Monday, June 19, 2017

Lacking Common Sense


The young woman looked nervous as she knocked on the window of my classroom door. “Excuse me, class,” I said as I stepped out to speak. She was a former student and substituting in the next classroom.
“A boy is throwing things at other students. He won’t stop, and he refuses to go to the principal’s office. Can you help me?”

“Sure,” I said. The boy wouldn’t make eye contact when I entered the room. Every other student did though, waiting to see what would happen.
“Bobby,” I said (not his real name). “Miss Fellows told you to go to the principal’s office and now I’m telling you.” He just sat there, still not making eye contact. “Bobby,” I repeated, “Maine law say that if a student is a danger to others and refuses to leave the classroom, the teacher can use the necessary force to remove him. Now I’m telling you again to go down to the principal’s office.”

That got no response either.

“I’m going to count to three. If you’re not moving at three, I’ll move you. One, two, th…”
He got up, went out the door, and headed for the stairs. I picked up the wall phone and called down to say Bobby was on his way. “Thank you,” said Miss Fellows.

“You’re welcome,” I said, then returned to my classroom and forgot about it.

The following Monday, Jim Underwood, the principal, came into my room during my free period. I liked Jim. He was a very effective administrator. “Tell me what happened with Bobby,” he said, because he’d been out of town when I dealt with the incident and had appointed another teacher as acting principal. I filled him in.
“If you had removed him,” Jim said, “I would not have backed you up.”

That surprised me. Like I said, Jim was a good principal, one of the best I ever worked with. “Jim,” I said. “That is state law. I have a copy in my briefcase.”
“I know it is,” he said, “but the courts are interpreting it differently now.”

“So, if I wasn’t to remove him, what was I supposed to do?”

“Call the police.”
“You’re kidding,” I said.

“Nope.”

“That’s crazy. I’m supposed to leave two classrooms full of students sitting on their hands and wait for the cops because of one disruptive student?”
“Yup. That’s what they’re telling us now.”

Bobby went to the office on his own because he knew I wasn’t bluffing. Calling the police would ruin half a day for about fifty students and at least two teachers. Clearly, things were getting much too complicated and I wondered how long I could continue in the teaching profession.
In July of last year a similar case came before our newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, when he was on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. A middle school boy in New Mexico had disrupted class by generating fake burps. He wouldn’t stop and was sent into the hall, but he kept opening the door to “let out a giggling belch” as the Daily Signal described it. Then:

“a school resource police officer placed the student under arrest ‘for interfering with the educational process.’ The 13-year-old then spent approximately one hour locked in a juvenile detention facility before he was released to the custody of his mother. He was never charged for his misbehavior.”
The boy’s mother filed suit claiming her son’s civil rights had been violated. This was an even less serious case than the one I dealt with because there was no danger from flying objects, yet the student had been arrested and incarcerated, however briefly. Ten years had passed and the teaching profession had continued its decline. A minor incident became a federal case and made it to a high court, which, in a 94-page ruling decided in the school’s favor. 
Gorsuch wrote only four pages in dissent. According to the Daily Signal again: “Gorsuch . . . explain[ed] that a reasonable police officer should have understood that arresting a ‘class clown for burping was going a step too far.’”
Indeed.

Gorsuch concluded that: “the statutory language on which the officer relied for the arrest in this case does not criminalize ‘noise[s] or diversion[s]’ that merely ‘disturb the peace or good order’ of individual classes.”
Referring to his colleagues on the 10th Circuit, he said: “Often enough the law can be ‘a ass—a idiot,’” quoting Charles Dickens, “and there is little we judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people’s representatives. In this particular case, I don’t believe the law happens to be quite as much of a ass as they do.”

Ouch.
Common sense is often a misnomer when applied to educational and judicial practice these days, and it’s refreshing to have a Supreme Court justice willing to point that out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Leaning Windward

What the old man said about me was accurate. He’s been dead a while now and I’d forgotten about it, but his words have been popping back into my head a lot lately. “You have the character of the tiller,” he told me.

“I don’t get it,” I said.

“You know when someone stretches way out over the windward gunnel when a sailboat leans too far? He’s trying to bring the mast upright lest the boat capsize.”


“Yes,” I said. “I’ve seen that.”

“That’s what you try to do in your writing.” 

He was a liberal, but more of a classical liberal than a leftist or a “progressive” as they call themselves today. He was willing to consider any idea on its merit and wasn’t dubious because it might be conservative. If he didn’t agree he would argue logically, not acrimoniously. Together we formed a political discussion group, an old-fashioned salon. For the first few years it was all men, many of them WWII vets and all somewhat left of center, I was too — then. I was the youngest member at a time when my own perspective started moving right. We met every two weeks in a library the old man had built in part of his barn.
The old man

During the ten or so years of my involvement I was still a Democrat, but the party’s movement left was accelerating. The old man saw me trying to counteract that in my writing even before I did. I had voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, but was dismayed by what he was doing and considered resigning from the Democrat Party, but the old man urged me to work from within. Our group started moving left also as new members came in and railed against Clinton’s impeachment. I began to skip meetings and eventually stopped attending altogether. Not long after, the group disbanded.
My movement right continued. I registered Republican but I was still feeling isolated as the education establishment was moving harder left along with all of New England, including Maine’s Republican Party. Some in the community began assuming that I was inculcating students with the same conservative views I expressed in my columns. I was “poisoning young minds,” they claimed. They pressured my district’s administrators, the school board, and Maine’s teacher licensing agency to discipline me and worse. My administrators knew their charges were baseless but had to respond to their complaints with an investigation. I was cleared, but being an out-of-the-closet conservative in public schools got increasingly difficult. Other leftists came after me too, which is the subject of a book I’m still working on.
Antifa

Nationwide now, acrimony dominates left-right debate and is increasing to dangerous levels — even to violent attacks by far-left "Antifa" goons on college campuses and in the streets. That’s bad enough, but what is perhaps worst of all is something The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol wrote last week:

For young Americans today, Donald Trump is the face of Republicanism and conservatism.
They don't like that face. And the danger, of course, is that they'll decide their judgment of Trump should carry over to the Republican party that nominated him and the conservative movement that mostly supports him. If he is indeed permitted to embody the party and the movement without challenge, the fortunes of both will be at the mercy of President Trump's own fortunes.

Trump’s fortunes are tanking. That scares me because I think Kristol’s analysis is on the mark. At the 41st annual convention of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists last weekend, I sat in the audience as Maureen Dowd delivered a devastatingly effective diatribe against Trump. The smart-ass Irish wit in her DNA was on full display. On Ms. Dowd’s bad side isn’t a safe place for anyone to be. Earlier that day, Manchester Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid, a conservative, also displayed his disdain for Trump in just a couple of short remarks.
Trump and McQuaid

With majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans cannot unite behind Trump and, so far, Trump isn’t a good enough leader to bring them together. Has he got it in him to become one? I hope so, but I’m not optimistic. At this point, I’m afraid of how much more damage he’ll do to the conservative movement if he doesn’t.
In Bill Kristol, I see myself as the old man saw me thirty years ago. He’s been leaning far out over the gunnel too, trying to steer his party away from Trump. He has a bigger megaphone and might persuade more people to join him.
I’m a small-time columnist and he’s the founder and editor of a widely respected, national, conservative magazine. Can he prevent the conservative Republican ship of state from capsizing? Can he bring the mast up straight? I don't know. We’ll see.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Centuries of Muslim Aggression


“Why did they build their villages way up there on those steep slopes instead of down here?” I asked our guide, Dora. We were touring Greece with my wife’s family and driving the coastal road on the north side of the Gulf of Corinth toward Delphi, site of the famous Oracle.
“To protect themselves from pirate raids,” said Dora.

“What pirates?”
“Muslims,” she said. “Moors, Saracens, Turks. It was easier to fight them off if they had to climb up.” Greeks were Christians and fair game for Muslims to pillage, slaughter, and enslave, which they did for centuries. We had just come from the village of my wife’s grandfather in the Pelopponesus, which had been occupied by Muslim Turks until the mid-1800s.
America’s first war was against Muslim pirates on the Barbary Coast. When John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met in London with the Tripoli ambassador in 1786, Jefferson reported:

It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet [Muhammed] were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful [Muslims] to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman [Muslim] who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.
Muslim slave market

Plunder, kill, and enslave is exactly what Muslims did for 1300 years until the Turks were defeated in World War I. All that has resumed, however, over the last forty years — but American and European leaders seem to have forgotten this history if they ever learned it. Leftists like former President Obama refer to the Crusades as an excuse for today’s Radical Muslim terrorism, but Muslims initiated 548 offensive battles against Christians in Asia, Africa, and Europe over 1300 years, while Christians initiated only 13 battles over 160 years against Muslims during the Crusades. Most Europeans and Americans are ignorant of this, but the Greeks aren’t. It’s still fresh in their memory.
Muslims on offense over the centuries
Christians on offense over the centuries
Today’s terrorist attacks in Europe are not perpetrated by Muslim armies or navies, but by Muslim “refugees,” migrants, and their offspring. After last week’s Manchester bombing, The Times of London reported that: “Intelligence officers have identified 23,000 jihadist extremists living in Britain as potential terrorist attackers…” Manchester bomber Salman Abedi was one of hundreds allowed back into the UK after fighting for ISIS. Sweden offers them housing, welfare benefits, and “reintegration training,” as if they ever integrated in the first place. Other European countries do the same. Former FBI Director James Comey said ISIS fighters are entitled to come back to America. He knows of about a dozen. Breitbart.com reports many more.
Isn’t treason still a crime? ISIS is the enemy. These former ISIS soldiers are not in uniform and they’re infiltrating western countries. The Geneva Convention doesn’t protect them. Shouldn’t they be lined up and shot?
BBC's Katty Kay: "Get used to it."

“Europeans are getting used to attacks like this [Manchester], Mika, said Katty Kay of the BBC on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We have to, because we are never going to be able to totally wipe this out. As ISIS gets squeezed in Syria and Iraq, we are going to see more of these attacks taking place in Europe and Europeans are starting to get used to that.” Sadiq Khan, the recently-elected Muslim mayor of London, agrees.
The Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydlo, vehemently disagrees: “Rise from your knees and from your lethargy, or you will be crying over your children every day.” Szydlo refuses to allow Muslim “refugees” into Poland despite pressure to do so from the European Union. “Do we want politicians who say we have to ‘get used to’ terrorist attacks?” she asks. Slovakia and Hungary also refuse to allow Muslim “refugees” into their countries, and guess what? They have no terrorist attacks.
Martha Raddatz warns about "Islamophobia"

American media seemed more concerned about the Manchester bombing causing “Islamophobia” than about the dead girls or the potential for more attacks. The late, leftist writer Christopher Hitchens had it right when he described Islamophobia as: “a word created by fascists and used by cowards to manipulate morons.”
I thought of Hitchens when I learned that Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi himself had reported his high school teacher at Burnage Academy for Boys in South Manchester for Islamophobia because the teacher condemned suicide bombers.
The UK Guardian reports: “Fawzi Haffar, trustee of the Manchester Islamic Centre in Didsbury, where Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomber, is understood to have prayed, said: ‘We are concerned about reports we are receiving about anti-Muslim acts. These are terrible anti-Muslim acts ranging from verbal abuse to acts of criminal damage to mosques in the area and outside the area. We do encourage any incidents to be reported as a hate crime.’” 
Media salivating over Fawzi Haffar

British media — which advise us that we have to get used to Radical Muslim terrorism — were all keen to report Fawzi Haffar’s statement. They fawned all over him while flowers and Teddy Bears piled up at the bombing site.
As William Faulkner said: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

ADDENDUM June 4th:
During last night's Muslim murder spree in London, the police Tweeted a graphic that exemplifies the west's response to Islamofascism:
That's what the left recommends -- run, hide, and get used to it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

His Personality Blocks His Agenda


I voted for him, yes, and given the same choices I’d do so again, but he’s making an ass of himself. Maybe that’s not entirely true because he’s behaving much the same way he did through the primaries, so I guess he already was an ass and he’s just reinforcing that general perception. When he actually governs I like what he does, but his personality blocks his agenda.
Cruz was my choice, but Trump won the nomination. During the primaries and general election campaign I wrote columns critical of Donald Trump and my conservative readership reacted. Some agreed. Others said Trump was the only candidate strong enough to kick butt in Washington — both Democrat and Republican butts — as necessary. I agreed that was indeed necessary, and Trump seemed fearless — unaffected and unintimidated by whatever criticism media directed to him. He’d throw it right back and that’s why he won. But is he really as fearless as he seemed?
A truly tough leader would stick to his battle plan, would expect criticism, and wouldn't let it knock him off track. But maybe voters overestimated Trump’s strength. We’re still in the early rounds of this long fight, but the left and the media — which are one and the same — are getting to him. They haven’t landed any solid punches because there’s no evidence of collusion with the Russians, but they’re playing a head game with Trump and it’s working. He’s not sticking to his fight plan. The criticism is affecting him, bigly. The Hillary campaign focused entirely on Trump’s temperament, but she lost because of her own flaws. It’s ironic now that she was right about his temperament. It’s tripping him up.
Senior advisor Steve Bannon said last February at CPAC that: “[C]orporatist, globalist media… are adamantly opposed -- adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has… If you think they're going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day -- every day, it is going to be a fight.”
Bannon was absolutely right. He said then that he believed Trump would stick to his agenda through it all, but I wonder what he’s thinking now. Are the rumors of Bannon’s reduced influence true? I have no inside information, but I don’t think Trump has been acting on Bannon’s advice during the past couple of months. I’ll bet Bannon is trying to channel Will Rogers, whose sage advice was: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Most of us who voted for him wish Trump would just shut up — and put his phone away too. Don’t tweet until you first consult with advisors.
Is Trump really as tough as he pretends to be? Perhaps, but with many braggarts there’s a deep-seated, inferiority complex under a brusque persona. He can’t point to positive opinion polls the way he did in the primaries, and from which he drew energy. Media onslaught against him since his inauguration has been unprecedented and relentless — and he’s not handling it well at all. A recently-released study on Trump’s first 100 days from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy claims he got three times more media coverage than previous presidents — and 80% of it has been negative.
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government study

Fox News was the most balanced, but even their coverage was slightly more negative than positive. O’Reilly and Hannity were unequivocally with Trump, but the rest were either lukewarm or against him. It’s not too late to get back on track. The foreign trip is helping and Trump is sticking to script, mostly. Let’s hope that continues.
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government study

When he was negotiating real estate deals, Trump dealt with people who wanted to do business with him. If he expressed annoyance they would be inclined to compromise, but it’s not like that in politics. Political enemies on the left are not moved by petulance. They’re persuaded only by massive public support of the kind Ronald Reagan had. They’re not seeing that behind Trump so they’re obstructing him wherever they can. They rely on their media army to portray the November election as illegitimate. They’ve relentlessly charged that Trump won only because the Russians helped him. That there is no evidence to support this after almost a year of investigation — zip, zero, nada — doesn’t deter them in the least.
I don’t know this but I’d guess that Trump hasn’t played much poker. The left is bluffing. It has nothing, but as Cool Hand Luke said in the famous movie by that name: “Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.”
Especially if you’re playing against the fragile ego of Donald J. Trump.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Off The Bucket List


Crossed “Grand Canyon” off my bucket list last week and, according to weather reports, it was a good time to be away from Maine. We stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona and took day trips, but only one to the big canyon last Thursday. It was cool and windy, but the sun was out. I got a sunburn on my face, arms, and that alleged bald spot on the back of my head I can’t see but people tell me is there. It feels sensitive under a hot shower now.
Hard to photograph how steep the drop-off is

My wife and I checked out cliff dwellings of the Sinagua Indians in Walnut Canyon the first day. They were western cousins of the better-known Anasazi. The National Park Service did a nice job building a path along what would otherwise have a treacherous hike for older tourists like us. My wife, Roseann, said raising toddlers on those narrow trails must have been a nightmare. I’d have put them in harness and roped them to a juniper growing out of a crevice. On the canyon rim, pottery sherds and chips left from knapping stone tools abounded on the surface. Archaeologists call it debitage — waste from manufacture of stone knives, scrapers, and projectile points. We both enjoyed it.
Then it was down to Sedona where aging hippies and young hipsters comprise a critical mass. Vogue describes a visit there as: “…basking in the pink glow of Sedona, Arizona’s red rock canyons and its aura-obsessed, pleasantly frozen-in-time, hippie-dippie community.” We drove around as I photographed red sandstone formations — some sun-lit, others in shadow.
Loopy people, but beautiful countryside
Vogue said Sedona contains, “an array of healers and their own breed of eccentric methodologies.” They were everywhere but we avoided them. The landscape was interesting, but I felt even more out of place in Sedona than when I visit Whole Foods back in Portland, Maine. I’m just not organic enough, not sustainable enough, and I eat gluten. I like preservatives and I’m free-range only in an intellectual sense that’s threatening to both hippies and hipsters.
Next day we visited a national park called the Wupatki Monument and Sunset Crater. It was fun listening to the female robotic voice in my dashboard GPS unit pronounce it. Looking north from the long road in was a pale-green sea of grass stretching to the horizon. Tasseled tops waved in a steady wind with small evergreens here and there resembled grazing buffalo. To the east were round, grassy hills. To the south were the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks — highest in Arizona.
But the flatness of the grass sea was illusory. Along the way were ravines and small, box canyons offering shelter from relentless wind. Beside these were pueblo ruins. Getting out and walking, the grass sea that seemed unbroken, down at my feet was actually sparse. Pottery sherds littered dry, gravelly soil. Here and there were small, sharp bits of chert and obsidian debitage from ancient tool-makers right on the surface. No wonder westerners find artifacts so easily. Here in New England, they’re covered with accumulated soil from decayed leaves and pine spills.
Nearby was Sunset Crater, formed in a volcanic eruption less than a thousand years ago — very young in geologic time and still in the traditional memory of nearby Hopi, Sinagua, and Navajo Indians. There were lava bombs strewn around and incorporated into the limestone walls of pueblo ruins. Black cinder covered entire hills between which were rivers of solidified lava that looked as if it hardened only yesterday. A Wupatki Park Ranger said Clovis points from 12,000 years ago were found in the region indicated a human presence then to now. What’s buried under that lava? I’ll never know.
Pueblo on the rocks

Lastly, we went the giant hole in the ground that is the Grand Canyon. It was warm and sunny when we got to the south rim and we walked along for a few hours until it got crowded. I heard many languages spoken and Asians were everywhere taking pictures of themselves and each other. We had to stop often so as not to walk between photographer and subject and that got tedious.
Neither of us would get close to the edge of the mile-deep canyon because it drops off sharply. It’s not as if you’d slide down an incline should you fall. It’d be more like a free fall until that thud at the bottom — although you might bounce off a stone spire here and there depending on where you fell off.
The Grand Canyon is aptly named. I’d call it awesome if that word hadn’t lost its literal meaning after decades of misuse. The views are truly awe-inspiring. We allowed two days to see it and were even ready to take a helicopter ride across. We didn’t go back though. It was the crowds.