Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The following was sent to Sen. Elizabeth Dole after reading her LTE in the Wall Street Journal lecturing Pat Toomey and all who follow him for (gasp!) supporting a "Republican" mayor in Rhode Island who is challenging Sen. Lincoln Chaffee in the upcoming primary.

"[The Democrats] expect the 43 senators who voted against drilling — all but four Democrats as well as GOP Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — not to yield to further pressures and change their vote."

The above is a quote from an AP story regarding the recent vote to end a largely Democratic fillibuster of a budget billing that includes a provision for drilling in ANWR. It was predictable that Lincoln Chaffee would vote against you and your colleagues. But on the very day your letter the Wall Street Journal in support of Sen. Chaffee appeared? How drippingly sweet. I would have loved to see the look on your face...but then again, you surely knew how Sen. Chaffee would vote. You knew he would vote against you when you wrote your letter. Only the biggest fool would have failed to see this. And I never considered you a fool, Mrs. Dole.

I just want to know what you think the difference would be between Lincoln Chaffee and a liberal Democrat? I have to give him credit though. The other RINOs in the Senate didn't have the guts that Chaffee did. What is worse: a gutless, spineless RINO (Voinovich, Snowe, Hagle, Specter) or a principled one?

I would take a princpled RINO over the other variety. There are obviously fewer of them!

Mike Netherland

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Must Be Something in the Water

Note to Steve Laffey after reading part of his Energy Independence policy:

"I confess I got all excited when I heard that someone was challenging Lincoln Chaffee in the next "Republican" primary in Rhode Island.

But after reading Mayor Laffey's "Alternative Energy Policy" I realized that there is no real Republican Party in Rhode Island (I should have figured something was up when the incumbent and challenger have rhyming surnames). Laffey's "Plan" includes higher automobile mileage standards.

When we are driving around in tin foil cars Rhode Island will still be pumping our "Republicans" like Laffey and Chaffee. Good luck, Mr. Mayor. May the least dangerously ignorant of you two win."

And I was all ready to contribute to his campaign. Had my American Express card at the ready, went to his website and, Wham! The energy independence policy hit me like a bowl of cold oatmeal.

I can't in good conscience contribute to the campaign of anyone who actually believes that this economy can become "energy independent" by increasing the mandatory mileage standards, and by more tax breaks for alternative fuels (except nuclear) and wind farms.

You want to put the fear of God into OPEC oil ministers? Take the muzzel off Big Oil, let them explore, find and refine oil in our backyard, publish sensible nuclear power plant construction and operation standards. Oil and gas will become cheaper than the sand that surrounds Middle East oil wells. Gas stations will be put on wheels and will drive to YOU, just to squeeze out an extra dime per gallon over the competition.

It sounds too good to be true because of Republicans like the Cha-laffeys, and our own ignorami Gilchrest and Bartlett.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

"Laffey Beats Chaffee"

Message to Steve Laffey who has just entered the race to unseat Lincoln Chaffee in next primary.

Mike N.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mike Netherland <>
Date: Dec 3, 2005 6:02 PM
Subject: "Laffey Beats Chaffee"

Dear Mr. Mayor,
I just heard about your campaign via the Club for Growth! All I can say is THANK YOU! Well, that's not all I can say....This is what I told the NRSC:

"To what organization can I give my money that will help elect conservative Republicans, strengthen and unite the party and generally keep embarassing people like Lincoln Chaffee, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, Ted Stevens, etc. from elective office?

This just in from the Club for Growth:
"In Rhode Island, the NRSC has been running TV ads designed to support liberal Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is running for re-election against a conservative Republican candidate, Steve Laffey, in the upcoming 2006 GOP primary."

Given that your charter is, at least in part, to perpetuate in office liberals, your organization should simply disband, go away.

You are bad, evil even. Bad for the party and bad for the country. I will be sending a copy of this to Ken Mehlman at the RNC and cite this as another reason why the RNC will never see a dime of Netherland money as long as I have a breath.

Short of disbanding, why don't you just change the name of your organization? How about the "National Gutless, Spineless, Knuckledragging Gasbag Senatorial Committee"? This name would more accurately describe the people you represent.


P.S. I just gave $50 to Steve Laffey's Campaign. It would worth $500 just to see the looks on your faces if he wins and to see his reply to your friendly invitation to join the committee."

Mr. Mayor, I will be contributing to your campaign and I sincerely hope you are NOT a Republican of the same mold as the incumbent. Remember, he PROMISED to leave the party if Bush won in '04. All you are doing is helping him fulfill that promise.

Do not hold back. Do not think twice or think about the politically correct comment or action. Lead, Mr. Mayor and they will follow.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More Depressing News...

It seems that every day the Wall Street Journal brings disheartening news about Republicans behaving badly. Today it was 20 GOP senators covering for Sen. Byrd, in return for, you know, his support for Republican initiatives. This is the note I left with Sen. George Allen, one of the 20:

Mike Netherland

Dear Sen. Allen,

Say it aint so. Tell me that the fine folks at the Wall Street Journal, themselves incredulous at what their own eyes were telling them, were simply wrong in reporting the you were among 20 other members of the GOP who threaten to oppose the latest budget reconciliation if Byrd Amendment repeal is included.

For those who are reading this that may not be familiar with it (including yourself and members of your staff, apparently) the Byrd Amendment is a little bit of protectionism slipped into the 2001 budget by you-know-who. What makes this bit of anti-fair trade-ism particularly odious is that it actually pays companies for not trying to compete, but rather to reap the tariffs resulting from their claims of dumping. Sort of a fall-back business plan. On top of the America-talks-out-of-both-sides-of-its-mouth aspect of the Byrd thing, it happens to be illegal, bringing WTO-sanctioned retaliations from our trading partners.

House Republicans managed to get repeal language included in this years bill. And now it's the Senate's turn to step up to the plate as it were. So what do you do? Threaten Sen. Frist with killing the bill if the repeal is not removed.

What could possibly be going through your mind? Playing both sides of the fence, perhaps you hope that the stricken language would be restored in conference. Either way, Senator, you can forget about my primary support for your Presidential campaign. Maybe you've already decided not to run for president and you are pinning your reelection as Senator on this little manuever of yours.

Maybe, you hope to get your back scratched on other, more important legislation. Playing the game, eh? Gotta give some to get some...right? Open your eyes, man! The only thing the Democrats are giving Republicans lately is a very hard time!

So, tell me it aint so.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Gilchrest the Shepherd?

"My understanding ... is that people are gaining respect for Republicans in general because we're not just a bunch of sheep that follow the same course," said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, Maryland Republican. That idea "might not play well with Rush Limbaugh," he said, but is apparent in his district. "
The Washington Times, 11-17-05.

So now there is another important difference between Congressman Gilchrest and his Republican constituency: we are sheep and he is not. The good congressman has been in the news a lot lately mainly representing the "moderate" voice of the Party. And it may be true that Mr. Gilchrest is only being the compassionate Republican trying to change the tone in Washington. And I'll admit, I have yet to hear about monstrous earmark appropriations for District 1 a la Don Young's district of Alaska. I don't know whether Glichrest was one of the 20 GOP congressmen who went begging to the White House, pleading for their seats that the President had placed in jeorpardy with a temporary suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act.

So he may indeed be a different sort of Republican. The Democrats, on the other hand, have not been trying to change the tone. They have, if anything, been force-feeding the tone steroids. And I would like to know what people "are gaining respect for Republicans... ," who vote against each other, contradict each other, and compromise their principles, assuming they had any to begin with, for the sake of retaining their power and influence.

Again, I have no seen evidence political opportunism in Gilchrest's wayward ways. If anything I see him holding up a neon sign blinking "Vote Me Out, Please!" So what's my beef? My beef (or lamb in this case) is that he is a Democrat (or a Green or Independent) in sheeps' clothing. He probably couldn't be elected in Dist. 1 as a Democrat so the Republicans were just tickled pink to have him. We should be more discriminating in the future.

But the sheep comment really steams. We are sheep if we "follow the same course," and respected when we don't, in Gilchrestian theory. In that case, we should all follow Gilchrest since we all want respect. But that would mean we would all be following the same course. Gilchrest presents us Republicans with a dilemma, doesn't he? "Follow Me!"?

He is a shepherd who cannot have any sheep. By his own definition he represents no one with an ounce of respectability. While you ponder that one...consider the spectacle of all congressional Republicans, each going in a different direction. Unfortunately there are only two ways to vote, with the Democrats or against them. Hmmmm so that means, Gilchrest is, or runs the very real risk of being seen as, a sheep at least some of the time!! To mitigate this threat, he would have to vote 100 percent of the time with....the show that, you know, he is respectable, thereby helping the Republicans!

Somebody .... Help!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The next generation

Mike, I hate to tell you this, but you will become relegated to Cheney status in three years if you continue with this rant.

Keep in mind that there is a generation that has come of age as you rant and complain about whatever it is that your right wing agenda has in mind, and this new generation is ripe to vote soon.

In fact, your arguments about drilling in Alaska, teacher unions, or even about abortion rights in your state may become moot. For there is a much more pressing concern for this new generation who is just now getting their feet on the ground. It's called THE WAR.

Mike, you do not have a son or daughter serving there, or a husband dying there, do you? How many in Bush's inner circle do? But there are plenty of people outside of the beltway who do. And this new generation, my daughter's generation, is forming their own opinions of Bush and his lies that got us into this war, and they are not going conservative, Mr. Netherland. A new liberalism is being born. There's a change in the wind these days, I hate to tell you. But feel it, see it and realize it. This new generation came of age watching Bush lie to the American people about why we had to go to war with Iraq, and they are ALSO the generation who went there, died there, got maimed there, and came home from there, one way or another, and have been seen saying, "hey, this ain't what we thought we were going for."

Watching Cheney's chief of staff get indicted for leaking the name of the CIA operative who was married to the ambassador who tried to expose some of the Iraq-WMD lies has only added fuel to the fire. It is not just the current views of OUR generation that the right wing has to worry about. It is the up and coming generation that will take them down.

Watching the victims of Katrina struggling and dying in that sports arena, while Brown dusted off his new suits and emailed pals about them, makes America sick.

Watching Bush nominate his own damn lawyer for Supreme Court Justice makes America sick.

Watching Bush and Cheney sweep wrongdoings and lies under the rug in regards to prewar intelligence and Libby's leaking CIA names makes America sick.

This administration has spent their "election capital" all right. They've spent it to the hilt.

We are all now broke.

The next election is coming, not soon enough for many, but just in time for this next generation to galvanize their opinions on the Bush administration and the power of the right wing.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

To Drill or Not to Drill....

--- In, Mike Netherland wrote:

This is a message I sent this morning to Wayne Gilchrest. I wanted to send it to Roscoe Bartlett but his web site doesn't permit folks outside his district from giving him a piece of their minds. If anyone knows Rep Bartlett's e-mail address, please forward this to him.

Mike Netherland

Dear Congressman Gilchrest,
I quickly lost my appetite this morning as I read in the Sunday Capital (4-24-05) that you and your distinguished colleague and fellow "Republican" Rep. Roscoe Bartlett voted along with all the Democrats in Maryland to remove the provision allowing for drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refugee (ANWR).

In doing so you keep company with those who secretly revel in such defections. Yours and Rep. Bartlett's votes and public positions will be used against ALL Republicans. You are not "independent-minded moderate politicians" as you will be portrayed in public. You are,
in fact, Democratic political campaign fodder.

I know you like to say you vote your conscience. And that is fine. But, hey, do us all a big favor and vote your conscience an an INDEPENDENT! Congressman, there is a reason why we have Democrats and Republicans and Independents and Greens and Communists and such. They are called "political parties." A political party is a group of like-minded people who band together to send a representative to Congress.

Think of it like this: A Green Party Congressman's LAST vote would be for allowing to take place drilling in the ANWR. He could say that he was only voting HIS conscience and that he was an "independent- minded" Green. Before the ink was dry on the edition of the "The Organic
Times" revealing his vote, amidst all the Republicans, the Green Party's clean-burning torches and pitchforks would be in the hands of tens of angry, tofu-eating yoga-meisters wending their way up Constitution Avenue towards his office.

The point is, Congressman, the Greens don't expect their party's representatives to vote for oil exploration. I know it's pretty simple but it illustrates my point: As a member of a political party there is very little room for voting your conscience. If this is what you want to do, then get out and run as an Independent or a Green. Let a "real" Republican represent us in Congress.

There are no qualifying or mitigating circumstances. There are only votes. And there is but two ways to vote. That's what it come down to, Congressman. Now I read your "position paper" on the Energy Bill. I see that you tried to make it better by voting for increased fuel efficiency mandates (CAFE) and making it easier to sue makers of MTBE's (a fuel additive that was supposed to make fuel burn cleaner...hmmmmm...great incentives there...I can just see
entrepreneurs risking everything in the name of fuel efficiency only to be flayed by the very congressmen who encouraged them in the first place) and to make it really difficult and expensive to use clean-burning natural gas by limiting the ability to locate LNG terminals (What's next, federal assistance to sue businesses trying to make "clean-burning natural gas" available to Americans? I can't wait for the toxic-by-product-of-ethanol-production lawsuits.).

No solutions in your position paper. None in Roscoe Bartlett's drivel about running out of oil which was apparently predicted back in 1950 by a Shell Oil scientist. We were supposed be running out out of food and water and places to live at about this time, too. What happened?

Just whining about tax breaks to "special interests" (as though letting slip the plantiff bar on MTBE makers and LNG shippers is not practically giving money to the Trial Lawyers and their Democratic beneficiaries) is not productive.

To sum up, you have no solutions and you voted to ensure that the rest of the Republicans had no solutions, either.


Gilchrest Fuel

--- In, Mike Netherland wrote:

Gilchrest was one of the 11

"The House yesterday approved a bill that would make it a federal crime to skirt a state parental-notification law by taking a minor to another state to obtain an abortion without her parents' involvement. The bill passed by a 270-157 vote, with 54 Democrats joining 216 Republicans in voting for the proposal against 11 Republicans, 145 Democrats and one

Shortcut to:

Dear Enviro-folk,
I am writing to you because our local rag, The Capital, associated your organization with something they call the Maryland Green Party on their website If this a false association (and I would be shocked if that was so) you can take it up with them.

Anyway, there is a U.S. Congressman who, despite my gentle nudgings and proddings over the years, continues to support legislation that our party (the GOP) opposes and opposes that which our party supports. So it is with HR 748 (Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act), against which he, along with 10 of his fellow travelers, recently voted.

In a recent message to him, I tried to make an anology as to why this was unacceptable by invoking the good name of the Green Party. I said essentially that the Green Party wouldn't wait for the next election to throw out of office their man in Washington if he voted for, say, increased logging in Yellowstone. Am I right? Or if he voted for increasing federal funding for nuclear power generation, he would be out on his ear, no?

Well we have just the man for you. He is Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (R? -MD). I think you would find that his inclinations are more aligned with yours than they are with ours. So write him a nice letter and invite him to enjoy the warm support of the Green Party. Who knows, given the blind following he seems to enjoy in Maryland, I am confident that he will win as a Green Party candidate. No, no...don't thank me. I voted against him in the last primary. Please send your letters of appreciation to the Maryland State GOP, which keeps sending him back to Washington term after term. In fact you may find that the MD GOP would support him even if he runs as a Green. Stranger things have happened in our party over recent elections.

Yours truly,

Mike Netherland

The Thing About the Teacher Union

--- In, Mike Netherland wrote:

(The TAAAC is the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County [MD]; and the MSTA is the Maryland State Teachers Association...I think you can guess the rest! Heather is a former "education" beat "reporter" for the Annapolis Capital)

OK, for those in the Square who just don't get it yet.....There is one main reason why the TAAAC/MSTA/NEA/DNC/MOVEON.ORG is bad: It is a tool of the Democratic Party. They are one and the same. I will gleefully debate this with any of you who have second thoughts...whose sister or spouse is a current or former teacher, and so like Sen. George
Voinovich, your conscience has gotten the better of you.

The concept is simple. You take great American institutions like collective bargaining and public school teaching and put them together and BAM! Teachers are exploited, under valued, treated like dirt and whose fault is it? Well it's the greedy school board's fault. They have some interest in keeping the proletariat, er, I mean, the teachers down and in discouraging their collective bargaining tendencies. Now what posible interest could they have? Well it doesn't matter. The school board is evil and the head of that evil is the Superintendent. You don't believe the union? Well here is the Superintendent himself, "The salaries in this county are an embarassament," by this he means they are embarassingly low. Evil, union-busting....well you can't believe him, the county expects to be running a surplus in next years' budget!

There are some interesting questions raised in that last paragraph (Heather, you are allowed to ask questions when you write news stories). What possible interest does the school board have in denying the teachers anything? Do they get a cut of any budget surplus? Are they running for popularly elected office? Is it just for the thrill of being front page news in the The Capital every day? And what does it say about the people who "elected" the school board members? Well it
says they elected evil, heartless, child-hating, exploitative capitalist pigs. Why would they do that? Because they themselves are evil, heartless...OK, got it? Sheriff Finlayson and her unwitting dupes are picketing county taxpayers who are stupidly enough, given the right to vote.

Now while you are digesting that, her is another reason why I don't trust Sheriff Finlayson: Politics. If the TAAAC were simply an agent of collective bargaining, I would hold no grudge. After all, somebody has to negotiate higher salaries and benefits and working conditions
for those poor slaves of the county school system. Right? It's not as though they can just up and leave for teaching positions in neighboring, benevolent counties, now can they? Of course not. That would mean they would have to drive or (gasp!!) take public transportation. No, they owe their souls to the county company store. And the county taxpayers and thier neighbors, fellow parishoners, have the them over a barrel and they know it. My neighbor, my tormentor.
Makes you want to cry, doesn't it?

But no, the TAAAC is a politically active organization and as such contributes to larger state and national teachers unions whose bank accounst are coveted by politicians. I would have no problem with that if they were conservatives but, for some strange reason the TeachPACs
prefer liberal politicians. And liberal politicians will quite literally be the death of us!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What's Wrong with this Picture?

In response to a political team-building message recently circulated in Maryland:
"Why Employers Should Support Governor Ehrlich

· Governor Ehrlich has fostered a business climate of growth and prosperity.
· Nearly 70,000 new jobs have been created since Governor Ehrlich took office.... " etc.

It is sad that the "business" community needs to be persuaded to vote for and support a Republican candidate. It is a sad commentary on the business leaders as well as on the Republican Party. I don't know which is worse. Until last night I was sure it was the business leaders who were the misguided ones.

That's when I happened to catch a few minutes of debate on the House floor regarding gas prices and energy conservation. The debate featured Roscoe Bartlett who is convinced that we will never have enough oil no matter what. The other "Republicans" were convinced, in turns, that we were directly funding terrorists, we are using waaaay too much oil (think of how terrorists will have to cut back their operations if we could only conserve a little!), and that we must start buying more hybrid cars like the kind Dr. Bartlett drives! The one "R" came close enough to calling for a law to FORCE Americans to buy certain fuel-efficient products! He literally had to choke back his words.

Building more refineries and LNG terminals were "schemes." More exploration is out of the question because Dr. Bartlett says there is no more. Nuclear power didn't even rise to level of scheme. I never heard a reference to more nuclear plants. Lastly there was an "R" who claimed to be a physicist and as such had a tangible relationship with energy. For most people, he explained, energy is odorless and colorless and otherwise intangible, except to him, which makes him a kook. And to prove it he theorized that if only energy was purple, like his tie, people would be able to see it and would be more inclined to conserve energy, you know, to keep all the purple in.

Thank God the Democrats were up next! Their ranting about not having any power, losing majorities, and lamenting the long, long list of scandals, and cronies, seemed soothing and familiar. Well, with performances like last night's, it won't be very long before the Democrats take it all back. It will start with the '06 election where we will lose both Houses of Congress (that we really ever had them is a matter of debate).

In 2008, Hillary will be president. We have only ourselves to blame. God help us all!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Freak Show

Every 10 or 15 years, it seems, I have to remind myself why I don't do certain things. And so it was today as I beat a hasty retreat from the permanent Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville. The last time I attended a decade or so ago, I had been married a few years, was
childless and thought it sounded like a good idea at the time. The searing heat and humidity quickly took its toll on me as we made our way across several acres of parking field. Once among the trees of the festival area, the heat and humidity was still distracting but I was
amused by the "period dress," antics, improvisation and other entertainment.

But for the weather, I probably would have been a regular visitor and I wonder if I would have noticed the decline in the quality of the festival "organizers" as well as the festival goers. Today's visit has shown that the festival has been reduced to an open-air orgy of every fetish modern western society has to offer. Now I am not narrow-minded and easily offended, but there is a reason why we don't take our children to leather bars and strip joints. They should be the same ones for not taking them to the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It should be treated as any other adult entertainment establishment. As such, it probably would have to be closed down for it's proximity to schools and churches.

There was an even mix of voyeurs and exhibitionists, with some playing dual roles. Within those two broad categories were the bondage and sado-masochist crowd. The women and girls were consumed with a game of who can push more mammary mass up and out while at the same time appearing self-conscious every time a voyeur's jaw would drop. The festival, it seemed to me, was the chance for all those people who for whatever reasons didn't make it to Mardi Gras in Rio or New Orleans, South Beach, or to the topless resorts of the world to let it all hang
out in Crownsville, Md.

Pretty much gone from the first festival I attended was any pretense at entertainment. The paying throng were entertainment enough, themselves. Gone also is the pretense that anyone will learn anything about the Renaissance, or about the Middle Ages by attending the festival. Gone also should be the pretense that YOU are going to witness quaint reenactments of a typical day in a Middle Ages market or town square. You are going for the cleavage contests! Why your wife is going is beyond the scope of this column (though I sense it is a form of Sadism).
Me? Truthfully, I had no idea how bawdy it had become. I loathed the idea of attending all these years because of the heat and crowds of rude, obnoxious people.

The really sad part is that I noticed that there were tourists in attendance. Tourists from Europe!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bush's summer...

President Bush is on vacation again. By some counts, the president has made roughly 50 trips to his Texas ranch, logging more than 300 whole or partial days there. The White House is quick to say his visits to the "Western White House" are working vacations, where Bush hosts foreign leaders, signs documents and gets daily briefings.

My oh my, must be tough.

I'm sure Osama has his vacation spot too.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

While you were away....

Sorry Mike, but I am taking over your blog while you are away.

Heck, this gives me all kinds of opportunity!

1) Natalee Holloway--okay, I give. I must admit am fixated by the Foxnews coverage on Greta's show. I do love Greta. No, it is not a news story, but simply a mystery that all of America is hung up on. I hope it lasts....for Fox's sake, but not for her family's.

2) The new Energy Bill--how much money can we give to the oil companies under this cover, and for how long??

3) Carl Rove....haa haaa haaa....not much to add there.

4) John Roberts--yes, a true player in the 2000 election debacle. Nice try letting a few years pass, as if us dems will forget. Nothing like politics.

5) Our NY governor gives--yee ha! Knows he doesn't stand a chance.

6) Boy scouts are stood up by George Bush...hmm....what do you make of that?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Natalee Holloway


What's your take on the missing girl in Aruba story? How do you like Fox's coverage of it? Would you let your 18-year-old daughter go to Aruba with 124 kids and 7 chaperones? What do you think of the Arubans protests of the mother's comments yesterday?

What do you think happened?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Oil and Murder

I see where you are going with this. What if a future U.S. president decides to pull out, caving in to pressure from the spineless Republicans in Congress and we are left with, as you say in your clsoing paragraph, essential a terrorist state with all the money they can literally pump out of the ground. What would happen? What would we do?

Sadly, this is an all-too plausible a scenario. That is, Republicans going soft; calling for timetables for withdrawal, etc. (see Capital Advantage's letters to Rep. Jones

And you don't need a crystal ball to know what will happen. Just turn to any reputable history of the Vietnam War and its aftermath. There will be refugees, mass murder, etc. You would think...hmmmm what can we do differently in Iraq to avoid the mistakes of Vietnam? Well, we could ruthless round up, mercilessy interrogate and summarily execute every mother son of the insurgency until "Baathist" becomes a word that is no longer uttered in polite company; it should become the most vile and ugly thing you could say about a person, much like the "N-word" is today.

We are never going to win the hearts and minds of those in the insurgency, so those concerned with our "image" as that of Gitmo' and Abu Grahib should consider this fact. There was no Gitmo, no Abu Grahib when civilian airliners were hijacked and used as missiles. What was our image problem then? Well I'll grant you, lobbing cruise missiles at an aspirin factory was a stupid mistake. So was committing troops to Somalia, and stupider still was pulling them out after Mogadishu.

So we should concentrate on winning the hearts and minds of those tens of millions of Iraqis who voted in January for a real government. The de-Nazification of Germany following the war was barbaric by today's standards, but it was successful. The allies and German civilian groups rounded up those remaining in Nazi cells hiding throughout Europe. Brutal but necessary to demonstrate to the civilian population that it was safe to go about life, run for public office, take financial risks by opening or improving a business, etc.

Anyway, in your closing paragraph you wonder about a murderous regime financed by oil. Well we have had them. One is gone, Saddam Hussein's murderous reign is over. We still have Iran, though. They have been financing suicide bombings in Israel for decades.

Okay, Mike, let's let the people decide...

Mike, we can argue till the cows come home and then some about whether or not America should have invaded Iraq or not, and I will give you some points on that charge, however, the truth is the daily goings on there. Okay, it will take time to, according to you, teach them how democracy works.

Mike, at this point, we both know it is not the Iraqis who are fighting us at this point. It is the terrorists, Al Queda. Let me remind you, before the war, and after its Shock and Awe stage, what did I say? GW was opening up a ripe and ready country to control by terrorists.

And now if we cut and run, we are giving the terrorists a country with the world's third largest supply of oil.

But why now, are some Republicans started to jump sides, to say we ought to have a pull out plan? I believe I smell a duck cooking.

Okay, Mike, five years from now, and after we have begun to pull out (assuming the American public can stand it for that long)--if GW has inadvertentedly given the terrorists a foothold to control of a country that can support its murderous activities via its oil, how, oh how, does that help the war on terrorism?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

So how would you rate the second four years of the Bush administration so far?

Me? Hmm...honestly, Mike, since the beginning of his second term, I keep looking for the genie to come out of the bottle. I keep waiting for the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq, the insurgency to be squelched, Bush's social security plan to start getting kudos and rave reviews from at least the majority in Congress...for SOMETHING that he promised and that our country elected him to do.

I must admit, at first the war in Iraq was finally starting to look like it was coming to some kind of slow, but glorious end with the elections in Iraq. I was actually beginning to taste my foot in my mouth about the whole thing. I was hoping it was coming to be--for you, for me, for all the people in Iraq, and for our brave soldiers there. But now, again, things seem to be spinning out of control. People are turning off the news, tired of it all, and wounded too.

And what's with this recruiting scandal? Why aren't our kids just lining up to go and serve this great country in this war? How come the recruiters have to threaten them if they don't? Give this much longer and we'll have a draft.

What's happening with social security? I think we've all lost track on that one.

You know, if Bush was really smart, he'd jump on the only train that's moving right now, and start lauding and funding alternative energy sources and begin making the move to free us from the oil strangle hold the Middle East has on us, and will have for decades to come if we don't change. Now is the time for someone, you'd think it would be our president, to do that. End this tyranny! Free us from the oil barons in Saudi Arabia and the terrorism of the Middle East. But no, there's Bush, sweetly holding hands and playing kissy-kissy with the Saudi Prince...his old oil buddy. The Sauds and the Bushes go way back....sigh. Some things never change. Although I must say, Bush looked so oddly in tune with the gay community for the first time in his life on that little walk!

Well, at least Laura has a new talent emerging--comedienne! (Speaking of which, we are going to see Seinfeld at the Stanley theatre in Utica tomorrow night, for a small fortune, of course!)

Anyway, come, rebutt my trash, slay me, gallant knight of the Republican round table!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Train Pals -- Introduction


Train Pals Page
Dedicated to those enduring passengers of Odenton

(These pages were done back in the late '90s after I felt I had paid my dues and was allowed to begin commenting on my life. Also, I had just discovered that I had free web space and started to experiment with it. So I thought I would, for nostalgia, post these early contributions to the blogosphere)

WELCOME to the first exciting and interesting feature site that I have decided to host using the meager 5 MB of space that gives to any fool willing to buy from them a year's worth of Internet services.

After observing the full range of human emotion directed at and around the train for ten-odd years, I find it downright amazing that I'm the first to start a MARC commuter web site, "For MARC commuters, by MARC commuters," (If you find that I'm not actually the first, keep it to yourself. OK? Don't burst my bubble.).

TrainPals -- MARC-Etiquette?

The MARC Train
Pals Page
Marc Etiquette

Etiquette? On a MARC train? Should be a pretty thin page, you say. Well, to the casual observer the conduct of passengers on the platform and in the carriages may appear to be thousands upon thousands of completely random acts whereby trains are stuffed with and evacuated of their human hoofage. The observer then begins to marvel at how, on a daily basis, year after year, this activity goes on without bloody carnage, injury or even rumpled clothes and mussed hair. Even a rough analysis would lead to the HourGlass Model wherein the force of gravity feeds millions of grains of sand, one at a time through a tiny hole in exactly one hour. How such precision is derived from completely random activity is still a scientific mystery. That's why the hourglass is used only by Tibetan monks and American private attorneys. But it will ALL be explained here as we take a closer look at the intricate social mechanism I have dubbed "Marc Etiquette."
That's right. There are subtle protocols, manners, states of mind, and attributes of physique and attire that govern the seeming chaotic behavior of MARC passengers in the loading and unloading of the box cars.

Right away Odenton passengers are confronted with a dilemma: a wide platform that runs nearly a quarter of a mile, it is designed to accommodate up to three annulled-trains-worth of passengers.

So, you pick a spot on the platform to await the next train (why this spot? subject for another MARC page). You will soon learn that no matter which spot you pick it will, without fail, mark the exact center of a MARC train carriage. Now, left mid-way between the doors at either end you burn several seconds wondering why there is no middle door before you rapidly conclude that even if there were, the train will, without fail, stop on your spot exactly mid-way
between the middle door and the one at either end of the car (most likely the end whose door is stuck closed).

There you are. Forced to decide which way to go and having no other means or experience as a guide you examine your options. Both entrances are crowded already because, unlike you, the seasoned passengers (having long buried the middle-door dream) have learned to walk one way or the other just near the door as the train slowed in order to be as close as possible to the door when the train stops. Once a crowded door is selected how do you conduct yourself?

Crowded-Door Entry Protocol:

  1. Those closest to the door enter first having proven their superior endurance or neurosis by picking a door and sticking to it. These passengers are also the seasoned pros not a rookie like you and therefore deferring to them shows the respect they deserve.

  2. Late comers to the door should not try to weasel their way in along the side of the train. Despite the anonymous nature of a crowd, everyone knows who got to the platform when and who, therefore, should be upfront.

  3. Be a gentleman! With all the attendant duty and honor. You'll find that everyone respects a gentleman. And ladies, nothing makes the wages of chivalry shine as bright as those paid by a true lady allowing a gentleman to do his duty. So the next time a hot and tired and hungry gentleman stands so that you might sit, please sit. It's a simple thing. Do it for yourself. Do it for the sake of Western civilization. You know chivalry is not dead despite the best efforts of modern women.

    And you military officers! God, if there is anyone I expect to see standing in a crowded train it's every uniformed member of our services' officers corps. Let's see you elevate some of that brass and braid the next time you see a lady standing! My father, a retired officer (now a road warrior where there are no ladies, only jeeps and targets), would be forced to ask for the credentials of you costumed-colonels. But I digress.

Alright, let's sum up Loading Etiquette:

  • Nearer the door first;

  • FoFi - First On the platform, First In the door.

  • Ladies First!
Well-bred MARC passengers don't shed their manners at the door, either. Once in the door, the proper conduct is to proceed within the car whose door you entered. Avoid disrupting the loading process by not entering the door of one car then proceed to cross into vestibule of the adjacent car where passengers are trying to get on as well.
Once within your car, avoid the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous game of aisle "chicken" by finding a seat somewhere in your half of the car. Walking the full length of one or more cars is acceptable only if you are one of the last to make it on. In this case, after running like mad, the MARC carriage is an intensive care ward and you are in a semi-ambulatory state. Half way up the ramp to the platform your quadriceps shut down after exhausting the feeble supply
of oxygen your atrophied cardio-pulmonary system can manage. Luckily for you a body in motion tends to stay in motion even when cut off at the knees. And the low-impact poured-concrete platform offers just the right amount of "outside force" to end your tortured journey from the far corner of the Odenton Parking Lot and Open-Air Chop Shop.

Traffic usually flows from the front of the train to the rear. Again, be a polite Train Pal and find a seat quickly in your half of the car and facilitate the smooth flow of passengers in this direction. If you feel that your seat is just not in the near half of the car, you are permitted to walk through the vestibule (towards the rear of the train) into the next car to find just the right seat.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2005

    Republican Hypocrites?

    OK, I am taking a lot of flak, as resident ideologue within the circle of friends I have come to know over the years, on the Terry Schiavo case. Principled and emotional postions taken by Republicans are yet more examples of right-wing hypocrisy. Every moral and political brick in the foundation of conservatism is now painted with Schiavoism. Federalism, limited government, and soon, I'm sure, the War on Terror, can no longer be carried into political campaigns as standards of the Grand Old Party.

    No. We let ourselves get taken with a single, tragic case, one of thousands in the country alone, I'm sure. I am surprised, though, that the liberals have yet to find a connection between the Schiavo's parents, Haliburton and, of course Dick Cheney. Why else would the Republicans so passionately take up the cause at the highest levels of government? C'mon you guys...there must be something...wait, isn't Terry Schiavo starving in a hospital in Florida? And isn't the Governor of Florida George Bush's brother? Aaa Ha!

    Well, I don't see a need to explain or justify or some how square the actions of a great many Republicans in and out of Congress with the principles of the conservative ideal of government. I don't therefore see the contradictions and hypocrisy, blindingly visible to liberals, in men and women expressing their faith on behalf of the poor soul and her family. Keeping to their faith, might not these Republican hypocrites affect a thousand other similar plights?

    Is there not room or a need for political action to guide us in future similar circumstances? It is obvious to me, that the mere fact of this case going from State to Federal courts and back again that there might be some ambiguity in the current law. This requires us to debate the issue and, if necessary, make law.

    But no. Let us instead heckle the Republicans for daring to defend their faith and one who cannot possibly defend herself. The Democrats all but one, I believe, stayed away from the Congressional debate. Unusual for the great gas bags of the world, the party of the little people, the common man, of the oppressed, downtrodden, homeless, helpless, etc.

    Sunday, March 13, 2005

    News of My Demise.....

    OK, Barb. Regarding the African-American topic, I have, as a matter of fact, interviewed several black friends of mine. As it turns out, none of them (and none of their black friends) are African-American. If they must be classified, they prefer Black.

    I have invited them to comment on the topic. However, unlike you and I , they are reserving their opinions for more private consumption.

    My next post will be on the entirely fabricated etiquette of holiday greetings.

    Has the world stopped moving?

    I don't know what other hypothesis to come up with. Mike is apparently either decomposing as we speak or, worse yet, reading up on Hunter Thompson's passages that lead one to think of doing the unspeakable. I doubt the second hypothesis. Mike and Hunter do not share the same Cobain-style "fuck me till I'm dead, because it won't matter" view. Cobain got the credit because he was younger, more in your face, and Thompson took the back stage exit. Thompson had a hellofalot more to say. I belive Thompson's critics were jealous. Cobain had an audience. Hence the difference with press.

    Mike, Hey, still there? Should we send the paramedics?


    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Time AND Newsweek toss a few bones to Bush

    Okay, I know you feel that Time and Newsweek are the People magazines of politics, but look at what those People magazines are saying this week:

    "Is the Bush Doctrine Paying Off?" (Time)

    "People Power--where Bush was Right" (Newsweek)

    Oooh, ummm...hummm....maybe my hat might not taste too bad in a stew...however, time has yet to tell fully...just a first morning light for the Bush Administration. And believe me, I'd be so happy to feel that his view was right, and so happy to admit my wrong view, if indeed it turns out to be good things for the long run in the Middle East. Nothing could be better for this planet!


    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Goodbye Dan.

    Well, I suppose the conservatives will be all throwing office parties on Wednesday when Dan Rather retires. I, on the other hand, will miss him. He's been as much a part of my life as Walter Cronkite was when I was a kid growing up. Without his broadcasts, my day will feel empty.

    Critics who "question his bona fides as a hands-on reporter forget the days and nights he's spent in the anchor chair during times of national crisis, holding air for hours with the teleprompter shut off, interviewing, editing, directing coverage," Steve Kroft (of 60 Minutes) says. "You have to be a great journalist and broadcaster to do that. If you are deficient in either category, you'll be exposed as a fraud in 15 minutes."

    I think there are things to fault him on, surely, but he was tough, and bridged a generation from Vietnam through Iraq--which given the change that simulataneously occured in our nation's current of ideology, had to be tough to do. He's branded as liberal because he came of age in a time of liberal thought....but he at least always made a case for theatrics, if nothing else!! HA! Remember Bush VS. Gore on election night? "His back is at the wall, he is feeling the fires grabbing at his coat tail..." or something along those lines, which he later had to eat, fist and all.

    I'll miss the old guy. I grew to like him, probably just as much as you grew to dislike him, Mike, yes, or no?

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    BTK and other issues

    Hey, follow the BTK killings and the new arrest of the supposed killer? Interesting. Something about serial killers seem to always capture our imagination. And funny how most of the serial killers in this country are white, educated males. Thoughts?

    Also, sad about the Italian journalist who was held captive in Iraq and was shot at at a check point. I'm sure it was just the fog of war, but a shame nonetheless, considering her freedom maker, an Italian spy, was killed at that US check point by a US soldier. Sad, and undoubtedly a terrible accident. But war makes accidents like that happen every day.

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Bush can't pull it off

    Change social security? I don't think so. Bush is starting to waddle like a lame duck already. Or how about the idea of the "consumption" tax? I'd rather privatize social security, or leap out into traffic than support a consumption tax. I don't know, but I see his second term agenda getting bogged down in mud at this point.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    Million Dollar Baby

    Mike, I must ask, for you knew it would eventually be coming...

    What did you think of the Eastwood film (winner of this year's best picture) Million Dollar Baby? If you haven't seen it yet, I don't want to give away the story. But it involves a controversial and political issue that comes as a bit of a shock in a boxing movie. I can't say that I loved the film as much as the Academy, but it has certainly left a little hole in my brain that doesn't seem to want to heal. Thoughts?

    Saturday, February 26, 2005

    Language -- African-American, Like Me?

    One of the more amusing paeans to political correctness has to be the "Black \ African-American" juggling act that the mass media, and those whose livelihoods are directly attributable to the mass media (politicians) are forcing themselves to perform in order to prove their devotion to the Church (CPC).

    I have been studying this performance in oratory and in print for some time. What I have yet to find in either medium is a rule. That is, the terms African-American and Black seem to be interchangeable and randomly so. In oratory, the speakers usually prefer the more PC term over the previously accepted term. Black, it seems, has somehow become taboo, or at least passe. Only the unsophisticated would refer to a person's race as "black." At the same time, however, "white" is still good enough for those non-blacks.

    In the print media, however, one would expect a more consistent usage. Newspapers enforce a strict "style" on their content, primarily to set a standard that writers and editors can apply without being accused of being arbitrary in their work. A style also sets the newspaper apart from their competitors and their content, removed from the rest of the paper can still be identified by the style.

    But when it comes to using the hyphenated geographical reference versus the color, I have yet to detect the style. The determining factor seems to be space. If space is tight, you are black. Otherwise you are African-American.

    Language -- PC and Other Offenses

    By no means would I attempt to light, let alone hold, a candle to William Safire's weekly column in the newspaper whose name shall not be written by my hand on this blog, regarding the use and abuse of various elements of the English language. However, there are few more bothersome assaults on sight and sound than the mangling of the mother tongue, in speech and, worse, in writing.

    Most of these offenses are committed deliberately in the name of the religious tenets of the Church of Political Correctness (CPC). The rest are manifestations of intellectual laziness and ignorance, the latter being the least bothersome because they are committed by people who are not lazy intellectually or otherwise.

    And as usual I will devote the time and space necessary to complete my ranting. It may be a lot...or it may not. Nether Land contributors may not find too much controversy under this topic....But I'll try.

    Saturday, January 15, 2005

    Old Stuff -- School Choice

    Educating Mikey
    School Choice in Maryland
    Response to Baltimore Sun Editorial

    The Baltimore Sun on Friday (2-22-02) devoted a considerable amount of ink agonizing over the fate of Cleveland's voucher program now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Sun editorial was obviously the written fitfulness of a divided editorial board, making arguments for and against the Ohio brand of school choice as a possible model for Maryland's urban public school failures.

    I nearly choked on my pre-packaged tuna-fish salad sandwich when I read these lines after a paragraph in which the editors proudly display their grasp of the school choice concept: "It sounds great, even liberating. And several cities are experimenting with choice programs - mostly involving vouchers - that have produced at least some success in improving the educational options for impoverished families."

    All of a sudden now "'s worth looking more closely at the promise and pitfalls associated with the whole idea of choice." The whole idea has been fighting for this chance for 20 years, but only now, while school choice teeters on the brink is the Sun taken with idea of giving the issue a fair shake in the press.

    Then another heart-stopper: "The upside of educational choice is pretty clear." Again, without qualification (though using the term "upside" suggests there is a political agenda). It was enough to compel me to check the paper's mast to confirm that I was indeed reading The Baltimore Sun. You see, I also subscribe to the Wall Street Journal (thanks, Mom and Dad) and it is was just possible that I was reading the Journal's editorial.

    And, probably for the first time in mainstream American media, it was disclosed that "...the strongest proponents of choice are, in fact, African-American parents whose children are stuck in awful public schools that dot the urban landscape." I was tempted to call the police. Surely the Sun's editorial board would not, of its own free will, go on challenging the public school teachers union orthodoxy for quite nearly half of the editorial. Obviously the paper's top management had been kidnapped by religious right-wing, gun freaks and forced to write fairly about school choice.

    The downside? The vouchers are a sham. They don't cover the full cost of private school tuition not to mention uniforms, transportation, books and extracurricular aspects of "school life." Ah, that's more like it. The Sun does, in fact, know on which side its bread is buttered. And in the three sentences it took to make this point it reveals that it doesn't fully understand "the whole idea" of school choice.

    The idea is to gradually introduce the concept by providing for vouchers and charter schools within the state education budget and laws. This first step is anathema to teacher-union-run state governments such as ours because it is an admission that their more-money-smaller-classes model has failed. Allowing this to happen in Maryland would be another failure of public schools, that of union money and demagoguery. This aspect of the debate should not be missed in the Sun's closer look (I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now but you'll forgive me for thinking that O.J. Simpson will find the real killers before we see ink on this).

    The whole idea is to NOT replace one government-union jobs program with another. That is why the vouchers do not cover all the costs associated with private schools. The idea is to make that option MORE affordable for those who are willing to sacrifice for the future prosperity of the children they have brought into this world. And as the Journal, er Sun admits nearly every single parent to whom this chance is offered is willing and eager to do so. If uniforms are required they will get them, some how. If they have to rise extra early to walk or drive them to school everyday, they will. Perhaps this sacrifice is the "parental involvement" catalyst missing from the urban public school system that makes private and parochial schools work.

    But after the cream of the public school student body is skimmed, what, the Sun wonders will be left for the poorest? More money and smaller classes? Too obvious. The Sun swerves to avoid that but falls into a ditch in assuming poorest are either too poor to teach or are too "unsophisticated" to recognize a good thing when it falls in their lap (can't wait for Gregory Kane's column on that one). This issue has the interesting if unintended consequence of abandoning the rich-poor class warfare in favor of the poor-poorest variety.

    Still looking for the downside? Wait here are some more facts. "Vouchers won't bring more qualified teachers to public schools." Just a moment here. Does this mean taxpayers have been shelling out union scale for unqualified teachers? Perhaps we should identify the unqualified teachers and replace them? Swerve, skid. Then there is the "more money" argument for books, materials and maintenance. Given the ever-expanding nature of non-national-defense government programs, it stands to reason that a constant if not growing education budget will be available for a shrinking student body. That sounds like more money to me. How that money is spent is of course up to the teachers union. And finally, vouchers "won't extend the social safety net that is stretched too thin in public schools to meet the needs of the kids who attend." I will respond this as soon as someone tells me what it means.

    Old Stuff -- More Reading II

    Letter to the Editor of the Baltimore Sun

    To the Editor,
    I want to thank the Sun for publishing a fitting tribute to the "Severna Park moms" ("Artist, author have impact on schools," 2-28-02) who have worked so hard to make sure their children weren't deprived of the art, music, and cooking classes they so desperately need for a well rounded education. It doesn't really matter what the parents of other children in other county school districts want for their children after all. Hey, if they can't read, well, it's not the Severna Park moms' problem. And after their kids leave middle school? Who cares? As long as these two fine, accomplished artistes have indulged themselves and their children. Right?

    The art accompanying the article was appropriate: a section of a twisted mass of snarled vines or roots. The observer is compelled to ask from whence they come and whither they go? Questions that obviously never bothered our moms whose only concern was with a short section of a similarly snarled education system, and then only for one particular generation.

    And what have they wrought instead? I recently sat (stood) through the result of their hard work at the Severna Park Middle School. What started a year ago as a simple extra reading period has mutated into something that Rube Goldberg himself could never have contrived. Learning how to trade currency derivatives would be easier than figuring out how to balance 'A' days and 'B' days with core classes and 'encore' classes for half the year as opposed to the whole year. The timing of classroom changes alone is now being studied by NASCAR pit crews.

    And I don't blame these ladies. They defended themselves and their kids like good mothers everywhere. They never really knew to what sort of monstrosity their cute little elementary school was attached. All the children there were reading and writing well and the moms were no doubt comfortable with their painting and writing, going to book-signings and exhibitions with little care of public school education problems. Until it hit home. Incensed, at first, that Johnny was tagged as an underachiever, a poor reader, they lashed out clumsily. OUR children don't need extra reading. THEIR children do. They retreated briefly when the Us and Them argument easily translated into Haves and Have-Nots casting the Severna Park moms in the role of Marie Antoinette. Time to get a lawyer, a class-action catalyst. And so a coalition was born.

    And to what purposes was all this now-billable time and effort put? Why, to harass and intimidate, of course. That's what coalitions do best. Like a good machete, it's indispensable for cutting through snarled limbs and vines. A coalition's sharp underlying subtext is thinly veiled. It's not a precision instrument either. Like the machete, a coalition is driven with brute force to achieve quick results. You don't hire a lawyer and form a coalition to figure out why Johnny can't read and write well enough. Coalitions don't sit around pondering what is wrong with the education requirement, the system designed to fulfill it and the test for determining whether that system has worked to meet the requirement.

    Why does a county school policy have to apply to all the schools in the county? If some schools are doing better than others why not concentrate county policy on the failing ones? Better yet, why not provide each school district with local control over their budgets and curriculum? These are questions that lead to real change. These are questions that are asked by our leaders in public office. Not by coalitions which form in the absence of leadership, crudely attempting to fill a void.

    The only thing the Severna Park Moms have accomplished is to throw yet another monkey wrench at the old public school boiler and managed to get it working again... for them. How imaginative. They haven't really changed anything, just the number of monkey wrenches piled up around the boiler.

    Again, these ladies are just passing through. It is not theirs to see that the system works efficiently to the academic benefit of all. They vote and pay their taxes like good Americans.

    And, if nothing else, perhaps they have done us a service by exposing the cravenness of our politicians and the frailness of the public school system. How little it takes to make the system sway to and fro; how little regard the system and our "leaders" have for the past and the future students.

    Mike Netherland
    Severna Park

    Old Stuff -- More Reading

    Educating Mikey
    More Reading!

    From: Mike Netherland
    Sent: Monday, June 04, 2001 5:13 PM

    Honorable Anne Arundel County School Board Members,
    On the eve of your third vote in the matter of more reading in middle schools next term, I want to encourage you to stand fast. Your morning meeting clashes with the schedule of a working stiff so I will not be able to join you. But it is important that you stand by your earlier votes for two reasons.

    The first is that the opposition lobby is for the here and now. It is their children and their grandchildren that are affected next term. If their kids were in elementary school or high school next term, you would not be hearing from them. It would be somebody else's problem. This is not exactly the long view. And they are in the loud and very politically connected minority. You
    must make decisions that apply to school districts county-wide.

    The second reason you must stand by your decision is that reading, writing, English grammar and usage are the most basic of school functions. If testing has shown that public schools in our county are failing to do this then remedial measures are appropriate and necessary. And the truth is they are failing to provide this basic function. You don't need a test. You can see it
    all around you. And why are they failing? So that a few may have their bands, kitchens and paint?

    I'd consider it criminal negligence to turn out a student who may be able to whip up a souffle but who, without being able to complete a job application, will go about as far as the distance between the deep-fat fryer and frosty machine.

    Yes, something went wrong in county elementary schools over the last two or three years. So what do we do about it? Let's focus on setting those kids on the right path while we fix the problems.

    OLD STUFF -- "Mr. Mike"?

    Written several years ago, this article reflects frustration with the lack of respect and formality that I saw as being, if not encouraged by adults (parents, teachers, etc.) then certainly facilitated by them. After asking them and myself why, I came up with this:

    It all starts with "Mr. Netherland." It may seem like a throw-back, an anachronism, but one of the first things I taught my son was to honor and respect his elders. At the same time, I believe, there was collateral education: he learned that people in our culture have surnames. Now what was the most important lesson? Academics and politicians will want to know, so that precious social engineering resources can be focused on the most important lesson, cutting out a step, reducing waste, improving efficiency, delivering the best education in half the time. Well, it doesn't matter.

    I also like to believe that I was able to provide a real-world example for the other children in the neighborhood, of honor and respect and the use of surnames in action, just in case their parents were struggling to impart the same lessons. It was my duty as a responsible member of the community and of society at large to do so, to insist that children address me as Mr. Netherland and my wife as Mrs. Netherland. It has been more than seven years since we moved to this lovely neighborhood. The kids are in or almost in high school and they still call me Mr. Netherland. They also, in my presence at least, use the surnames of the other parents in the neighborhood. And it fills me with great pride to hear them do so.

    Now, why is this such a compelling subject for me? Because for some reason, people of my generation have sought to hide from their children, the fact that people have surnames and that using them is a sign of honor and respect. At some point, it became passe and old-fashioned to refer to people who are not your peers, not old friends or family in a formal way. The distinction between formal and informal social interaction was lost, or, more likely, bound with a stout rope and pushed overboard in the middle of the night.

    How did this happen and when? It would be too easy to blame it on the Democrats, Hollywood or a "vast left-wing conspiracy." I suspect it has something to do with the concept of retail marriages. Try it risk free for five years or two children and, if you are not completely satisfied, return it for a full refund. One can't assume that Johnny Smith's parent's are Mr. and Mrs. Smith, still. Or try this theory: Our generation has become obsessed with protecting the privacy of ourselves and others. This is a strange character trait of the generation that created the Information Age. Perhaps, like Dr. Frankenstein, we have recoiled in horror at the monster we have unleashed. But it's more like the institutionalized paranoia in the face of a expanding body of liability law surrounding the Privacy Act. Rather than risk a lawsuit, it's better not to pry too deep into a person's life. God forbid you should volunteer your full name. Who wants that burden? Why risk being identified?

    Perhaps the answer, as with the Truth, the final frontier, and Ralph Nader, is out there somewhere. Hunting it down seems to be a waste when there is so much to do to mop up and restore order right here, at home. But we should be able to recognize it. The WANTED posters should not be allowed to yellow on this one, just in case the varmint is spotted near our Solar System again.

    Until then, however, if you feel you must introduce your child to your friends, peers, colleagues, other parents, members of the coaching staff, etc. (unless they are children themselves) do so in the formal manner. To do otherwise deprives both parties; your friend, et al, of the respect they deserve; and your children of the knowledge that this is a real person. A person with a family name and history. And of the knowledge that this is someone they should honor and respect. The education of Mikey, and of Will, Drew, Heather, Julie and Beth, and all children begins with this simple and important thing.

    What are the other collateral benefits of this throwback? We begin to learn more about the people with whom we live and work. Mr. Mike is nothing. A two-dimensional cut out. A dressed up Mike. Mr. Netherland, however, is substantial. He can be located, made responsible and held accountable for his actions. He can be tracked down just about anywhere on the face of the Earth. Mr. Mike is a cartoon, a piece of bubble-gum, a Pokeman. Is this the impression of our friends and neighbors you wish to convey to your children?

    Think about it. Don't you feel silly saying, "Ellie, this is Mr. Mike"? What does that mean? It means you can't be bothered to learn someone's last name, yet you feel no compunction about inflicting your children on them. You might as well introduce your children to "Mr. Serial Killer," or "Mr. Crack Smoker." Or it could mean that you don't think your children are capable of grasping the concept of respect. Which is it? Neither option reflects well on you or your family.

    So the next time you are tempted to say "Oh, he can call me..... ." Don't. And if you get this from a friend or neighbor, simply say that you are trying to raise your children right. You might find things change back, for the better.

    OLD Stuff

    I am posting today some of my older missives, rants and communiques, mainly on local politics. But while they have a local peg the articles are also statements on broader issues and conditions you can find affecting anyone anywhere.

    Old Stuff -- Union Cookies?

    SchoolHouse Rant

    One of the phenomena linking public school education with politics is the annual fundraising campaign. It is a scientific fact that parents fall for marketing ploys somehow linked with sending money to the local school system. This activity would be bearable if it was limited to the commercial sector because you can't blame someone for trying to make a buck.

    But the scam has taken on an air of respectability with slogans like "Apples for the Kids," and close association with "your neighborhood grocer." How can we resist? Such campaigns depend on the little-red-one-room-schoolhouse image of modern day primary education rather than that of the hulking bureaucratic behemoth these institutions have become. This practice of phony fundraising has sunk to a new low in recent years as the local schools have glommed on to the Apples-for-Kids marketing strategy; with teachers sending their little money makers home with fundraising packets. While I refuse to acknowledge this practice, my wife, despite my plain disgust and attempts to reason with her, continues to abet.

    Now, there is no one bigger when it comes to supporting noble fundraising campaigns. We buy Girl Scout Cookies, popcorn from the Boy Scouts, Easter Seals, etc. What is the difference? I am actually asked this question, by educated, thinking people no less. And it is mainly for those people that I write these columns. For the answer to this mystery one need only turn to the power of the Internet. Find a searchable state or federal government publications page and type in Girl Scouts. Without ever having done this I can tell you that your query will turn up zero matches. Try "school" and you could spend the next few weekends pouring through the material.

    "Scam" is pretty strong word. But appropriate if the sense here is that one is fooling or intentionally misleading another for the sake of taking his money. And this is what is happening. We are lead to believe that the local school system (in Severna Park?) is undernourished and the "kids" who are busy playing with Republican guns, are suffering the consequences of dilapidated schools and school equipment. Surely we can take time out of our busy day to sell each other something and turn the money over to the school, for the kids. Why don't we just give the kid an envelope full of cash every month, that way we cut out the "selling" part of pretending that we are getting something we need or desire in return for our money.

    Wait a minute, why doesn't the local school district simply register as charity case? Given the current state of the tax code this would provide a true incentive for sending that check. This way, the scam disappears and money starts rolling in because there is a tangible benefit in return for the donation. Surely the good folk of Severna Park can recognize a tax shelter when they see it. But alas, the school district is a government operation financed by property taxes.


    At this point one has to start asking questions. If the school district is under funded, inadequately appointed and equipped, why don't we just raise taxes? Now we are talking selling. Why is this such a very hard thing to sell? Surely people can see the benefit of devoting more resources to the public school system? Let's just say they're skeptical. Have the current or past resources been squandered? Have we not been getting good results from past tax increases? Perhaps.

    But what really bothers me about it is that a large percentage of the current funding is devoted to teachers salaries and a percentage of those salaries are siphoned off to finance the local teachers unions which all contribute to national teachers union, which devote a percentage of that money to financing the campaigns of such worthies as Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Now, buying into the apples for kids scam run by your neighborhood school means that currently allotted resources don't have to be managed effectively for the benefit of the kids. They can managed effectively for the benefit of the teachers, the NEA and the DNC. The computers, the soccer balls, the uniforms, the field trips, the lab equipment will be paid for by, well by the same people who have paid for everything else. The best part is that the teachers unions and Al Gore can simply blame people like me for not going along to get along; for depriving the kids.

    But Mike, aren't you politicizing the "issue"? Aren't you just using politics as an excuse for being tight fisted? And, if you are a conservative, and conservatives are generally opposed to raising taxes, how do you propose to remedy the "situation"? Well, if the unions are a necessary component of the school system then let them stay and let's see some effective education in exchange for their contracts. We don't need computers, field trips and marching bands. What we do need are teachers who can teach and administrators who can manage resources for educational purposes.

    This is a pipe dream, however. There simply is no incentive. Accountability and government employees' unions are immiscible. And they are like a cancer, unfortunately. You can't just ask them to leave. You have to remove the entire infected organ. Or, you can introduce an agent, a catalyst that will transform the teachers union into a simple collective bargaining unit rather than a tool of the national labor movement and the Democratic Party. The agent must be able to cure current infestations as well as deter future ones.

    Yes, I'm talking about school choice and vouchers. Every time my son shows me home work with questionable, poorly conceived, or grammatically incorrect text and every time these flaws are passed off with a well, we talked about this in class and the kids should know what it means, I become more resolved.

    And make no mistake. I am talking about taking money away from the public school system. For the cost of every voucher disbursed should be deducted from the public school budget. A law like this will get results faster than Prohibition and it's repeal. As soon as the unions have emptied their political coffers on lawsuits and losing political campaigns, on what will there be left to spend their time and dwindling dues? Survival will necessarily mean competition. Perhaps they'll raise the standards for teachers and textbooks. It'll happen within one fiscal year or one national election cycle, which ever comes first.

    Saturday, January 01, 2005

    If you see this man, buy him a
    mocha java with whipped cream! Posted by Hello