Farewell To Privacy. Hello To Arms


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The Courts and Congress have come to believe there is reason for fear.  Enemies are everywhere.  Those who wish to do us harm are in our homes.  They talk to us on our telephones.  Some sashay in through our computers.  “Evil doers” are ubiquitous in the United States.  Our open society places the public at risk.  We, the people, must defend ourselves.  Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have given the government and us the means.  The highest judicial body in the nation has made it possible for the common man to protect himself with a pistol; Legislators provided the President ethereal firearms.  Indeed, individuals and the Commander-In-Chief were bequeathed more than either had asked for.  In 2008, we have entered the Summer of Separation.  In the United States we say, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

Absorbed in fear, Americans have detached themselves from the original intent of the United States Constitution.  We the people have embraced weaponry and rejected our right to privacy.  The populace, with assistance from Congress willingly chose to forfeit the Fourth Amendment.  authentic freedoms were  disemboweled.  If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA) stands, and there is no reason to think a Bill signed into law by the President of the United States and each House of Congress would not be fully implemented, the press and the people will no longer have unfettered access to information.  Nor can they disseminate data without intense scrutiny.  Chris Hedges, a twenty year veteran Foreign Correspondent for The New York Times, speaks to a truth that he lived and now fears will die.

The new FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance.  It allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants.  The court will not be told specifics about who will be wiretapped, which means the law provides woefully inadequate safeguards to protect innocent people whose communications are caught up in the government’s dragnet surveillance program.

The law, passed under the guise of national security, ostensibly targets people outside the country.  There is no question, however, that it will ensnare many communications between Americans and those overseas.  Those communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments.

This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East.  It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists, and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours.  It will hang like the sword of Damocles over all who dare to defy the official versions of events.  It leaves open the possibility of retribution and invites the potential for abuse by those whose concern is not with national security but with the consolidation of their own power.

Trepidation has long been a tool for intimidation.  A frightened fellow or female will happily adopt a policy or a pistol to relieve apprehension.  Perhaps, that it why after the events of September 11, 2001, Americans, panicked and the power elite prospered.  As the Twin Towers fell, the people cried out for protection.  Congress gleefully approved the Patriot Act; and as a nation, we pursued a course of action that was and is contrary to Constitutional principles.  Even early on, Americans said,  “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

As the war thundered on, the public worked to avoid greater anxiety.  People purchased more guns for personal safety sake.  They feared the government might not be able to shield them from all potential harms.  Indeed, this attitude has been ubiquitous in American history.  The Wild West outlook often overrides logic or Constitutional law.  In America, there have been many Summers of Separation.

When humans think weaponry is the solution, as they do in a country where there are ninety guns per every one hundred U.S. residents, they will grab a pistol when faced with any problem.  The availability of petroleum has become a paradox.  Prices for fuel and food are high.  The cost for shelter is higher.  Homes are in foreclosure.  Job security is but a myth.  Employer provided benefits are elusive.  The cost for Health Care coverage is out of reach; yet, the gun that could end it all is close.

Immigration is also an issue that irks many in America.  When migrants flee to the States in search of financial freedom, the native-born feel further threatened.  The divide between the races causes much resentment.  Income inequity offers reason for rage.  Economic slavery causes tempers to rise.  In 2008, the effect of all these predicaments troubles the populace.   The American public is aggravated.  Currently, people feel less safe, less strong, and more scared.  Millions ponder.  Force can seem the great equalizer.  Hence, gun ownership is great.  The Small Arms Survey, released in August 2007 reveals Americans have a ready arsenal.

With fewer than five per cent of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35-50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

The report went on to state that the common folk are better equipped with weaponry than law enforcement or the military might be.  Civilians who reside in cities, suburbs, and those who dwell in the countryside possess the vast majority of total firearms owned in the United States.  Citizens in a country built on might will use firepower to retain what they believe is their right. If they are refused the privilege to pack heat, Americans will seek recourse by any means.

Special-forces policeman Heller, a resident of Washington District of Columbia certainly did.  The lawman, aware that anyone on the street might be armed sought solace in a piece of hardware.  Mister Heller applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home; the District denied his request since, at the time, the District of Columbia forbade civilian handgun ownership.  Disgruntled, and prepared for battle, as Americans often are, Officer Heller filed a legal suit.  He stated his Second Amendment Rights were violated.  The Supreme Court agreed.

A review of the actual Second Amendment which states Americans have the Right to “bear arms in times when a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State,” or research might have led the Justices to decide otherwise.  Nonetheless, in a summer steeped with separation from acumen, the Supreme Court ruled civilian gun ownership is a right.

The Administration, policymakers, and pundits think the decision wise.  After all, it is a dangerous world.  Americans need to be prepared to fight the ominous foe  Fifteen years ago,   near half of American households understood this.  People built arsenals.  Thirty-one percent of adult Americans owned a firearm in 1993.  Still, that armory was not enough to protect the citizenry from attack.  Years later, the munitions stored,  while likely larger, were no better protection.

Crimes occurred outside the home, on the streets of any given community and , just as predicted, some transgressions traumatized those within four walls. Few Americans ponder the weightier aspects of artillery in the American home.

Earlier this year (1997), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a mind-boggling report showing that the U.S. firearm-related homicide rate for children was 16 times higher than the combined rate for children in 25 other industrialized countries.  Meanwhile, the U.S. child rate of firearm related suicide was 11 times higher. . .

Last year, Congress nearly slashed the budget for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), which collects and monitors firearm injury data and funds related research as part of its mission.  As a result of new funding mandates, CDC this year has been forced to dramatically reduce its firearm-related injury research, and CDC-funded gunshot injury surveillance programs will come to an end in several states.

All this comes at a time when gunshot injuries are expected to soon outstrip automobile accidents as the number one cause of injury death in the U.S., costing an estimated $20 billion yearly in medical costs and lost productivity.  Surprisingly little medical research monitors the kinds of firearm injuries that occur or the types of guns used.  While the CDC samples unshot injury data from 91 hospitals around the country, there is no comprehensive national surveillance system to accurately track how many people are wounded by guns each year..

Surveillance is the sham used to explain what Federal officials think a greater priority.  Those who have more power than a weapon might wield understand the statistics on civilian gun wounds would not please or appease Americans.  Information on gun injury might shift the fear factor.  If the people are to remain focused on foreign forces, then FISA, the Bill that keeps on giving to the politically powerful, will remain safe, and after all, is that not the truer issue.  As foreign correspondent Christopher Hedges reminds us . . .

It (the law) is about using terrorism (at home or abroad) as a pretext to permit wholesale spying and to silence voices that will allow us to maintain an open society.

Thankfully, when prized pistols are in question, it is easy to silence voices of dissent.  Physicians were not asked to speak before the Supreme Court shot down a ban on gun sales.  Had they had the opportunity Americans and the Justices might have heard  . . .

Doctors worried by Supreme Court gun ruling

By Maggie Fox


Wed Jul 9, 2008 7:44pm EDT

Washington (Reuters) – Last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a strict gun control law in the U.S. capital will lead to more deaths and accidental injuries, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine said on Wednesday.

They joined a growing clamor from medical doctors, especially emergency room physicians, who fear a surge of accidental deaths, murders, and suicides if handguns become more easily available than they already are.

The ruling struck down a law in Washington that forbade personal ownership of handguns.  The court made explicit, for the first time, that Americans had rights as individuals to own guns.

It won praise from President George W. Bush, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and guns rights advocates (and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama)

Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted with the 5-4 majority on the decision, said citizens may prefer handguns for home defense because they “can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.”

Perchance, Justice Scalia would be comforted to know, that with thanks to his cohorts  in the Legislative Branch, when a city dweller or a rural resident telephones for assistance, he or she can be comforted by the thought the authorities are very close by.  Indeed, public officials may be plugged into the individual’s phone, and computer.  In the Summer of Separation, as powerbrokers in one part of Washington said , “Hello To Arms,” those on the other side of the Hill proclaimed, “Farewell To Privacy.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act established thirty years ago was all but rescinded.  The court system created to help public officials in a crisis is no longer needed to swiftly serve warrants when an investigation is requested.  The Constitution has been compromised.

Lawmakers are already justifying their votes for making major changes to that proven regime by saying that the bill is a reasonable compromise that updates FISA technologically and will make it somewhat harder to spy on Americans abroad. But none of that mitigates the bill’s much larger damage. It would make it much easier to spy on Americans at home, reduce the courts’ powers, and grant immunity to the companies that turned over Americans’ private communications without a warrant.

It would allow the government to bypass the FISA court and collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without a warrant simply by declaring that it is doing so for reasons of national security. It cuts the vital “foreign power” provision from FISA, never mentions counterterrorism and defines national security so broadly that experts think the term could mean almost anything a president wants it to mean.

The President is abundantly pleased.  The present Commander-In-Chief is now assured ultimate power.  Future potential Chief Executives, one of whom voted to support this conciliatory commitment to telecommunication companies, will forever retain the “right” to be spy on the citizenry.   In the Summer of Separation, cognitive and Constitutional dissonance is secure.  Congress and the courts assured us of this.

Congress cast aside the Fourth Amendment,  The Supreme Court rescinded the essence of the Second Amendment.  Our countrymen are now be free to carry a gun, and chat on an open line with the trigger cocked.  Former President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt  told us “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”  Perhaps, the prominent predecessor could not have predicted a day when citizens would be convinced to embrace fretfulness, to forego freedom, and to sing, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to Arms.”

References and Rights . . .

An Evolving Opinion on Gun Rights; “Second Amendment Second Thoughts”

To view the original art, please travel to “Second Amendment Second Thoughts”

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

I’ve never been a big backer of gun rights, especially when it comes to handguns. I don’t like them personally, and, in the America I grew up in, didn’t see the need for the average citizen to have them. Still, I’ve known lots of people who enjoy hunting, or who get the same warm fuzzy going to a gun show that I get at a comic-book convention. To each there own, I thought.

But my views have started to evolve during the Bush reign, and I found myself having a different reaction to last week’s Supreme Court decision than I think I would have seven years ago. As this week’s toon makes clear, I’m having “Second Amendment Second Thoughts” [Archive No. 0825].

How about you?

Till next week,



School Shootings; Standards Kill Students and Society

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).  The Whole Child

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Each moment we live never was before and will never be again.

And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4 and Paris is the capital of France.

What we should be teaching them is what they are.

We should be saying: “Do you know what you are?

You are a marvel.

You are unique.

In all the world, there is no other child exactly like you.

In the millions of years that have passed, there has never been another child exactly like you.

You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.

You have the capacity for anything.  

Yes, you are a marvel.”

~ Pablo Casals [Cello player, Conductor 1876 – 1973]

School shootings are in the news.  Throughout America, adults express concern.  Are the children safe when in a classroom.  Repeated rounds of ammunition affirm, they are not.  Some say times have changed.  There seems to be a consensus; we must secure our campuses,  Solutions are standard.  Society must protect the young.  Few think it possible to prevent another occurrence or attack. Let us examine the whole situation, the whole of our children.  Perchance, the problem is not as it appears.

People presumed all was well or hoped it was.  Individuals were reassured.  It was quiet.  However, the silence was broken thrice in recent days.  Correction; a forth shooter sprang out before people could take a breath.  Three dead in Louisiana campus shooting.  Student Shot During Gym at Tennessee School.  Student Wounded in Southern California Junior High.   Northern Illinois University [NIU] Shootings Stir Sense of Helplessness.  Theories abound.  Why are school shooting so prevalent?

Some say class size is the cause.  As a society, we see the effect of too many students served by too few teachers.  No single educator can connect well with each of the tens or hundreds of student they are expected to serve.  Experts argue, children are healthier when placed in smaller classes.  Judith Kafka, an Assistant Professor of Educational Policy, History, and Leadership at Baruch College, in New York City, writes It’s Guns, Not School Size.  Perchance it is neither, either, each, and much more.  

Americans recognize there is much to consider.  Legislators propose, school employees carry concealed weapons.  Some instructors already do.

High school English teacher Shirley Katz insists she needs to take her pistol with her to work because she fears her ex-husband could show up and try to harm her.  She’s also worried about a Columbine-style attack.

Katz is not alone.  Another instructor chose to protect herself regardless of District policies.  In a Washington Post editorial the statement is made . . . There are no reliable figures, but it’s a safe guess that in many or most of these instances, the guns were owned by the students’ parents.”  This may not always be so.  Other pupils’ Mom’s or Dads may own an arsenal, or a young person may have discovered other connections.  Cyberspace can be good source for guns.  We cannot be certain.  What we do know is, guns kill, and weaponry is easily and infinitely available.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job for workers in the United States after motor vehicle crashes (1). Every week, on average, 20 workers are killed, and 18,000 are assaulted (2). It is only in the last decade, however, that violence against workers has become widely recognized as an occupational health problem.

In a discussion on the topic, of guns in the workplace, Researcher and Co-author of the University of North Carolina Study, Homicide on the Job: Workplace and Community Determinants, Doctor Dana Loomis offered . . .

“[T]here was a nearly seven-fold increase in the risk of a worker being killed in workplaces that allowed guns and other weapons.” . . .

“We don’t know employers’ reasons for allowing workers to have guns on the job, but the belief that firearms offer protection against crime is obviously a possible motive.” . . .

“However, our data suggest that, like residents of households with guns, who are more likely to be victims of homicide, workers in places where the employer allows guns have a greater chance of being killed at work.”

As a nation, it is important to realize we are part of a global community.  Worldwide guns kill one-thousand people each day.  An International Action Network on Small Arms report states, “640 million guns are in circulation across the world and there are enough weapons to equip one in every 10 people.”  So, while we can argue whether students have access or not, perhaps the more important question is why a child might pick up a revolver.  What motivates or frustrates a little one or a young adult to take aim and shoot.

While conjecture continues, authentic answers have been few.  Solutions were tried; none were true.  In classrooms throughout America, teachers remain on guard.  Educators await the moment when a crash will be heard within the classroom.  Instructors trust the sound would be more than a book slammed on a desk.  Instructors know that a bang in the hallways or a blast from the science lab may not be an innocent incident.  Pupils understand this as well.  While all may appear playful, pupils seem to be joyful and learning, the troubled few may actually be the majority of the student population.  It is difficult to discern who might break first, last, or not at all.

Throughout the nation, educators engage each scholar, or attempt to, within the constraints of the curriculum.  Tim, an awkward adolescent, quivered, quaked, grunted, groaned when in the classroom.  This active lad moaned, lashed out, and laughed when he worked with his teachers.  Tim shook with joy, stumbled clumsily, stood straight, and then flopped to the floor.  The strange boy could focus; however, rarely on a prescribed lesson.  Educators labeled Tim a failure.  Even in “special” sessions, this energetic, enthusiastic young man seemed unable to learn.  There was a time when Tim was occupied and eager; however, that passed to quickly.

Elsewhere, an instructor is aware of the student in the front row.  This little lass is painfully shy.  Emma rarely participates in class.  She is plainly submissive.  On reflection, the instructor, friends, and family realized they never considered how distressed the girl was.  No one thought she would cut herself. Now, they wonder why.  

Asa was sometimes rowdy, understandably so.  He was starved for love and attention.  No matter how or what he tried, he did not receive kindness, only admonishments.  Soon Asa settled for scorn.  If people showed contempt for him, well, at least they knew he was alive.  The fourteen-year old just wanted to be acknowledged.  Asa hurt inside.  The pain poured out.  “He did seem angry. He was always angry in the face but he had no reason.”  Finally, the teen could hold his hurt no longer.  He cried out, “I cannot stand to live this way.”  Then, he ended it all.

“I thought they were joking.  I never took it seriously,” she said.  The young lads were fascinated by the infamous.  A massacre might appeal to those that crave retribution, reprisal, punishment, or some sort of popularity.  This form of expression might only be as a shout.  We cannot be certain.  Perchance, we could inquire.  The boys, Bradley, William, and Shawn, might tell us what they feel and why.  However, would busy parents, policy wonks, educators and Administrators all of whom are impressed by numbers, choose to listen if they ever dared to ask?

There are times when the opportunity to speak is gone forever.  A young boy or girl is taken from us too soon.  Countless roam the streets for without a quality education there is little left to do.  A few are institutionalized; others are medicated, imprisoned by the despair that overwhelms their minds.  Some rather die than endure the pain they feel here on Earth.  Sadly, we can no longer invite the girls over for tea.  The time to engage with a lovely lad or two will not come again.  Heads hang low as neighbors contemplate the loss of another young life to drugs, prescribed and preferred,  drink, or death.  

Words of woe pass between the people that knew him or her.  “She was barely a woman.”  “He had not yet reached the age of consent.  “They took their last breath not long after being born.”  “One more suicide in a statistical log.”  “We do not even know her name or his.  All we have is the evidence.”  There are scant clues to inform us; why might a child take their own life?

Suicide affects all youth, but some groups are at higher risk than others.  Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide.  Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 82% of the deaths were males and 18% were females.

While the discrepancy seems vast, there is still great cause for alarm.  At one time, girls were more likely to attempt the act.  Now, they frequently succeed.  In September 2007, we learned young women can conceive of, and achieve, what will end a life.

The suicide rate among preteen and young teen girls spiked 76 percent, a disturbing sign that federal health officials say they can’t fully explain . . . The biggest increase – about 76 percent – was in the suicide rate for 10- to 14-year-old girls. There were 94 suicides in that age group in 2004, compared to 56 in 2003. The rate is still low, fewer than one per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates among older teen girls, those aged 15-19 shot up 32 percent; rates for males in that age group rose 9 percent.

Our children are in pain and Americans ponder how can we protect the young [from themselves or from us.]  Each day, parents, and educators look into the face of the future and see what they or we refuse to recognize: anxiety, apprehension, depression, and even a twisted delight for what might be bothersome.  Some teens, and yes, even elementary age children have tendencies that, if consciously noticed, would be reason for concern.  Yet, there was and is no time for such “petty” pondering.  

Moms and Dads are occupied at work.  Instructors prepare to teach to the many tests.  Administrators assess an agenda that will bring more funds to their schools.  Districts implement programs that politicians think wise.  Pedagogy is not the principle concern in America; nor are the pupils.

Grades dominate in the grind known as school.  Class rankings are recorded for posterity.  Test tallies tell the tale of success.  Permanent files are kept.  A little person will be evaluated on their performance in the classroom, in the community.  The good child receives a gold star; the best school is granted gold as well.  Cash fills the coffers of an institution that appears accountable.  The construct that states, as a society adults must teach to the Whole Child is but a blip in a vast universe of significant interests.  Only a few in the field of education follow theories laid out in The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action.

To the doctor, the child is a typhoid patient;

to the playground supervisor, a first baseman;

to the teacher, a learner of arithmetic.

At times, he may be different things to each of these specialists,

but too rarely is he a whole child to any of them.

~ From the 1930 report of the White House Conference on Children and Youth

In our culture, people have priorities.  For each of us our main concern is personal.  Too often, we forget, our children determine the quality of our future.  Parents, Principals, and policy-makers invest in the immediate much to the dismay and degradation of the Seventh Generation and their progeny.

For countless careered Moms, Dads, prominence is far more important than personal passion.  Parents do what they can to ensure their child is enrolled in the best schools.  They drive hither and yon.  After-school lessons are scheduled for every hour of the day.  Families grab some food, fast, then they ready for bed.  Moms and Dads ask, “Is your homework complete?”  Parents do not inquire; “How are you?”  “What do you feel?”  “May I help?”  Mothers and fathers do not ask for the answer does not matter to those who expect children will do as they have always done, grin and bear it.  “Don’t you dare cry or sigh” is the common contention.

Teachers and Playground Supervisors may not wish to surrender a perceived dominance.  Classroom control and an organized playing field are essential if children are to learn or throw a good pitch.  For a Doctor, diagnosis is the challenge.  Few think of the emotional fractures in a child’s life.  The visible is far more viable to those with a job to do.

Besides, it seems that the young are resilient.  Elders believe that tots do not experience lasting pain, and if they do the offspring will not remember, or be harmed, nor act on the duress they encounter.  Children go through phases; nothing is permanent, or so the adults wish to believe.  

The smallest persons in society smile.  They endure; however, many hurt deeply.  Each face tells a unique story.  Rarely do we consider the distinctive existence of individual beings.  We do not ask of an individual child’s experiences, the effects of these, or the emotions each event in a young life evokes.  The current curriculum requires accountability; it demands instructors avoid the nuances.  What makes a child tick is of little consequence.  As long as he or she can perform on a test, that is all that counts.

At times, the system will make allowances for those in need of remedial classes.  A child may be defined as “special.”  Sadly, this determination furthers separates a student from classmates and often from his or her self.  Tim was one of these.

Any individual singled out, accepted as standard, or told he or she is superior will react to the identification.  Each label has its own externally imposed expectation.  Children try to aspire to what they are told they must achieve.  They go along to get along, or they resign themselves to defeat.  Even those thought to be successful by all in their community frequently feel they fail miserably.  

It is no wonder our young people seek solace in drugs, drink, sex, or death.  Our offspring, fighting to survive, to soar, to score on a test, or place well on a High School exit or college entrance exam, frequently feel dead inside.  Occasionally a child will kill others, or them selves.  Most, merely maintain a presence, as did Seung Hui Cho for a time.

Cho graduated from Westfield High School in 2003. But there is no mention of him in that yearbook, not so much as a senior picture.   The high school, which opened in 2000, is stocked with high achievers. Newsweek magazine once ranked it among the 50 best public high schools in America.  

Its football team won the state championship the year Cho graduated. But with 1,600 students then, Cho was the odd boy who never spoke, former classmates recalled. He joined the science club but just sat there.  He carried around an instrument that earned him the name “Trombone Boy.”

School officials went to some lengths to encourage students to interact.  They put round tables in the lunchroom so no one would feel left out.  The “Westfield Welcomers” club formed to help wallflowers and outcasts fit in.  But none of it seemed to work for the lonely, acne-plagued boy in glasses who was so quiet that some wondered whether he could speak at all.

Some sociologist would say Seung Hui Cho fits the profile of a mass murderer.  Were we as a nation prepared to recognize and work with the hurt being in our midst the potential killer, we might have looked at Seung Hui Cho and seen the signs.  However, indications implied after the fact, the act, are less obvious when encountered in a moment.  Indeed, at times, if not always, the invisible inspires an individual to do as he or she does.  

Pain is not painted on a face; nor does a person always scream out when they need help.  Most of us are taught to take care ourselves.  Yet, few of us know how to do this adequately.  Perhaps, those that lash out believe they are doing what they need to do to release the pressure.

In America, little “big boys” learn not to cry.   A sweet lass is told to look pretty.  Tears are unattractive.  In this country, independence is ideal.  Adults teach the children not to be too needy.  “No one wants to hear your troubles.”  When asked ‘How are you,’ answer, ‘I am fine.’  Then, move on, or pretend to.  ‘Do not expect too much.’  ‘Get good grades.’  ‘Make lots of money.’ In a competitive society, that is all that counts.

Some students do as is standard quite well.  Steven Kazmierczak did.  Steven was an outstanding student.  He was engaging, polite, and industrious.  The friendly fellow had a bright future in the field of criminal justice.  Steve, as he preferred to be called, graduated from college in 2007.  The scholar continued his studies in graduate school.  Since early adolescence, the lad was intent on helping society.  Hence, he majored in sociology as an undergraduate.  After he completed his preliminary coursework, Steven went on to pursue a Masters degree in the School of Social Work.  This gracious gent had a girlfriend.  Steve was anything but a loner, haunted with obvious hurts.

On the Northern Illinois University campus, Steven P. Kazmierczak was considered a gentle, hard-working student, who was honored two years ago with a dean’s award for his sociology work.?? Professors who taught him said it was hard to imagine he was the same person authorities identified as the gunman in Thursday’s classroom shootings.

“I knew Steve both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. I have had him in my home. I knew him as a warm, sensitive, very bright student,” said Professor Kristen Myers in an e-mail. “I never would believe that he could do this. I know that when these horrible things happen, everyone searches for roots to explain it. Here, I’m afraid I don’t have any.”

Steven Kazmierczak was an excellent student.  A former classmate called Kazmierczak “probably the best student in the class.”  Another student spoke of how helpful Steven was.  Stephanie Delhotal, 22, a former sociology undergraduate student said Kazmierczak worked as a teaching assistant in her statistics lab only a year prior.?? “I learned most of what I knew from him,” said Delhotal.  Stephanie Delhotal, who is now a professional Social Worker, offered, “He was very nice and very friendly . . . he was so into statistics. I just took him to be a computer nerd.”

Delhotal did not know him before the course, but saw him in the lab as many as three times a week during the semester, she said.?? “I was completely shocked. I just keep thinking back about how easy he was to talk to,” she said. “He had a dry sense of humor.”

However, humor and academic achievement do not necessarily bring joy.  Instruction that focuses on formulas, figures, facts, and scientific findings do little to give rise to a healthy human being, and perhaps that is the problem yet to be broached in the classroom, or even in our homes.  In educational institutions, instructors are required to attend to the parts.  Teachers and Administrators address perceive accountability.  As a nation, we ignore the whole.  Countrywide, we do not ask who a child might be.

Instruction begins when you, the teacher,

learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand

. . .  what he learns and the way he understands it.

~ Soren Kierkegaard

For the most part, curriculums are designed to pour information into a pupil, as though a human being were an empty vessel ready to fill.  If we are to truly educate our progeny, we must redefine instruction.  We need to create a culture that helps children to authentically acquire knowledge, not grades.

Learning is something students do, NOT something done to students.

~ Alfie Kohn [American Lecturer, Author, Educator]

The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action attempts to do this.  

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each graduate is challenged by a well-balanced curriculum and is prepared for success in college or further study and for employment in a global environment.

This promise is contrary to the current standard initiated with the advent and implementation of No Child Left Behind.  On paper, at first blush, the newer educational program appears sound.  The policy advances practices and philosophies that have existed in society for centuries.  The populace has long endorsed gentle interpretations of “Spare the rod; spoil the child.”  Hence, in schools strategies that are thought to serve accountability were easily adopted.

Transforming the Federal Role in Education So That No Child is Left Behind

The Policy

The Administration’s education reform agenda is comprised of the following key components . . .

Closing the Achievement Gap:
  • Accountability and High Standards.
  • States, school districts, and schools must be accountable for ensuring that all students, including disadvantaged students, meet high academic standards.

    ‘Good, good, that sounds good,’ say parents, Principals, and policy makers.  All are interested in education and each wants to make certain our children receive quality instruction.  High expectations and verification are vital.  Administrators must answer for the programs the public pays for.  No one can blame the student if the school does not do as deemed necessary.  Americans believe we must reward achievement and punish those who fail.  As we age, most of us forget, in order to succeed, we must learn from our errors.  Most adults avoid the subject of task analysis.  In education, many accept the end justifies the means.  Teachers are trained to teach to the test.  Students are tutored in how to best pass an examination.  If perchance, each or either fails, the government mandates, there will be repercussions.  One consequence is so subtle it often goes unnoticed.

    Dropout rates slowly increase.  Low-achievers, in frustration, leave school behind.  Thus, the appearance of rising test scores and of a narrowing of the achievement gap is achieved.  School ratings increase, authentic education decreases.

    A recent

    study of Texas public school accountability system,
    the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act, establishes that, the longer the high stakes testing program are in use, the worse the outcome.  Children already made less important than the curriculum by this mandate are further reduced in significance.  As could have been expected, instructional personnel begin to view students not as children to educate, but as potential liabilities.  A pupil accomplished in test-taking is seen as an asset; high scores raise a school’s performance indicators, advance the careers of educators, and help to grow the funds a school receives.

    The research also indicates that Principals frequently play with pupils’ lives in order to further their professional prominence.  A child will not be allowed to advance a grade if he or she is deemed at-risk.  If a student’s grade on the exam will potentially threaten the schools status, arrangements are made.  Most students retained in this manner give up on themselves and on school.  Just as educators punish a less than perfect child, the system penalizes a struggling school.

    • States must develop a system of sanctions and rewards to hold districts and schools accountable for improving academic achievement. . . .
    • Consequences for Schools that Fail to Educate Disadvantaged Students.  Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress for disadvantaged students will first receive assistance, and then come under corrective action if they still fail to make progress.  

      If schools fail to make adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years, disadvantaged students may use Title I funds to transfer to a higher-performing public or private school, or receive supplemental educational services from a provider of choice.

    Therein lies the problem.  When an educational institution or a child does not perform “properly,” they are punished.  Punitive actions so not help better a school or a student.  Studies show punitive practices hurt a society or and the instructional staff.

    Dear reader, you may recall in your own life the times when you acted in a manner that was considered disruptive, destructive, or without regard for others.  If you were confined to your room, restricted from doing what brought you pleasure, ridiculed, or severely reprimanded you may have reacted poorly.  Resentment readies an individual for further rebellion.  Logic tell us, if a child or an adult is to learn or improve, they must be given an opportunity to reflect.  Humans acquire wisdom when others trust the learner can grow.  Reciprocal reverence, empathy is the best educator.  

    However, logic rarely rules when people are reactive.  Parent, Principals, and educators are after all, only human.  When frustrated with what they fear they cannot control, people of any age penalize those who do not perform as desired.  Rebukes realize no rewards.

    Why Punishment Does Not Work

    The research literature gives clear guidelines about the ineffectiveness of punishment as the only correction procedure for children’s misbehavior. Yelling, shaming, scolding, and corporal punishment backfire and create a mind set in the child where he misbehaves more. Some children do worse when words like “never,” “don t,” “should not,” and “It’s not okay” are used during correction. There are many negative side effects associated with being punished:
    • Punishment for aggression may stop the behavior temporarily, but may further stimulate aggressive behavior.
    • The child may stop the punished behavior but may increase another aggressive behavior.
    • Punishment may serve as a model for aggression. Children imitate what they see adults do.
    • The punished behavior may stop only in the presence of the adult and increase in other settings.
    • The child may strike back at the punishing adult or displace his anger at someone else.
    • Frequent punishment may cause some children to withdraw and regress.
    • Angry children who do not fear authority may become more angry and focus on revenge.
    • The child may feel shame and harbor thoughts of lowered self- esteem (I’m a bad person. I’m mean.)
    • Punishment merely suppresses the response but does not teach the child what to do.

    In the short term, punishment may be effective in suppressing negative behavior when the punisher is present, but it does not teach the child positive ways to act. Punishing techniques that make the child feel bad about himself may make him act out more!

    Remember Asa.  This child felt besieged, plagued, punished for being the person he was.  This young man received ample ridicule.  He was constantly punished; his presence alone was enough to bring an onslaught of attacks.  Classmates called him Jack Black.  The label referred to the vociferous, chubby, long-haired actor in the movie “School of Rock.”

    Asa could be shrill.  His appearance alone might have been classified as a cry for attention.  His hair was unkempt.  Histrionic accoutrements graced his neck, his nails, and his abdomen.  Asa adorned his fingernails with black polish.  Around his neck, he wore a dog.  A faded rock concert tee-shirt covered his chest.  A trench coat completed the composition.

    Asa often felt as though he was tormented, teased, taunted, and mocked.  The troubled lad felt victim to frequent slights.  He believed others belittled him, beguiled him.  He was deceived and ill received.  Asa Coon felt misunderstood, and he craved as all creatures do, love, not loathing.  In frustration, Asa Coon characteristically lashed out.  He was not merely a quirky lad; he was quick to anger.

    This was the Asa who always seemed to be in fights at school.  This was the Asa who slapped around his mother. This was the Asa who talked about suicide.

    And it was this Asa, authorities say, who walked into SuccessTech Academy Wednesday with a satchel full of guns and ammunition and opened fire on teachers and students. . .

    What apparently pushed Asa’s troubled young mind over the edge was an argument with classmates about the existence of God.  It happened a few days ago in reading class.

    Asa said he didn’t believe in God and didn’t respect God.

    Another kid disagreed. . . .

    After school, the two kids fought.  Asa took a beating.  Both were suspended.

    “I’m going to get you,” he warned his tormentor.  “I will get you.”

    Indeed, he did.  Asa attempted to take revenge on those he believed wronged him.  A professional, Professor Jack Levin, Northeastern University, Criminology, offered a worthy assessment of the situation.  Perhaps, the lesson Americans need to learn is often lost.  What truly occurs within our offspring is left behind as our children are today.

    There are always missed signals.  The problem is that they only become clear after the fact.  Hindsight is 20/20, and after somebody shoots a number of people, everybody all of a sudden is a psychologist and recognizes all the warning signs.  Now, the problem is that these warning signs beforehand apply to so many youngsters.  Many of these shooters hate school or they like Marilyn Manson or they black — they use Gothic clothing.  They’re rebellious.  The best predictor we have is previous violence, and in this case Asa definitely had that in his background, but my point is this, we ought to be intervening early in the life of a child because he’s troubled, not because he’s troublesome.

    On rare occasions, a child has an opportunity to authentically connect to an adult, a curriculum, life, and lessons that are given and received with love.  After Tim  met Barbara M. Stock, he became one, among the exceptions.  At the time, the two encountered each other, Barbara held a brand new doctorate degree in Psychology and education.  The young scholar was proud the knowledge she accumulated.  Upon reflection, she states, she was “full of” herself.  Shortly after she received her Ph.D., Stock and her husband moved to a small quaint town.  Jobs were few, opportunities fragile.  

    Advised by a receptionist in the Special Education Department of the local school district, Barbara Stock pursued a practical possibility.  Perchance, she could find a job within the BRAT program.  Curious and anxious to impress, Doctor Stock inquired.

    I asked the mothers, “What does BRAT mean?” The mothers gave me how-stupid-are-you looks. “BRAT,” one mother said. ” ‘Brat…’ That’s what the school people call our kids.” It wasn’t an acronym for Behavioral…Remediation …Anything.

    As Stock observed the students, she realized her mission. A lone lad came into view.  Tim was awkward, assertive, and jubilant, all at once.  He was energetic and alien in his approach to life. After a short time, Tim’s mother noticed Doctor Stock and her stare.  The parent introduced herself to the professional person in her presence. “Mom” whispered to Barbara Stock, Tim was eight years of age and had learned nothing in this half-day program. Tim’s mother wanted an afternoon tutor for her son.  She hoped that if someone special would invest in her child, one-on-one, the odd boy would excel.  There might be hope.  Stock pondered the possibility.

    Confident I could perform brilliantly, I agreed to tutor Tim. I saw this as a great opportunity: I could use the newest techniques of behavioral reinforcement and multi-sensory stimulation to teach Tim. Then I would write an article or even a book on my achievement. I’d dreamt of one day having my own school; this would give me the credentials. I’d already accumulated all sorts of learning devices-sandpaper letters, Cuisenaire rods, a balance beam. I arranged a child-size table and two chairs in our finished basement and created an inviting “learning space.” I was ready and willing to begin my major project: The Teaching of Tim.

    Weeks went by; months moved quickly.  Tortured tutor, who loved her young teacher, Tim, Barbara M. Stock, learned what most educators are reluctant to admit.  

    Tim surprised me. He excelled, though not from any lesson I planned.

    Frustrated and bewildered with the accredited approaches that proved futile, Stock embraced what was more real.  She engaged the child in a manner that allowed Tim to be Tim.

    Gradually, I had to let go of my analytical, intellectual approach. I taught Tim best on his terms, seizing the opportunities he enjoyed and encouraging him to be practical, playful, and protective.

    Although I’d wanted to give up on Tim many times out of personal frustration, I felt truly sad when I had to say goodbye to him. I had no data, no article, no book to publish. Tim could pay attention longer, express himself better, and manage his frustration more often.  But his gains were infinitesimal, impossible to measure.  I felt like a total failure.

    Tim’s mother and I became friends and to her I confessed my defeat. She saw the situation differently. “He looks forward to seeing you.  He smiles,” she said.  “With you he’s not a ‘brat.’  These are gifts beyond measure.”

    As we said goodbye, Tim hugged me.  His mother laughed out loud.  “That’s a first, and probably not listed on any test.”

    Tim’s Mom was sensitive to the whole of her child.  She observed his trials and tribulations with great care.  The concerned parent [or teacher] can recognize triumphs.  Tests do not.

    Barbara M. Stock with all her prominence, prestige, and post-graduate expertise was helped to understand what typically remains undetected.  Erudition is not necessarily visible to those who know not what they see.  

    Indeed, the manner in which each of us internalizes instruction differs.  We need only consider Emma, Asa, Bradley, William, Shawn, Tim, or ourselves to realize one size, one test, cannot fit all.  Standardize assessments do not allow for nuance.  Pedagogical practices, no matter how philosophically profound, may not be as effective as “real” life lessons are.  When individuals, teacher and student, parent and pupil, administrators and instructors, interact with authenticity, each senses they are accepted and admired.  People learn when they treasure the tutorial.

    Empathy is the best educator.  Punishment or mechanical methodology, presumed to be a practical, do not reward a spirit starved for insights.  Meaningful and appreciative acknowledgements nurture a mind, heart, body, and soul.  A healthy child is whole.  His or her education is balanced.  When a child is reactive, a distraction, or destructive, elders must acknowledge the little one is pleading for assistance.  ‘Teach me,’ he or she shouts.  If adults are to abet, they must realize penalties alienate.  Praise produces desirable results.

    What Does Work

    The research shows that praise for appropriate behavior, reasoning, giving consequences, withholding privileges, time out and teaching the appropriate social skills do help a frustrated child make better behavioral choices.

    The child who misbehaves constantly needs to hear correction statements phrased in positive language to implant alternative ways of thinking and acting in his developing value system. Telling the child with behavior problems what not to do often guarantees that he will go and do it! Instead, tell him what to do and help him to feel good just thinking about acting in positive ways. Give a choice between two alternatives.

    Teaching social skills gives a process of correcting the inappropriate behavior instead of suppressing it through punishment. Social skills training offers a more humane way of giving children tools to deal with conflict so that they can take care of themselves. Learning social skills helps children reduce aggressive and violent behavior. Teaching the prosocial skills helps all of us. When children learn and use positive reciprocal ways of interacting with each other, this adds to peace in our world.

    Processing Cues To Say After Conflict

    What you say to an aggressive child will determine the likelihood of his decreasing the inappropriate behavior the next time. To break into the child’s negative thinking patterns, process what happened and what could be different next time in a non- threatening way. The research shows that people are most ripe for change after a situation of high emotional arousal. Being corrected is generally a high arousal situation so the child should be ripe for new learning. You have a golden opportunity to help your child make the commitment to change by using this teaching approach.

    If you can get to the child’s vulnerability and sense of fair play after a situation of conflict, you can help him make changes. Show the child the consequences of his actions on others. Whenever possible, give him a choice. Ask him to make a value judgment on what he did. Give him solid information on how he could react in positive ways.  Always leave him feeling good about himself with hope for the future.

    Few of the questions posed on examinations reward a learner.  Results are not immediate.  What a child is asked to assesses is often not real or personally relevant to a young person.  In America today, on tests, in the classroom, and even in some homes, children are not required to think critically.  Nor are they given the opportunity to imagine, innovate, or invent.  Conventional wisdom dominates the curriculum, and students fall further and further behind.  Sadly, we often look at our best students and see automatons.  However, they are more.

    Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton,

    who does not know or understand himself,

    and the only  person that he knows is the person he is supposed to be,

    whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech,

    whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter,

    and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain.

    Two statements may be said concerning this individual.

    One is that he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality, which may seem to be incurable.

    At the same time it may be said of him,

    he does not differ essentially from the millions of the rest of us who walk upon the earth.

    ~ Erich Fromm [Observer of Humankind, Psychologist and Author]

    Might we begin to embrace our children and their sweet souls.  Let us no longer scold students when they struggle to grasp the essence of a standard test question.  We need not drug those whose attention span is short.  Let us, educators, and parents engage each child individually.  If perchance, we listen to what the children tell us about them selves, if we see each student as a whole child, we might learn how to best teach them.

    The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

    ~ R. M. Hutchins [American Educator, Author, The University of Utopia and The Learning Society, Board Editor for Encyclopedia Britannica]

    Perhaps adults can take a lesson from life.  Each of the school shooting show us, our offspring are in pain.  Medications will not cure what ails the young.  Restrictions placed on guns, or access to other objects, will not make our schools safer.  More of the same and stricter standards will only serve to deaden minds that wish to soar.  That is the paradox.  Americans send their children to school to learn; then they squelch the possibility.  May we teach the offspring well and allow them to tell us what they need as a whole child.

    “To teach is to learn twice.”

    ~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]

    In this country today, citizens are reminded that Math, Science, and Reading, the basics are essential.  Students study so that they might pass tests in these subject areas.  Teachers teach techniques that ensure success on examinations.  Facts fill the air in American classrooms.  Some scholars survive , others hope to die.

    In this nation, we forget.  There is so much more to life than Math, and more to Algebra than a correct answer.  As Mister Kupfer, a High School mentor tells his students, a correct solution does not authenticate that a student understands the process.  A problem requires more than a guesstimate, or memorization of a formula.  Mathematician Kupfer states, if a pupil cannot work through a problem, twenty years after he or she saw it in class, then they never truly learned how to solve the equation.

    Science is not as simple as a law declared absolute.  Theories also abound.  Curious souls search beyond what they know to be true and discover what is yet to be part of a standard curriculum.  A student motivated to think, rather than realize a score on a test, might take a quantum leap.  A student, trained to think as a scientist might, will not simply accept a static answer.  Analysis is not wrong; it is just not encouraged when the course of study is guided by multiple choice tests.

    Reading requires more than regurgitation of the words printed in a booklet.  Bubbles darkened in on a page, and preparation for tests do not a satisfy a sincere student.  Our children are asking to learn.  They crave a caring connection.  Let us bring education back into our homes and our schools.  May we teach our offspring well and wholly.  The  youth are our future; may we give them a strong foundation.  Research, Reflection, and reverence, these are the three R’s, the basics.

    Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.  

    ~ Albert Einstein

    Schools, Standards, Sources . . .

    MSNBC Debate; Clinton, Edwards, Obama. Theatre of the Absurd.

    MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15, 2008 Pt. 7

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    The night was young, and yet, the messages were old.  The top-tier Democratic hopefuls huddled together around a round table.  The stage was prepared and the performance would be unparalleled.  Each character in this play reveled in an accepted reality.  Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or Barack Obama, are “right” for the country.  No one else could compare to this cast of characters.  In truth, the three were one.  The dramatic debate was cordial and quaint.  The candidates were polite, prim, and extremely proper.  The production was well-managed.  No one was scolded.  Regrets were expressed.  Geniality grew as the hopefuls promised to do no harm to the others.  

    It was easy to be calm.  The setting was comfortable.  Candidates were able to comfortably sit in chairs.  The dialogue was intended to seem spontaneous.  There was no rehearsal, supposedly.  As the Presidential aspirants interacted amicably, spoke, the audience wondered; would they join hands and hum kumbaya.

    The only possible opposition to the message of unified-status-quo was strategically eliminated from the panel.  Corps and the Courts barred the only voice-of-change from what MSNBC billed as a Democratic Candidate Debate.  General Electric owned and operated, MSNBC refused to allow Presidential aspirant Dennis Kucinich to participate in this televised assemblage.  Apparently, according to Donald Campbell, a Las Vegas lawyer who represented NBC Universal, “The Federal Communication Commission [FCC] broadcast rules do not apply to cable TV networks.”

    Given this statement, unexpectedly, Americans have an answer to what has long been a source of confusion.  The cable news channels need not broadcast in the interest of the people.  An audience, the source for sales, is captive.  For producers, favoritism is fine.  Viewers, who have long claimed the candidate they will cast a ballot for, are absent from the air, now, we know why.  Only those, the writers considered crucial were part of the plot.  Extras, or unelectables, as defined by the network Directors, need not apply.

    Attorney Donald Campbell proclaimed, to force MSNBC to include the people’s entrant, Dennis Kucinich, or not air the debate if the Congressman from Ohio did not appear, would amount to “prior restraint.”  Legal legend, Campbell declared to allow Presidential aspirant Kucinich to take the stage would be a tantamount to a “clear and unequivocal” violation of the First Amendment. Campbell pleaded with the Justices, and requested they consider the right to a free press.  The Nevada Supreme Court Jurors conferred and concluded Campbell was correct.  

    Individual liberties, and the ‘public’s right to know’ may be legally abridged if cable corporate Chief Executives needs are involved.  in 2008, exceptions and exclusions dominate the Democratic debates as does obfuscation.

    Americans might have heard in the past, on the few occasions when they were afforded an opportunity, Congressman Kucinich is committed to bring the all the troops home from Iraq months after he enters the Oval Office.  Not only will President Kucinich establish a policy of truth and reconciliation, Commander-In-chief Kucinich will lead with a refined resolution.

    The US announces it will end the occupation, close military bases and withdraw.  The insurgency has been fueled by the occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent bases.  A US declaration of an intention to withdraw troops and close bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight invaders and those who have supported US policy.  Furthermore this will provide an opening where parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations towards peaceful settlement.

    Our future President Dennis Kucinich, believes we must recognize the plight of the people of Iraq.  Americans cannot ignore the truth; we went to war on false premises.  This fact alone affects the battle.  For too long citizens of this “free” democratic homeland deny the realities on the ground.  Circumstances ensure there is no hope of a military resolution.  As occupiers, we provoke more discord than bring peace.  A President Kucinich avows the United States must own its responsibility, and accept our actions caused the chaos.  A diplomatic process, adherence to international law will achieve stability in Iraq.  When Americans work towards a reverent resolution in Iraq, our troops will be able to return home with dignity.

    This philosophy and plan contrasts with the Three-Are-One Plan.  What Americans heard was, as Fact Check characterized it, “Iraqi Theatre,” absurd, and lackluster.  Nonetheless, this, we are told is want Americans want, regardless of the polls that state the general public wants out of this futile war.

    Once again, the candidates all made sweeping claims about their plans to withdraw troops from Iraq.  Obama and Edwards promised to “get our troops out” by the end of 2009, while Clinton promised to begin withdrawing troops within 60 days and promised to have “nearly all the troops out” by the end of 2009.  But under questioning, all three conceded that troops could be in Iraq for years:

    Obama: I will end the war as we understand it in combat missions.  But that we are going to have to protect our embassy.  We’re going to have to protect our civilians.  We’re engaged in humanitarian activity there.  We are going to have to have some presence that allows us to strike if al Qaeda is creating bases inside of Iraq.

    Clinton: Well, I think that what Barack is what John and I also meant at that same time, because, obviously, we have to be responsible, we have to protect our embassy, we do need to make sure that, you know, our strategic interests are taken care of.

    Edwards: I just want to say, it is dishonest to suggest that you’re not going to have troops there to protect the embassy.  That’s just not the truth.  It may be great political theater and political rhetoric, but it’s not the truth.

    As far as we can tell, there isn’t much daylight between the Iraq policies of Clinton, Edwards and Obama.  The biggest difference we noticed: Edwards would station some combat troops in Kuwait and bring them into Iraq whenever they were needed to counter terrorist activity.  Clinton and Obama would keep about the same number of troops for precisely the same mission, but they would station those troops in Iraq.  We leave it to our readers to determine how significant that difference is.

    There is a distinction between combat troops and embassy guards.  But the candidates drew this distinction only when pressed.  The fact is all of them would have Americans in uniform stationed in Iraq indefinitely, and all of them leave open the possibility that U.S. combat troops will be fighting limited engagements in Iraq for years, whether they are stationed in Iraq or Kuwait.  That leaves us agreeing with Edwards: There was definitely some political theater going on.

    After this performance, the actors did not stand; nor did they take their bows.  These artistes are professional entertainers.  Clinton, Edwards, and Obama need no props.  They can deliver a monologue without a script.  These three are truly practiced.  They know their craft.

    Cater to the corporate sponsors.  Cackle in a charming manner.  Be charismatic.  Present a commanding presence.  Remember, the public likes it when you are cute.  Cry, if you must, but be cautious.  True emotions can distract or create distance between you and the audience.  Strut your stuff, but whatever you do, do not subscribe to the “extreme” positions, mainstream candidate Congressman Kucinich does.  

    “Exit Iraq?”  That idea is preposterous.  There is money to be had from war.  The truer Weapon of Mass Destruction is Dennis Kucinich.

    Speaking of arsenals, MSNBC Correspondents, and employees of parent company General Electric turn to the topic of guns.  The Presidential players sing the song conventionally Conservative, Constitutional constructionist wish to hear.  Guns?  Grab me by the barrel and I am yours.

    Russert: We arrived in Nevada, the headline in Nevada Appeal newspaper: Nevada leads in gun deaths.

    Russert: The leading cause for death among young black men is guns — death, homicide.  Mayor Bloomberg of New York, you all know him, he and 250 mayors have started the campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

    Senator Clinton, when you ran for the Senate in 2000, you said that everyone who wishes to purchase a gun should have a license, and that every handgun sale or transfer should be registered in a national registry.  Will you try to implement such a plan?

    Clinton: Well, I am against illegal guns, and illegal guns are the cause of so much death and injury in our country.  I also am a political realist and I understand that the political winds are very powerful against doing enough to try to get guns off the street, get them out of the hands of young people.

    The law in New York was as you state, and the law in New York has worked to a great extent.

    Clinton: I don’t want the federal government preempting states and cities like New York that have very specific problems.

    So here’s what I would do.  We need to have a registry that really works with good information about people who are felons, people who have been committed to mental institutions like the man in Virginia Tech who caused so much death and havoc.  We need to make sure that that information is in a timely manner, both collected and presented.

    We do need to crack down on illegal gun dealers.  This is something that I would like to see more of.

    And we need to enforce the laws that we have on the books.  I would also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban.  We now have, once again, police deaths going up around the country, and in large measure because bad guys now have assault weapons again.  We stopped it for awhile.  Now they’re back on the streets.

    So there are steps we need to take that we should do together.  You know, I believe in the Second Amendment.  People have a right to bear arms.  But I also believe that we can common-sensically approach this.

    Russert: But you’ve backed off a national licensing registration plan?

    Clinton: Yes.

    Ahhh, the audience applauds.  We witness one of those moments of regret.  A subdued Clinton, in character shows her inner strength.  She is strong enough to admit she was [once] wrong, or at least, did not act in accordance with what the producers or the public relations persons say the people prefer.  The moderator, the narrator, or the demigod for political dialogue then turns his attention to another in the cast.

    Russert: Senator Obama, when you were in the state senate, you talked about licensing and registering gun owners.  Would you do that as president?

    Obama: I don’t think that we can get that done.  But what I do think we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement.  One good example — this is consistently blocked — the efforts by law enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers.

    That’s not something that the NRA has allowed to get through Congress.  And, as president, I intend to make it happen.

    But here’s the broader context that I think is important for us to remember.  We essentially have two realities, when it comes to guns, in this country.  You’ve got the tradition of lawful gun ownership, that all of us saw, as we travel around rural parts of the country.

    And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot.

    And then you’ve got the reality of 34 Chicago public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago.

    We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets.

    We began this performance with the notion of Amendments.  It seems apt that we return to the discussion of Rights.  On stage, the actors address issues of public interest, while they work to avoid any offer of information in the interest of the common good.  

    Russert: Senator Edwards, Democrats used to be out front for registration and licensing of guns.  It now appears that there’s a recognition that it’s hard to win a national election with that position.  Is that fair?

    Edwards: I think that’s fair, but I haven’t changed my position on this.  I’m against it.  Having grown up where I did in the rural South, everyone around me had guns, everyone hunted.  And I think it is enormously important to protect people’s Second Amendment rights.

    I don’t believe that means you need an AK-47 to hunt.  And I think the assault weapons ban, which Hillary spoke about just a minute ago, as president of the United States, I’ll do everything in my power to reinstate it.  But I do think we need a president who understands the sportsmen, hunters who use their guns for lawful purposes have a right to have their Second Amendment rights looked after.

    Might we again ask of Rights, the Bill of Rights, Constitutional Amendments, and how the Courts apply these to weapons-maker General Electric, the owner, and operator of Microsoft-NBC.  Could we consider the courts determination and how the same rules affect the outcome as it relates to citizen, Congressman, and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.  The words freedom and justice for all come to mind.  In a country where all men are created equal, perchance, the interest of Corporate Chiefs supersedes those of the common folk.

    Were we to review Act I, Scenes II, II, or IV we would see how similar the cast of characters are on issues such as Energy, Health Care, Immigration and more.  However, this Playbill is just as the Producers prefer, concise.  After all, conventional wisdom, which is all the network wishes to present, is American audiences have short attention spans.  This too, maybe by design.

    As the public reviews the reality of the program, they need not know that General Electric offers a panoply of products and services all affected by the President of the United Sates and his or her Administration.  Personal interests, and certainly, not public needs, may have prompted the parent company of MSNBC to do as they did.  This conglomerate produces or provides engines for planes, petroleum, energy, and entertainment.  Health Care, Business, and Consumer Credit are integral parts of the General Electric portfolio.  This major Producer/Director does much more than light the auditorium, or offer well choreographed “enlightenment.”

    Perchance, critics might pose the better question.  Why are Americans willing to accept theatre of the absurd?  Citizens tune in and channel the “advisable” perceptions.  The “majority” of people consider Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards as separate candidates, the super stars, amongst the dramatis personae.  Audience members focus on placement and how a Presidential hopeful moves across the stage.  Intonations inspire.  Cadence counts.  Most Americans ignore that there is little variance in the actors’ script.  Personalities may not be identical.  However, essentially, the three are one.  

    As Americans look at the Presidential aspirants declared viable, we laugh, we clap, we cheer, and we jeer.  Once we choose the candidate-of-change, and place that person in the Oval Office, might we realize as we could have during this “debate,” there is little difference?  Will citizens ask for a refund?  This premiere performance might help us to understand, the price of this ticket may be far too costly.

    MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15, 2008 Pt. 11

    Scenes, Sources, The Stage . . .