Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pardon-moi -- Frankfort French

Predictably, the state’s two largest newspapers, left-leaning to the extent that they make the leaning Tower of Pisa look ramrod straight, have begun their long-term program of Fletcher-castigation, now that that the short-term program has been short-circuited by the governor’s pardons of a gaggle of guys who should have done business the same way former democrat-patronage czar “Doc” Beauchamp used to do it – by phone, stupid! The intent is to make sure that Fletcher is degraded on a daily basis, beginning immediately, to guarantee his non-reelection in 2007. They may succeed in this, but the citizens who pay attention see Fletcher’s move as perfectly reasonable, and may consider him preferable to a member of the same-old, same-old bunch that has run the state for as long as anyone can remember.

Attorney General Stumbo made it plain a while back that he would not consider running in the 2007 gubernatorial sweepstakes unless Fletcher became “wildly unpopular.” Obviously, he has made every possible effort – and then some – to make Fletcher look at least somewhat unpopular. He doubtlessly will continue to work on his pet project until he either decides that Fletcher is wildly enough unpopular for him to take the chance, providing, of course, that he can outflank State Auditor Luallen, or stay where he is, assuming that he is not picked up for drunk driving again (or is that for having lost his “designated driver for the evening”) or for refusing to pay child support for his illegitimate offspring, no matter where he/she/they are or how many there are. And, palimony can be a drag, too.

Perhaps someday the truth in the merit mess will out. For instance, what was the connection between Stumbo and the so-called whistleblower, Doug Doerting, for the weeks, months, and even years preceding the breathtaking disclosures by Doerting, whose job it presumably was to see that merit violations didn’t occur? Both men had been in one democrat-controlled bureaucracy or another for decades and were bound to know each other, probably quite well. Doerting’s complaints or those of the allegedly mistreated, it would appear, should have gone for hearings before the machinery set up to make decisions regarding personnel matters. Instead, he just happened to stroll into the AG’s office with a bunch of e-mails that might have involved something as serious as a misdemeanor. A MISDEMEANOR! Does the august office of the AG go after convictions of misdemeanors? Former AG Ben Chandler went after felony stuff when he brought about the indictments of Patton protégés who actually attempted to – and probably did – rig an election. That’s a far sight more serious than misdemeanor stuff, and Patton pardoned those four guys, with never a backward look.

Appearing on one of the morning talk shows in Lexington the other morning was St. Julian Carroll, the Dragon-Killer – look out, all you sinners! – to whine about the pardons, dastardly deeds that they were. St. Julian headed one of the more corrupt administrations back in the 70s, and certainly knows sin – political and otherwise – when he sees it, since he produced enough of it himself. He was one of those, like the BopTrot gang of the 90s, whom the feds saw fit to investigate. He endured the slimy insurance scam of his tenure, but his fair-haired boy (also former legislator and party chairman) went to the Big House, and the “Warehouse Deals” come fast to mind, not to mention that beautiful boulevard in Woodford County that a cabinet buddy just happened to live by. What garbage! Much has been made of the fact that Fletcher has just hired high-profile lawyer James Neal. In Kentucky, Neal once represented former state Democratic Party Chairman Howard P. "Sonny" Hunt. Hunt went to federal prison for refusing to answer federal grand jury charges about activities in the administration of former Governor Julian Carroll. And the folks in Frankfort elected him to the State Senate. That should tell everyone what to expect from a grand jury or any jury in Franklin County, where the pardoned ones would have been butchered.

Ah well…this is Kentucky, where politics are probably the damnedest of any state in the nation. Kentucky democrat leadership doesn’t care a fig about merit employees – it just hates Fletcher, like the democrats everywhere despise George Bush…because they’ve turned the same old same olds out of office.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, August 26, 2005

Venality & College Sports

Ah…the life and times of athletics coaches. University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins, responding to an ultimatum from the university president, has just quit his job and raked in $3,000,000 for his trouble. Recognized as a good coach (sometimes driving drunk, however), he was nevertheless known as the guru of teams known, fairly or unfairly, as groups of thugs setting graduation rates in the 1990s that were practically nonexistent…shades of former basketball coach/god/guru Nolan Richardson at the University of Arkansas, who also signed a resignation worth $3 million a few years ago, and then sued the university for something or other. Egad…where do these guys get off? They seem to be setting a trend, to wit, get a contract covering a number of years, then figure out a way (not too hard, actually) to get fired and be set for life without ever working another day.

Retired University of Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton was retained after retiring a few years ago at a cool $75,000 per year for doing essentially nothing. Former Eastern Kentucky president Robert Kustra drew $170,878 plus benefits after resigning a few years ago for doing absolutely nothing, while going on the payroll of something called the Council of State Governments, apparently a "consulting" organization. These guys were in the catch-all category of consultant, a euphemism for "profiteer," although Newton called it some kind of deferred payment left over from 1989. One wonders who, if anyone, is telling the truth.

Much was made of the fact a short while back that former University of Kentucky president Charles Wethington, just before leaving office, increased UK athletic director Ivy's contract by 10 percent to $192,500 per year while the NCAA was furiously in the process of condemning the athletic department, and the rest of UK's employees could eat cake. Nothing new there. When he announced his resignation, Kustra extended basketball coach Travis Ford's contract and increased his salary by 25 percent to $100,000 a year after one losing season (7-19). These men did this because coach's contracts are not handled by regents, but by presidents who can do anything they like. The average professor's salary at Eastern was $53,061 and the average salary of an instructor (Ford's classification) was $34,779.

Earlier this year, Ford, under contract at Eastern until 2007, just signed on with the University of Massachusetts in a five-year deal worth a base salary of $200,000 per year plus additional incentives and bonuses, thank you, and apparently expected to just walk away. Eastern claimed Ford owed $225,000 for the privilege of quitting and not honoring his contract, but agreed to settle for $150,000 instead, guarding the taxpayers’ money negligibly, but, surprisingly and unlike other institutions, actually demonstrated that a contract means something.

Consider the case of Tom Jurich, athletic director at UL. When hired in 1999 to a 13-year contract, he started at a paltry $183,000 a year with yearly bonuses up to another $120,000. It gets better. If he stays ten years, he gets a deferred payment of $400,000 plus accrued interest. At six percent compounded annually, that payoff will amount to more than $716,000. Counting the usual salary increases, this amounts to about a possible $4,000,000 over the ten years. The corruption comes from the top down and the legislators and university officials are the perpetrators. They lead by example. UK’s AD, Mitch Barnhart, rakes in a cool $500,000 plus each year, and the list of goodies that make this possible, though too long to list here, challenges belief. Of course, he skipped out on a previous contract, owing $100,000, but has it fixed in the UK contract so that the “loan” he receives of $100,000 (surprise!), plus interest, will be forgiven entirely if he stays at UK for five years. Another term for this is “stealing from the taxpayers,” never mind all the balderdash about the UK Athletics Association in the mix.

Then, of course, there's the $1,000,000 paid to UL football coach Ron Cooper in 1999 (one of Jurich’s first acts on the job) for quitting and the $1,000,000 paid to UK football coach Hal Mumme for quitting and the $600,000 paid to UK football coach Bill Curry for quitting. UK assistant coach Bassett, the perpetrator (but not the lone cowboy) of much of UK's recent NCAA mess, was paid $10,000 a month until the summer following his resignation (or firing) in November of 2000.

The stench of these arrangements is overwhelming, but is the constant companion of the college/university sports scene today. Is it wonder that athletes learn early that cheating or some sort of con game is always in order, but that they must be careful to cover their tracks?

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, August 22, 2005

Boy Columnist and Erring

Boy Columnist (aka Larry Dale Keeling) of the Lexington Herald-Leader brought forth a column on Sunday last (the 21st) headlined thusly: To err is human; to pardon, ill advised. Interpreted, Boy Columnist’s message: Everyone – especially Governor Fletcher – is likely to make mistakes, but to forgive alleged partners in error is a mistake. Applying the same logic, Boy Columnist would have expected the proofreaders and editors at the H-L to be fired immediately upon any misspelled word, grammatical gaffe, or (horrors) outright misstatement rendered by him in the course of the perfectly respectable profession of pontificating as normally uncorrected/unrevised by proofreading/editing. That he and these fellow wretches remain at the paper (at least at last count) means that they have either been forgiven his/their transgressions by his employer or that he has, indeed, never committed a miscue.

Concerning the former and assuming that Boy Columnist belongs to homo sapiens and is therefore human and thus, by his own admission, susceptible to and guilty of making mistakes (prone to err), his advice to the governor appears a bit hypocritical, since he and the Giddy Gang (editors, at least) are still employed (or were, at last count) at the H-L. Of course, it may be that the latter applies to Boy Columnist, in which case all bets are off and anyone accepting that premise as valid is invited to apply here in order to buy the Brooklyn Bridge for 79 cents. Item – Boy Columnist’s third paragraph: “Suddenly, conventional wisdom has been born.” The definition of conventional wisdom is the generally accepted belief, opinion, judgment, or prediction about a particular matter. In other words, Boy Columnist wrote an untruth, to wit, that something already existing has just been brought into existence. This is a direct violation of the first law of journalism, to wit, that only the truth is acceptable. Keeling would be declared guilty in a court of law. So…okay, no takers for the bridge at a huge discount.

Consider a hypothetical: A fellow columnist of Boy Columnist (or even [gasp], an editor) at the H-L, seeking to advance Boy Columnist’s career – maybe to a position at the Miami Herald – actually rewrites a column by Boy Columnist, who, upon noticing such an exercise in skullduggery, is faced with “going with the flow” and keeping quiet in order to protect his colleague…or turning in his would-be benefactor. In other words, should his friend be pardoned?

Consider a further hypothetical: A jealous and competing fellow columnist, who only gets to write obituaries, actually sabotages a column by Boy Columnist – for instance, calling the governor governor, instead of Boy Governor, the preferred and prescribed term of endearment for Governor Fletcher at the H-L, and does so at a time too late for editing to correct this profoundly unforgivable miscue. The obit-writer goes directly to the publisher/editor and demands that Boy Columnist be summarily fired, as well as his partners in error (editors, etc.) and that he (the obit-writer) be instantly installed in his place at the next meeting of the Knight-Ridder Board of Trustees, perhaps known as the Supreme Giddy Gang, that meets regularly in Grand Ju…oops Fashion.

Thus may be seen some similarity between the circumstances herein noted and those prevailing in Frankfort. Perhaps it is well to remind those who live in glass houses to be wary of throwing rocks.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, August 19, 2005


Here is a paragraph from a Muckraker piece of 10 July: “The saga of the lady of the afternoon (hereinafter referred to as LOTA) is on again after having been interdicted by LOTA herself. Readers of MUCKRAKER of June 20 or the Lexington Herald-Leader may remember the details. If not, that article is in the Archives for perusal and may even be interesting to those who haven’t been aware of this strange happening. The other player in the affair is a god of the hardwood (hereinafter referred to as GOTH, naturally, with all the potential meaning involved), who dallied with LOTA on an April afternoon in a university dormitory housing mostly the august and much revered basketball players. She called the hanky panky rape some 24-36 hours after the fact, while GOTH called it consensual – through his lawyer, of course. Later after making her charge, she stopped cooperating, so, without a victim, the matter was ended. GOTH, a high-profile player, was named, of course, especially in Sports Pages all over the land, but LOTA, a 29-year-old mom, was spared that notoriety, at least in the city of its circumstances, the better to protect her good name, even though the local daily knew it early on and actually contacted the woman a few times, even to the point of writing her a letter.”

Now, the plot has thickened again. LOTA has filed a complaint of rape with the office of the County Attorney, thus reestablishing the charge, only to have said official dismiss it. LOTA’s lawyers now have recourse to the Commonwealth Attorney for his decision as to whether or not perhaps present evidence, if any, to a Grand Jury, or maybe arrest or not arrest GOTH on criminal charges on the evidence, if any, he receives. Muckraker is not entirely clear on this, but those seem reasonable assumptions. GOTH, of course, is probably nowhere near Lexington, since this is the time that all former Goths are angling for a spot on an NBA team or perhaps one in Germany or maybe one in Japan. GOTH is in apparent good health, at least as far as HIV is concerned, since GOTH’s attorney has furnished proof to LOTA that his man does not possess that particular malady. One wonders, of course, if LOTA has furnished similar information to GOTH, but perhaps that is beside the point, since it isn’t illegal, though immoral, to have un-marital consensual sex in a college dormitory on an afternoon in April. In any case, since GOTH tested negatively, one may assume that LOTA is HIV-negative. There was a time when hanky-panky was a rather simple event, but now things are complicated.

So…the case is out of the hands of the county attorney, and the prosecutors may try to sort things out. This won’t be easy, since, as the Herald-Leader reported on July 10, LOTA has a history of drug use, at one time had problems with an estranged boyfriend, the father of her daughter, and statements have been made to police by a man who said LOTA was smoking marijuana the evening before the April afternoon. Presumably, all the initial documents regarding the matter, as well as physical evidence, are still in the hands of the police, who had considered the case closed when LOTA stopped cooperating earlier. The date-rape drug was not found in her system.

Why does a rape victim need attorneys? Isn’t it the job of the local police and/or commonwealth’s attorney to prosecute rape cases? She has produced for the Herald-Leader records showing she had other drugs in her system, ingested unknowingly by her, of course, on that fateful afternoon. LOTA has lawyers, so is she thinking of, by either going the court-system route (civil action) or the possibly consequent easier way of negotiations, sweating some cash out of the university? A rape conviction was not necessary in the Kobe Bryant case in order for the alleged victim to effect an out-of-court settlement with Bryant. The university is doubtlessly well-insured, perhaps even against damages claimed as the result of a sexual encounter in a dormitory. LOTA claimed to have a bruise on her thigh, after all.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lewdness in Lexington

Lexington hit the headlines some three years ago with the amazing news that a woman had been paid $9,000 to have a baby by one of two homosexual partners so “they” (not the woman) could be parents. The births were reported to have been accomplished, using the sperm of one of the men, through artificial insemination, but there were four babies instead of the one which was expected, if luck held. About a year and a half later and for another $9,000, the same woman, married and with three children of her own, went through the same process for the other “parent,” who, according to the first guy, somewhere along the way invited a third guy into their living arrangements, homosexual lifetime commitments being what they are, perhaps a rather generic sort of thing.

The Lexington Herald-Leader played the stories for all they were worth, the birth account occupying a huge part of the front page (as most any newspaper would have done), making another huge display, for instance, when the quads were baptized. However, there has been a seamy side to the story from the very beginning, as one might expect besides the fact of the matter itself, and the two “parents” have had at each other in the courts, one even getting an emergency-protective order against the other at one time. Indeed, another male paramour of the “second parent” even had a finger chewed once during a fight, according to the paper, apparently masticated by the “second parent” a la the Mike Tyson ear-chewing exercise. There’s at least a 50% chance a guy won’t get bopped by an opponent in a fight if he has at least one of the other guy’s hands in his mouth…just plain common sense.

To its credit, the Herald-Leader, also in a front-page, above-the-fold account, has laid out the whole sorry mess in a recent edition. All has not been Camelot in what was once accounted to be a wholesome, family-type atmosphere, and, indeed, the parent of the quads has removed himself and his four babies to Atlanta. There have been visitation-rights battles between the men, the appeals court telling the “second guy” that he had no legal standing to bring a custody action with respect to the quads. Imagine…custody battles between those two guys when the mother actually has legal custody of all five babies. She, in turn, has petitioned the court to be legally separated from any connection to the quads (therefore having no responsibility for anything pertaining to them), but was denied that little perk, the attorney appointed to represent the babies claiming that the quads needed a mother and father. A little old-fashioned, huh?

Where does the surrogate mother’s husband figure in all this? He seems to be content with the arrangements, although $3,600 per child seems an awfully small amount for the sale of a human, especially considering the tens of thousands of dollars that childless couples routinely pay in order to adopt just one child. As for the mother, she has sullied the concept of motherhood so profoundly as to make reasonable people wonder how she can even think of five members of her flesh and blood being raised by perverts…indeed, normally, a mother would not sit still for anyone else, whether normal or not, raising her children. The initial glorification of these arrangements by the politically correct is now seen for what it is – at least by reasonable people – a degradation of what has been called through the ages by civilized people as virtually sacred…marriage and the family. Lewdness in Lexington. Disgusting.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Anyone for Pardons?

Much has been said in the media and on the street corners of the state lately with respect to the possibility/probability of Governor Fletcher pardoning the people caught up in Attorney General Stumbo’s all-out war on the administration with respect to the “merit mess.” One wonders how many investigators and prosecutors have been tied up in this affair as the drug problems intensify in the state, and investigations into serious criminal behavior have had to be put on hold. Without question, there have been some mistakes made by the administration, as the governor has attested, but the obvious malice connected with Stumbo’s action, most likely precipitated by the election of a republican to the top spot in 2003 and the probability that Stumbo is gunning for that spot in 2007, is way over the top.

Running down the misdemeanor charges are not the usual area of endeavor for the attorney general, so some felony charges have now been returned by the Grand Jury looking into the matter. This opens the door, as noted by Brian Goettl, for a look back at previous administrations, since, while there’s a one-year time limit on misdemeanor action, there’s no time limit on investigations/charges regarding felonies. There was enough hanky-panky in the Patton years to make a hard look necessary, but it’s not likely that this AG will make the effort. He was House majority leader during those years, and might on that basis alone not be inclined to go poking around. A majority leader in the early 1990s was sent packing by the fed prosecutors to the Big House, along with a gaggle of other elected officials and bureaucrats who were selling their services (votes, for instance), with payments under the table, of course.

For their part, Fletcher’s appointees should have had far more savvy with respect primarily to the use of e-mails as a safe method of correspondence. And, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that signed documents, whether mere memos or weightier missiles, constitute a paper trail that if not shredded immediately upon use will lead to destruction. They should have known, also, that simply deleting anything from the e-mail niche is not sufficient and that personal computers, with every damning thing intact, can be confiscated. This use of e-mails didn’t originate with them, of course, but those employed in the previous administration – probably just as damning in the same “merit” area – may be beyond recall by now, either by action then or by design recently. In any case, no democrat AG will be interested, never mind, for instance, that Patton’s patronage apparatchik for a part of western Kentucky was also his mistress, the inference being that she could move people here and there without so much as a “by your leave,” just the result of “pillow talk.”

Perhaps the best case for doling out pardons could be made by former governor Patton, since he was quick on the draw in pardoning two of his top dogs and two union leaders who were their partners in alleged crime in Louisville in the “vote scam” many think cost Larry Forgy the election in 1995. When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case involving their indictment, Patton immediately engaged the pardons since a trial would be a certainty, with himself most likely subpoenaed as a witness, at least, and maybe eventually as a party. He pardoned those guys in June 2003 when he could have waited until after the November election or before leaving office in December and pardoned them along with others just before leaving office. Why the rush? Guess.

Particularly galling is the fact that Stumbo is the driving force behind this whole caper. A four-star U.S. Army general headed for retirement in November has just been relieved of his command, an almost unheard of happening, because of evidence that he had committed adultery with a civilian. Yet, the attorney general of Kentucky has been fighting with a former mistress over whether or not he will furnish proper support (or perhaps any support) for an illegitimate child he fathered with her in an obvious act of adultery. While the army won’t stand for known adultery (at least for officers), the state of Kentucky winks and nods over such a peccadillo for one of its highest elected officials. Some years ago, the current AG was found drunk in his pickup and told the authorities his “designated driver” had disappeared, or something like that. These are just some things that have been made public because of their being so obvious. One wonders at what else may be in Stumbo’s background.

Fletcher’s folks – maybe he, too – have not served well if they have broken laws, and the proper adjustments should be made, notwithstanding that the conduct described so far is generally conceded to be the same as what has been going on through previous administrations wherein virtually all constitutionally mandated officials have been democrats for at least the last 32 years. Fletcher has done some good things, and it is a shame he is being barbecued over what is hardly more than just “business as usual” in Frankfort and throughout the state in general, particularly in the state Transportation Department, which is probably the most corrupt of any state government agency. It may be that those around him, not having been in state government before, simply were in over their heads and therefore vulnerable to slick operators like Stumbo and his ilk, who have been working the system for decades.

Ironically, it was then-Attorney General Ben Chandler (now U.S. representative) who pursued the investigation into the antics of the four men pardoned by Patton, and then called for Patton’s resignation upon the pardoning action. Patton claimed Chandler was using the whole thing to help in his lost bid to Fletcher for the governor’s seat. Sound familiar?

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, August 04, 2005

No Child Left Behind?

The big news of the week has to do with the results of the testing in the public schools last spring with respect to the No Child Left Behind standards set by the government accruing to a federal statute enacted soon after President Bush took office. Remember: Bush and Senator Kennedy played extra-nice to each other in that process. Now, Kennedy makes it plain that Bush is roughly on a par with Satan with respect to most everything. In going through the material related to this subject, one is struck immediately by the fact that there have been enormous bright spots along with some abysmal failures. Those interested in the subject can gain access to it by heading for the Ky. Dept. of Education Web-site.

It’s unfair in many ways to get too specific about most things, since everything from demographics to weird entities such as school-based councils that set their own curricula and hire their own principals enter the picture. For starters on the basis of testing throughout the 12 grades, the state was successful in meeting 16 of the 25 target goals, or attaining a mark of 64% – maybe a D- average. An amazing circumstance is that the goals for the percentage of students gaining proficiency in reading and mathematics, the two subjects upon which students were tested, are unexpectedly low, though they are considerably higher for the overall 12-grade system than for its individual parts. For instance, the overall reading-proficiency goal statewide for 2005 was that 45% of students would be proficient readers at grade-level, huge segments of students actually exceeding that mark, while the same goal for students at local Bryan Station High was set at only 29%, but was un-reached. These unbelievably low goals, especially at Bryan Station, will also obtain for the next two years. After 2007, the goals will rise precipitously each year until 2014, when the goal will stand at 100%, a pie-in-the-sky figure that is too unrealistic to take seriously.

Amazingly, the goal for proficiency in mathematics in all grades statewide for 2005 through 2007, including Bryan Station, was that just under 30% of students would be expected to function at grade level. Statewide, the goal was exceeded, as was the case with the reading goal, but still missed at Bryan Station, though just barely. The yearly gains after 2007 are pegged at about 10 points a year, an apparently hopeless endeavor unless the standards for testing and grading are adjusted to make the goal attainable. This is not an effort to single out Bryan Station, since only one of Lexington’s five high schools, Lafayette High, met its overall goals. Despite good scores by many segments of students in these areas, the state system, on the basis of federal standards, has not made adequate yearly progress for the last three years.

One of the most alarming elements in NCLB is the seeming admission by educators that individual progress is expected to regress as the student works through the system. Currently and through 2007, about 53% of elementary students are expected to be proficient readers and about 32% in mathematics. In middle school, the numbers are 52% and 27%, respectively; for high school students, only 29% are expected to be proficient readers (down from 53% at the elementary level), and just under 30% are expected to be proficient in math. The question: Is the system designed to “dumb-down” the student, or is the student expected to “dumb himself down,” notwithstanding whatever is done about the system, which obviously begins deteriorating at the middle-school level and continues to crumble through high school.

The Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) had some strange features such as combining kindergarteners with third-graders (this feature long since rescinded, thankfully). The most damning of all, however, was the institution of the School-Based Council, made up of the principal, three teachers and two parents and directly responsible for curriculum, hiring of principals, schedules, materials, recreation – just about everything, leaving the superintendent and school-board virtually powerless, at least with respect to pedagogy, the most important element of all. This meant that within a system students arriving in middle school would come from totally different elementary-school backgrounds and that students arriving in high school would come from the same middle-school circumstances. In other words, the lawmakers legislated against any sort of standardization and control by elected officials, whose only important tasks are the hiring of a superintendent occasionally and setting up a budget, largely controlled in Frankfort. This is where the disintegration of the process starts, even though curriculum coordinators, though not the final arbiters, have doubtlessly done much to hold the system together. Much of KERA has been dismantled; it remains for the complete dismantling to take place and the sooner the better.

In Fayette County, 23 schools (not quite half) failed NCLB. One result is that the superintendent collected a bonus of $18,000 to add to his base salary of $180,000, or $198,000 in wages for his first year, in addition to all the fringes. Not having much power anyway, he probably did no harm and so perhaps earned the bonus. Since his contract calls for a 10% bonus each year, if earned (and it will be if he just does no harm), by the end of his fourth year he will be paid $263,538, representing a 46% increase in basic wages over the period. This represents the thinking of the legislature in 1990 (the notion that anything can be bought) when it installed the “rewards system” designed to pay teachers and administrators for just doing their jobs. All this miserable legislation accomplished was wholesale cheating by teachers and administrators throughout the state. While lots of things can be bought, education is not one of them. This is not to speak disparagingly of the Fayette superintendent. He simply has little with which to work, but one wonders what the teachers (the people in the trenches) think, in light of his circumstances, after struggling through the day with a system that is, at best, merely dysfunctional.

Perhaps the most important mitigating factor in the scoring process has to do with the demographics. At Lafayette, 711 white students and 118 African Americans took the test; at Bryan Station, the numbers were, respectively, 281 and 212. Proficiency percentages for whites at Lafayette were 66 and 60 for reading and math, respectively, and 37 and 25 for blacks, who raised their reading scores by eight points from those of 2004. At Bryan Station, the numbers, respectively, were 35 and 30 for whites and 25 and 13 for African Americans. Blacks at Lafayette did better in reading than whites at Bryan Station and only five points less in math. Bryan Station is a Title I school because it serves a high percentage of poor students and therefore receives federal money. Lafayette is not. The learning gaps are obvious, both that between whites and blacks and that between more affluent and less affluent students. The answers to this problem, since the students are exposed, at least in their respective schools, to the same elements of education endeavor, may lie in the social area, which neither the superintendent nor the school-board nor even the teachers can significantly affect. Therein lies the real tragedy.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, August 01, 2005

Comic Relief...and How!

Okay…newspapers are supposed to be deadly accurate and inordinately politically correct these days. Just check out any part of the paper. Whereas reporters once just wrote news accounts for the “news” pages, they now add their comments to the accounts, the better to inform the great unwashed as to the “true meaning” of the facts just presented. Editorial pages are filled with profoundness, especially with respect to government, multiculturalism, diversity, the unfitness of public servants, corruption (although depending a bit upon whose ox should be gored), morality (again, same), and such things as free speech (again, same), etc. Occasionally, there’s even a bit of humor – but only occasionally. Seriousness is the order of the day.

Enter an offering in the Comics section of the Lexington Herald-Leader of Aug. 31 entitled “Mother Goose and Grimm.” It features a being with a form of Strabismus, the term used to refer to “crossed eyes” or “outward turning eye,” in this case the latter. It’s certain the author of the comic strip meant no disrespect or harm when he called attention to the fact that the owner of the problem didn’t have to look both ways before crossing a street, since he could see both directions anyway, actually not a bad feature, though maybe a problem when reading. The object was not to hurt but to show the relationship between two beings, one of whom DID have to look both ways, and the humor of the whole situation. I had a high-school history teacher, a good one, who had a form of Strabismus (outward turning eye) in one of her eyes, meaning that nobody in the class could get away with anything, since she saw “all around.” I doubt that she would have been offended by the comic strip.

The piece de resistance, however, was achieved in a strip entitled “NON SEQUITUR.” This term is defined dictionary-wise as “a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said.” In the strip, two prehistoric beings in business suits, one a bespectacled bear-like Evangelical and the other an obvious dragon wearing a fez and therefore a Muslim, engage in a mighty argument as to whose faith in a merciful and loving god is the one, true religion. The argument finally ceases and calm seems to prevail, but in the last panel only the spectacles and the legs and feet of the Evangelical are shown, just before they, too, join the rest of their body in being cannibalized by the fez-wearing dragon…shades of a pre-reincarnation of evil as personified in Saddam, Osama bin Laden, a Saudi prince, or maybe Louis Farrakhan, or even (gasp) Mohammad Ali.

So…where does one look for a bit of profoundness these days? Look in the Comics. Admittedly, I haven’t read the Comics regularly for many years, but looked at NON SEQUITUR because my wife showed it to me. From now on, though, I will take a look. After all, Trudeau, in his “hate all republicans on general principles” perspective, has been making his venomous statements for years through “Doonesbury,” so why not have some stuff from the other side, especially when the Muslim religion is depicted truthfully on the basis of its absolutely binding and inordinately sanguinary requirement…kill the infidel? The most profound truth presented, contrary to what many well-meaning people believe: simply that God of the Holy Bible is not the same as Allah.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark