing as an independent, all baseball games were played during the week and in the late afternoon because none of the baseball fields were lighted at that time. However, some of the towns had lighted softball fields and it was not unusual for me to play baseball in the early evening in Bloomington Normal, head to a small town like Carlock or Congerville and play softball under the lights and play every Sunday afternoon in league baseball games.

By the age 18, I surpassed all my high school basketball and baseball teammates and eventually was a starter for my First Air Force Traveling Post basketball team at the age of 21. We won one of four nationwide 1st Air Force championships in 1947. To my knowledge, I was the only starter in the 1st Air Force who never played first team on a high school basketball team.

It was at the Army Base called Fort Dix where I played against and guarded the first black man to ever play on an armed forces traveling sports team. His name was Maurice Kellogg, who was 6 feet, four inches tall which was considered big in those days. I was 5’ 11 ¾ and the second tallest man on our squad. I scored 16 points before I fouled out and Kellogg finished with 24. Kellogg eventually attended Manhattan University and was the broken link of the basketball scandals of the early fifties when he reported the first bribe attempt by gamblers to get players to “shave” points. The arrest of the bribers caused the eventual downfall of some of the Bradley players who are still the talk in Bradley basketball circles today; names like “Squeaky” Mellichoire, Billy Mann and Mike Chianakis of Eureka; all who admitted to taking money to shave points for the gamblers. Paul Unruh and Joe Stowell also played on this team with Unruh rising to All-American status and Stowell being a legendary coach at Bradley. Neither was involved in the point shaving.

Once I entered the business world, except for two years that I was a basketball official in Central Illinois, working two freshman games at Robertson Field House when Joe Stowell was freshman coach, I pretty much disconnected from everything but some golf. (The days of freshman teams are long gone with the rise of freshman eligibility and women’s sports.) I was Vice President of the Bradley Chiefs Club, resigning when Stowell was relieved of his head coaching position and replaced by Dick “the mouth” Versace.

Then at the age of fifty five, I discovered tennis, spending a lot of time on the tennis courts in Phoenix, AZ. where I had a business. Long established as a “competitor”, I have won approximately 200 first, second or consolation prizes of one kind or another. (Three 1st place finishes and 2 second place finishes in the local Tri-County 65 age division.) One of my best memories was when in year 2000, Bob Orr (from Pekin) and I won the Midwest Super Senior Championship at Lansing, Michigan. This five state tournament was played over a period of three days. Our record was 8-O and our big win was over the former Wisconsin College players, Woyhan and Kelton, both former University of Wisconsin tennis players (Kelton was captain of the Wisconsin tennis team in college.) We also beat a team composed of the former Captain of Michigan State’s tennis team and a former Western Michigan tennis coach.

Other “big” wins were over a former national clay court champion from Philadelphia, my consecutive year wins in the Twin City Senior Tournament Championships in Normal over John Morehouse, former Bradley tennis coach now deceased in 1996 and the afore mentioned Bob Orr in 1997. Bob played tennis for Bradley University and seemed to get better each year he got older. Other achievements were two Gold Medals and two Silver Medals and numerous Bronze Medals won at the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. I also was a finalist at Dayton, Ohio with the legendary Dan Miller a numerous times National Champion whose regular doubles partner is Irv Converse, father of local businessman Ralph Converse. Both Dan and Irv now play in the eight-five age division and have more than a few “gold balls.” I have thirteen first of second place trophies from the Danville Western Hard-court Championships and was a Finalist at Cowichan Bay in Vancouver, British Columbia, playing in the longest consecutive year running grass courts tournament in the Western Hemisphere.

I still daydream of someday winning a National tennis championship in the 80, 85 or 90 age division. The draw in the nineties is fairly small so my chances improve each year. (I think)

If you are still reading, I’ll come back to the original subject. My early interest in sports gave me a future other than being a farmer. Farms back then required work everyday of the week. My participation in sports, playing, managing and coaching, honed my competitive drive, made me a successful businessman and taught me to win and lose as gracefully as my personality would allow me, kept me from the smoking and drinking crowd (I enforced that rule as best I could during my coaching days but in these times, I would probably be assaulted by the parents if I tried to enforce ANY standards.) Today with the emphasis on having enough “players” to even field a team at some Peoria Schools, a great majority of today’s coaches are not going to boot a player from the squad for offenses as “minor” as these. In fact some Peoria Schools will let you play varsity for just “showing up.” Unexcused absences; no problem, we need you when you decide you want to play. I know first hand a volunteer coach for a number of years in Peoria High Schools.

Why do I write all this? If I lost you some time ago, no problem. I write for posterity so that maybe someday when I’m dead my children or grandchildren might wonder what all did I do with my life. At least a small part is being chronicled in these blogs with clipping to back it al up if anybody cares. I like to think they may someday because I sure don’t know what all of my Dad’s accomplishments but having nine kids to feed, he worked almost every day of his life until he retired at age 67. I was too selfish to spend my time listening to him once I had my own family. But then again, he wasn’t much of a talker, but then I could have been a better listener and asked more about what my Mom and Dad did. Too late to ask now. Maybe years from now someone will ask “what were some of the things Grandpa Merle did” and come across this document in my files. This late hour is more than worth it to me to take time to record it. If some read it, I’m a winner both ways!!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Still Waiting for a Change

Leonard Pitts, a black columnist with the Miami Herald has his column in today’s JS. In my opinion, Mr. Pitts doesn’t fall into the category of other columnists such Thomas Sowell and William Raspberry but his article today makes sense. He is talking about a newly proposed million man march to Washington and laments the results of the first march ten years ago. He says “ten years later, 65 percent of our children are still born out of wedlock, five times more of us are likely to die of homicide, fewer than half of us own our homes, we still marry less, go to jail more and die sooner. Ten years later, the promises we made that crisp Monday in November, lie fallow and unredeemed. We stood in a crowd of generation be-bop, generation doo-wop and generation hip-hop, gathered to slap backs and shake hands, to hug and laugh and be shoulder to shoulder and man to man, serenaded by the heartbeats of African drums. Speakers spoke but they were not the show. The show was us, standing there on what we thought was the pivot of change.

Yet here we are 10 years later (and planning another march led by the wrong leaders), still damned by the numbers. Because change is not something you talk into existence. Change takes action.

Credit where it is due: some of us did go back to our communities and work to change them. But too many of us, just went back.

And yes, I know about cops and court, about the loan officer at the bank and the hiring man downtown and I know about the lies too many white people tell themselves, including the one that goes “liberty and justice for all.” I know about the truths some people won’t, can’t face because it cuts too close to their most cherished conceits and necessary self deceptions.

But I also know that much of what is needed to fix our communities requires no white person’s consent:
Get educated.
Seek a career, Not a job. (Merle’s comment here is get a job and prepare yourself for a career)
Don’t make children you can’t support. (Merle’s comment here is that it usually takes two consenters to cause a pregnancy)
Understand that support means money.
Understand that support means more than money.
Marry the woman. (Merle’s comment, don’t impregnate someone you don’t want to live with for a very long time)
Model manhood for your children.
Save some money.
Buy a home. (Merle’s comment: rent first and save your money and make sure you can afford to MAINTAIN the house you buy.)
Build a life. (Merle’s comments: I am of an age older than 95% of those reading this and I’m still building.)

Easier said than done? Yes, very much. A guarantee you will live happily ever after? No such guarantee exists nor ever will.

Yet I persist in believing that for African America ( Merle does not agree with him here, I would say black Americans in America), changing the world lies in the embrace of these and other old-school dictums. And that revolution can be as simple as a family, checking homework and going to church on Sunday.

I thought we all understood that as we gathered under that autumnal sun. I thought this is what we meant when we laughed and hugged and made promises for the future. But 10 years later, the future is still here and it is hard to glimpse even the bare outlines of change.

There used to be a song that said, “Brother’s gonna work it out.” Ten years later; another autumnal sun. And we are waiting on brother, still.”

End of my somewhat condensed version of Mr. Pitt’s column.

Common sense black leadership appears to be asking why many blacks are caught in a “time warp” while other blacks are springing into action and taking charge of their own destiny.

As someone who first met a black person in high school and then worked with them, hired them, visited their homes, socialized with them, tutored them, played with them; basketball, softball and tennis, I believe I am somewhat qualified to give some white person insight to black leadership in all walks of life; public, private and social leadership as well as some writers and some like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who would probably never agree with me under any circumstance.

Here goes:

When you realize someone is talking to you in a “political correct” form, tell them you value their friendship, advice or whatever but tell them to GET REAL!

Say I am an American and you are an American; you are a Swiss American and I am an African American but we are BOTH Americans. Let’s knock off the formalities and just talk as Americans and call each other friends and forget the race designations. If you get your doctoral degree, am I to, say, introduce you as Dr. so and so who is an African-American with a degree in whatever. Get real again! I would really think it was stupid if someone would call me a Swiss-German American, which I am and will mention it if I really thought someone was interested. They are not!! (If you are a citizen of another country, say some country in Africa, no problem, say so if you wish.)

Try not to be so sensitive unless you REALLY believe someone is insulting you in a derogatory manner or is truly trying to make you feel inferior. If you are sure, then advise them of your feelings in a polite manner. I was called many names I didn’t like when I was growing up, yet I never complained to my folks, teachers or the news media.

Realize that the better you are prepared to impress the “hiring man downtown” the greater become your chances of being hired.

Don’t believe because you are black or poor that people don’t like you. A few will never like some of you just like some people will never like me. So WHAT?

We are all victims at some time or another. Why do you think you have “dibs” on being a victim? Get busy and get a life! All of us with some common sense are getting tired of that old “victimization” stuff.

Who do you think takes entry level jobs? Just black people? What kind of “fine position” white collar job do you think most dropouts of any color are qualified for? Many of us have taken entry level jobs, learned more, and moved up or found a satisfactory job or found a niche where we were financially independent. Try working on a farm where I worked for 18 years. (Well, I was about six years old before I was assigned to my first entry level job like pulling weeds and cleaning up after the chickens.)

Where in our Constitution does it say the “hiring man downtown” owes you a job just because you are black? If you are truly qualified and believe you have been by passed because of race, our laws permit recourse. Qualified people are getting harder to find so go to school, listen up and learn a trade and then become indispensable. If you are turned down by someone, someone else will hire you. If you don’t keep trying, there are always immigrants coming to this country who will take those jobs and move up to management while some of you will be dropouts, poor unmarried and pregnant, become gang bangers or hip-hoppers, (yes some make big money but too many become addicted to something or another and often die young) or become dependent on welfare and wind up going nowhere.

Lastly, try to sort out the racists of your own race and denounce them as such. Pay attention to what Bill Cosby said; he dropped the mask of “political correctness” and drew the ire of the racists and “bleeding” liberals. There are many millions of successful black people in America, from Mr. Cosby, Ward Connerly and all the way up to Ms. Rice. Find them, read them and listen to them and model yourself accordingly.

Demand that you have competent teachers, principals, school board members and administrators. If you are born in dire straits; there are usually people who are interested in you (churches, schools, social services, other relatives and safety nets that will try to help you. Avoid becoming a member of a gang; they only want to drag you down as they build themselves into the phonies they are. You will soon learn how to help yourself to a better way of life than the one you were born into. There are so many people in the United States and the world that are born in “dire straits” making it imperative that you do not wind up being “un-coachable” because try as we might, society can not save everyone in the world, not even in our own country or community.

Understand that being an athlete or a pretty good one does not guarantee you a job in later life. Even a college degree is just a “hunting license” and does not GUARANTEE any person of any color, a job.

At a very early age get involved in a POSITIVE way in your community and pick your close friends and leaders very, very carefully.

Remember your ancestry and honor it and them if you wish. But always remember, all citizens of any color of this country are AMERICANS and entitled to liberty (if you obey the law) and the pursuit of a reasonable amount of happiness!! (We often treat non-citizens as good or better than we do some of our own citizens of any color)!

Shall We Overcome?

You don’t have to be a Republican or a slightly right leaning conservative to learn from reading the Wall Street Journal. Please read the column dated 10/14/05, titled “Shall We Overcome” by black professor Charles Johnson, a professor of English at the University of Washington. I would be honored to be called a friend of Dr. Johnson. Dr. Johnson writes an informative article on “black expectations” and about those who are still preaching “inevitable contradictory profiles such as offered by Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, (those largely involved in planning another “million man” march in Washington) in the black America post civil rights period.” Dr. Johnson quotes another person I would like as a friend, William Raspberry “For the first time in black American history, what we CAN DO is a greater determinant of our future than what is DONE TO us. We need to teach and preach that and shout that-to our young people and ourselves. We need to take note that immigrants-including those from Africa and the Caribbean-who see opportunity where too many born here see only disparity.” Dr. Johnson quotes author Thomas Sowell as saying “celebrities have quietly bolstered as role models some of geeks and “boffins” rather than our rappers, our Hip Hop culture and those mired in “black redneck behavior.”

He continues “a disturbing profile that reveals a high percentage of black males being AWOL as fathers and husbands; as disappearing from our colleges, not one black among 800 entering engineering (UD Berkeley 2004-5 class), graduating from high school with an eighth-grade level of proficiency in math and reading; in prison, on probation on parole (a third of the black men in their 20’s). With the HIV infection rate doubling for blacks in the past decade, as well as urban violence, hypertension, social stress and heart disease, the number of black men now trails black women by two million. And it is not as if black women are thriving; the HIV infection for black women is 20 times that for white women (possibly because of “down low” bisexual black males who hide the fact of their homosexuality).”

Dr. Johnson asks that “we give up the “bigotry of low expectations” so that we can reshape the culture profile of the black American male so that it embodies what our predecessors and ancestors valued most: literacy and the love of learning; wide ranging intellectual curiosity and catholicity represented by a W.E.B. Du Bios or a Mark Dean, (a holder of forty patents), delayed gratification, a commitment to creating wealth (usually accomplished by having what it takes to hold a job and advance up the ladders) and passing that on to our children and the hard truth that, despite our appreciation of modernity, people of color do not have the luxury of half-stepping, failure and indiscretions in a very white, unabashedly Eurocentric society.” He continues “education is a means for something else-whether it’s developing your self to better serve people, to support your family or marketability.”

Dr. Johnson states “that blacks have served in served America widely, account for a black GPD of $632 billion, homeownership is near 50%, are of all religions and trades and are inescapable in the fabric of America’s lived experience and defy easy categorization. The number living in poverty is 25%, which is too high, of course, but a vast improvement over indigence of the past.”

He continues “If, instead of denial and avoidance, our leaders and opinion makers-who have dismally failed to address the serious problem of black male culture for over half a century because it is easier to apologize for black underperformance, tell the men in the audience that each and every one of them must become the spiritual and intellectual leaders they should be, then perhaps this latest spectacle in our nations capital will not be staged in vain.”

I highly suggest that all of us realize “The black American crisis at the dawn of the 21st century and become more of a solution to this crisis especially in our own community, than being a part of the problem. The JS could be more helpful in publishing more black writers with common sense and who have an ability to convey more realistic messages to all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pam Adam's Sunday Column in the Journal Star

Ordinarily I don’t read Pam Adams, the black writer for the Journal Star, but when I see anything connected to “schools and expectations” I generally read and clip the article and add it to my “schools” file. In Sunday’s edition of the JS, Ms. Adams insinuates that Terry Knapp and District 150 want to keep black people from succeeding by promoting VO-TECH. She writes about a black kid who tried vocational school but he dropped out because it bored him. Ms. Adams says “As a 15 year old dropout, son of a “white” father who abandoned the family, he switched schools, tried to get into some college course, was accused of plagiarizing a paper on Napoleon, took low wage jobs as a dishwasher and short order cook and is quoted as saying “eventually I went out on the street where I made lifelong friends who have nurtured me, who sanctioned my life and who ultimately provided it with meaning.”

Ms. Adams said this disadvantaged black man became widely known in certain Eastern artistic circles by writing plays about “specific black garbage men, waitresses, hustlers, madmen and high school dropouts and reaches for higher truths about dignity, love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty and his ancestral past.” He accomplished his fame by by-passing the system. Good for him; count him one out of, say, 100.

Ms. Adams, who long ago identified herself as the leading racist JS columnist, she seems to be on a fast track to keeping the black grade and high school students in District #150 on a “victimization course” who are being offered “vocational” classes because the “system” feels blacks aren’t qualified to seek high ambitions. They can only seek higher ambitions when they are far away from people like Mr. Knapp. Blacks are “victims” of the system because they are from families where white fathers desert their families, and only blacks are forced to take vocational classes (promoted, of course, by Terry Knapp) which they don’t like because all blacks have artistic talents which only show up when blacks get out of this “ham-and-beans-and basketball city.” She probably doesn’t realize that 90% of the players on Peoria High School basketball teams are black and the reverse is true in almost any other sport yet all sports are offered equally to all who qualify by the school and coaches standards.

District #150 students are approximately 40% white in color. These whites are offered classes in “academies” (Dist. #150’s substitute for VO-TECH) which teach lifetime skills. No one is forced to attend any vocational class anywhere in the Peoria area. Mr. Knapp is 100% correct in wanting to expand VO-TECH but has been hindered by a “politically correct” sometimes “elitist” community. No blue collar here, maybe Pekin but not Peoria. We should have expanded the teaching of Vocational Technology teaching years ago. Many of us in this community besides Mr. Knapp have long ago promoted the idea of helping any student learn skills combining both physical and mental capabilities before they graduate or dropout. To excuse blacks for dropping out because the system does not allow them to take advantage of a person’s talent is pure horse manure. Many dropout because they don’t or won’t take advantage of all that is offered in America unlike Arthur Ashe, George Washington Carver, Eric Turner, Dana Davis, the Shipp’s, the Hinton’s, the McDade’s, Delores Turner, Sharon Kherat, the Stafford’s, James Blake and Ward Connerly . (To name a few out of many millions who are successful American citizens of a darker colored skin than mine.)

Ms. Adams need only ask Peoria County officials who are involved in the juvenile court system, the Peoria County Jail, the Pekin prison and the Spoon River Correctional center. The majority of the criminals in these centers DO NOT come from Tazewell County and Fulton County and the great majorities are school dropouts.

Pekin High Schools offers some of the best Vocational training in the state. Perhaps Ed Bradle was correct; Ed said that District #150 offers as much diversity or more than Pekin, but kids just don’t enroll in Peoria. Ms. Adams is surely aware that the majority of correctional cases going thru the Peoria County Criminal Justice system have some connection to the uneducated dropout black community. Does she really believe that most kids who dropout become successful artists? She believes many in Dist. #150 wants VO-TECH for only black students. How arrogant? VO-TECH is offered in schools to ALL students who are college bound or not college bound. She wishes to blame it all on the schools and the community for failing to give poor black kids an opportunity. She will not recognize that often times the teachers and the system are trying to educate a dysfunctional student from a dysfunctional family. She does not mention that this year Dist. #150 has career and family and student problem counselors in the lower grades.

She has been suspicious of the Peoria Police Department and their help in enforcing the truancy laws. She is generally suspicious about anything that might be helpful to minorities.

It is people like Ms. Adams who continue to make many black poor people feel like victims. I know that the majority of the educated black community does not agree with the “victimization drum beat” promoted by Ms. Adams

Sunday, I met a family from China on the tennis courts, the husband with a degree in mechanical hydraulics and working for a local firm. They conveyed to me the opportunities they were enjoying in this great land that is under heavy siege by the ultra liberalists. Their 8 year old son is already in the fourth grade in a Peoria Public School. They are excited about our educational system and could quickly identify those who were born here yet who were failing to take advantage of the opportunities this country offers.

Every day thousands of foreigners try to enter this country, some by any means possible. Most will work at any job offered. Many are becoming success stories same as are all of my black friends and acquaintances. Yet we have a “culture” in this country made up of fourth, fifth, and sixth generations of “oppressed” who have been blinded by the truth and look to blame someone else for their dysfunctions. Ms. Adams, unfortunately for Peoria, is part of this culture that contributes to the problems of this community.

I recommend a book “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America” by Bernard Goldberg. These people are of the “culture” most American citizens believe are causing this country to accelerate into division, socialism and pacifism. The overwhelming majority are of white color. The culture of a person is not recognized by color, race, religion or belief. Culture is who you are and what you represent. (Refer to my archives for my blogs pertaining to “culture”).

Recently, I made DeWayne Bartel’s list of 100 reasons why he wants to live in Peoria like I have for more than forty years. Maybe another reputable newsperson will come up with a list of 100 reasons not to live in Peoria. These reasons could shed more insight into our ongoing problems such as described by Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis in this weeks Observer. Unfortunately, most “politically correct” people fear to “tell it like it is”. Jim and Sheriff McCoy are the type of people I want to read and see in our local news Medias. This community would be better served if more of our leaders were less “politically correct”. It is past time for more meaningful and open dialogues between our elite leaders and grassroots leaders pertaining to the positives and the roadblocks to integration, diversity and inclusion in this community.

Governor's Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System

I was the representative of Peoria County to the Governor’s Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System, Oct. 5 and 6 at the Holiday Inn City Center. This is my summation of the conference, realizing as is typical, and some panel meetings overlapped so I was not able to attend all:

The approximately 300 conference attendees were mainly the speakers, exhibitors, public employees of conservation agencies, Economic Development, U. S. Army Corp of Engineers and tourism promoters. Locally, Kim St. John, Prairie Rivers RC&D, USDA-NRCS and Bob Frazee from the University of Illinois Extension, were more than capable Conferencing Co- Chairs. Notably absent were Gail Norton, Secretary of the Interior who was to be the Keynote Speaker and Governor Blagojevich; both invited but both involved with projects of greater priority. Pat Quinn was an enthusiastic presenter of “The Illinois River System: Focus and Vision”. Brad McMillan represented Ray LaHood’s office on a panel promoting “Nature Based Tourism as did Vicki Clark from PACVB. Terry Kohlbus, Tri-County Regional Planning spoke on “Linking Community Revitalization and River Restoration Goals, Plans and Projects. Tom Gerund from EDC spoke on “Back to Nature: Technology Based Resource Inventory”. Dan Silverthorn, representing the Heart of Illinois River Port District (Transport) spoke on “The River as an Economic Resource: Pursuing Local Development Opportunities”. All did outstanding jobs in presenting their respective subjects.

Numerous other panel speakers and moderators presented information and took questions on such Illinois River related subjects as “Sediment Removal and Beneficial Uses”, “Data Collection and GIS Applications”, plans for the City of Havana, the Emiquon Basin, “Monitoring and Evaluation Techniques of Sediment and Nutrient Delivery for the Illinois River”, “Gathering Stakeholders and Keeping Them On-Board” and Watershed Planning from both and Urban and Rural perspective.

Among the highlights of the panel discussions was a report on the barging of sediment mined from the Peoria area Illinois River to Chicago and its benefits and the possibility of doing the same thing for New Orleans. I believe that the Peoria County Board should, once all the facts are gathered, take a position on what to do the silt accumulating in the Peoria Lake. Panel discussions were on how to keep the soil on land, (another area on which the Peoria County Board should take a more active role), how to use satellite images and subsequent aerial assessments, the role of GIS and how much information is available free on the internet, creating riparian buffers, the benefits of programs such as CREP, watershed planning such as Emiquon, LaGrange and Spunky Bottoms in Brown County, Spring Lake Bottoms in Tazewell and Mason Counties; these wetland and conservation projects developed with the help of volunteers, various state and local agencies and worldwide organizations like Nature Conservancy. The role of both private and public dollars and cleaning up the river and restoring water quality, were all subjects that kept most of the conference attendees around to the close at 1:45 P.M. Thursday; the early closing allowing the visitors time to spend some money in our area and see the sights.

My overall assessment of the benefits of this conference would rate an “A” and from what I observed, would rate the same from all attendees. County Board members should ask me for more details and how I perceive the benefits of this conference to Peoria County. Also I may have missed some local people in attendance that I failed to recognize. I did not notice or meet any board members from any other county and no city officials were present; the exception being Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis who gave the opening welcome and then left the premises for other priorities. Jim has a lot on his plate.

While I had earlier signed up for the opening day “Illinois River Watershed Conservation Tour; interest was so high I did not get a seat. (I had taken similar Prairie River tours) The co-chairs did an excellent job of presenting some of the best practices in soil conservation in our area to those conference attendees who were fortunate to get a seat on the bus.

Holiday Inn City Center did an excellent job of hosting the conference and the food and service was exceptional.

Total cost of the conference to the County was $120.00

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Malpractice Caps Not Enough

There is an ongoing debate about real and frivolous lawsuits, especially in medical malpractice cases, where the juries do not understand the charges and defenses, and many times award huge amounts of money to the plaintiffs that have no bearing on the culpability or the damage allegedly done. Typical citizens do not understand, and shouldn’t be expected to master the intricacies of medical care.

There is a growing belief that a “jury of our peers” has become outdated as court cases presented to “our peers” become increasingly more complex. It would make sense to have medical courts and subsequent juries made up of impartial experts rather then the hired guns of or for the plaintiff bar (or for the defendants).

According to a recent article in Forbes, Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) have introduced legislation that would allow states to experiment with medical courts. The object being that victims of medical malpractice would receive justice – as would innocent doctors and hospitals.

We have special tribunals for patents, bankruptcy, taxes and other areas so why not malpractice? Then we wouldn’t have awards such as was made in a recent Vioxx trial where a ridiculous monetary award was assessed against drug maker Merck; some jurors admitted they had already made up their mind on “emotion” and BEFORE any testimony was presented. The guilty decision was made to “send a message to the big drug companies.”

Is this a great system, or what? Too many cases against the defendants are settled “out of court” for fear that juries may make monetary awards way beyond reason.

Too bad the long overdue changes in our “trial by jury” systems will probably be made along political party lines rather than by reason and common sense. Tort attorneys, of whom there are a growing number, do not want to change the system. Their showmanship wins juries who do not understand the case intricacies. Tort attorneys influence juries in ways used by what we old-timers called “snake oil salesmen” and preachers of “old time religion”. Juries have become more like an audience to a good sitcom, rather than intelligent, thinking jurists they should be. The fault lies in the system; not in those who make up the jury. Too many trials become nightmares for those who have to prove they are not guilty of charges no matter how frivolous the charges may be.

Caps on awards to plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits, such as in legislation recently signed into law by our Governor in Springfield, are just a beginning in the changes needed to be made in our jury system nationwide. In the meantime, many will go out of business including doctors who can no longer afford the huge cost of insurance. Some affected will and already have, located in other states were the overall cost of doing business is less than the State of Illinois.

Lethal Incompetence

Patricia C. Benassi in a “letter to the editors” dated 9/25 made seven common shallow charges. Here is my viewpoint about her rambling accusations:

1. Had the State of Louisiana acted responsibly in asking for federal help much sooner, much suffering would have been avoided.
2. Bush did not say that terrorism wasn’t a major concern of his. You have your administrations mixed up. It was Bill Clinton who was “playing hide and seek” in the oval office who took no effective action to try to stop the reign of terror playing out in the MidEast.
3. It was never this administrations intent to “OCCUPY Iraq with 300,000 troops.” You are confusing your numbers with the 300,000 Iraqis so far discovered in mass graves, murdered by Saddam Hussein who we have ousted and captured.
4. The levees that broke in Louisiana were neglected by the incompetent leadership of members of the Democrat Party in Louisiana. Louisiana larded the transportation bill, this year, with $540,580,200.00 with no dollars intended to correct the levee problem.
5. FEMA, like all government bureaucracies, has its share of political cronies. One has been demoted, other should follow. “Political cronyism” is a game played by both parties with no way for the voter and taxpayer to win.
6. Tax cuts for the wealthy? Seems to be working with a strong economy and low unemployment.
7. “Loaded with lobbyists?’ Democrat lobbying and political donations made to elect supporters of the “let’s stick it to the rich” allow all tort attorneys to get richer and drive doctors and businesses out of Illinois.

Ms. Benassi’s “blame game” letter is so lopsided as to be ludicrous.

P.S. - Isn’t Benassi the one who sued the City of Peoria; she representing some disgruntled employees, over alleged sexual harassment in the Jim Maloof Mayoral era and then “walked away” with what is rumored to be $1.1 million of the $1.3 million settlement leaving $200,000.00 to be split among the plaintiffs? Do I have my facts from Randy Ray wrong; Mr. Ray said he wasn’t sure of the exact figures but he was sure that the attorneys got more than the plaintiffs? Isn’t she the one who represents the “downtrodden”, yet asks for $250.00 for the first consultation? Maybe I have my facts wrong. Help me out, Ms. Benassi? Were my ears deceiving me when I called your office and asked for a consultation and the person answering the phone said “Ms. Benassi charges $250.00 up front for the first consultation?”

I sent this document as a letter to the editors of the JS. Mike Bailey did not receive it until after he had received and published well written rebuttals by Jody Kimbrell of Hanna City and Dennis Dickerson of Peoria so I doubt if my “7 points” will be printed in the JS. If anyone reading me knows these two individuals, give them my blog site as it appears we share some common viewpoints. Thanks.