Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bloomingdale Pride Day, 2012

Bloomingdale is one of New Jersey’s much-harried 566 municipalities.  Its population is 7,454, a two-percent decline from the 2000 Census.  Seventy-one percent of the population was born in New Jersey, and the majority of household incomes fall between $60 and $100 thousand.  Only a slim percentage of households makes above $200 thousand or below $10k.  93.96 percent of the population is White.  According to Areavibes, the town has zero African-Americans.

That statistic would come as a surprise to the family living at the bottom of Jeffrey Drive, or the tenants of Waterfall Village.  According to Wikipedia, it’s 0.22 percent and the Hispanic population is 9.3 percent.  Nevertheless, 87 percent of the population speaks English; 5 percent speaks Spanish.  Goodness knows what the other 8 percent speak.  And finally, 63 percent of Bloomingdalers are married, which is 5 points above the national average.

Bloomingdale is safer than 90.1% of the cities in the nation.  Its next door neighbor, Butler, is 56.4 percent more dangerous to live in than Bloomingdale.  You are 263% more likely to be robbed in Butler.  Butler experienced 12 murders in the last year; Bloomingdale, zero percent.  Bloomingdale had no vehicle thefts and 147 burglaries compared with Butler’s 400.  Butler, however, has many more retail businesses than Bloomingdale, so naturally its crime rate would be higher.

The poverty level in Bloomingdale is 48 percent less than the New Jersey average and 72.7 percent less than the national average.  Butler’s population is 7,539, and increased 1.6 percent since the 2000 Census.  Its median income is $79,197.  Blacks at least register, at 1 percent in Butler (78 black people).  The town has an Hispanic population of 860 (11.4 percent).  Nearby Pompton Lakes has 10 percent and is about 2 square miles, the same as Pompton Lakes.  Bloomingdale is larger, 8.8 square miles, much of which is a state forest.  In terms of residential area, Bloomingdale is approximately the same size as its neighbors.

Butler was incorporated in 1901, Bloomingdale in 1918.  Both towns had been part of what was then known as Pompton Township, comprising Butler, Bloomingdale, Ringwood, and Wanaque, and one would presume, Pompton Lakes.  Butler has an unemployment rate of 7 percent.  59.3 percent of Butlerites are married.  Butler leans Republican; Bloomingdale leans Democrat, as does Pompton Lakes.  Still, a number of people took interest in the Bloomingdale/Wanaque Tea Party booth, or at least took the U.S. Constitution pamphlets and Agenda 21 information sheets that were handed out.

Pride Day was just a nice, small town festival, where everyone mingled.  The Republicans were on one side of the field and the Democrats were on the other, with the Tea Party tent right in the middle, where it belonged.

Everyone got to show off their activity:  the junior cheerleaders, the soccer kids, the karate kids.  The PTA had a tent, as well as the public library.  The Girl Scouts had their tent, and the Boy Scouts showed off their survival skills as well as their sales skills (good manners included).  Who could resist their kettle corn?

Regionalists and annexationists would change all that.  We would all be part of, say, Newark.  Our autonomy gone, there would be no Bloomingdale Pride Day.  There’d be an Hispanic Pride Day, a Black Pride Day, a Gay Pride Day.  But no day where we would all just be one town.  Actually, Butler and Pompton Lakes were there today, even though Pompton Lakes has its own Pride Day along the Pompton Lake in August (it’s quite a festival, too, with tons of yummy food).

Certain urban planners like David Rusk don’t like our numbers.  They don’t like the serenity of a town like Bloomingdale.  They don’t like its security.  They don’t particularly like its demographics, although that 10 percent Hispanic population almost certainly puts Bloomingdale and Pompton Lakes in Obama’s camp.

Mom and Dad thought Bloomingdale was just a little too rustic back in 1961.  But they moved there all the same and stayed.  Wikipedia notes about Bloomingdale:

Like most towns in North Jersey, is a suburb of New York City. Some of the things that still link Bloomingdale to its past are its two churches (Methodist and Baptist), the Samuel R. Donald School (originally built in 1886) and the Bloomingdale Cornet Band continuously active since 1884 (Samuel R. Donald conducted the band for 50 years).

DeLazier Field, used by the Triboro Little League, was the home field for the Minor League Baseball team known as the Bloomingdale Troopers of the North Atlantic League from 1946 to 1948.  Babe Ruth was known to have attended the Troopers’ games.

Bloomingdale may not be very cosmopolitan.  But it’s home.  There’s no place like hometown - and that's something to be very proud of.





Friday, September 28, 2012

The New, Improved Boob Tube

About a year ago, a colleague and I were discussing the cost of cable television.  Already knowing that I was probably on the lay-off list, I told her I had cancelled all but my basic cable, and that was costing a pretty $100 per month.  She said that she could still get over-the-air broadcasts.  I told her not to count on it for too long; all analog (free over-the-air broadcasts) were going to be phased out by the end of 2012.  The ultimate dead line has been extended to September 2015.  But for northern New Jersey, the plug has just been pulled.  “Al Gore said so,” I warned.  When the vice presidential FOI (Friend of the Internet) tells you about a big technological change, believe it.  Especially when the government is involved in pulling the plug.

Some young friends on Facebook expressed their dismay.  “We’ve gone blue!” they cried, referring to the blank screens on their analog televisions.  An IT friend warned them but they hadn’t believed him.  When I told him Al Gore had announced this circumstance years ago, back when they were all in college and not paying attention, he didn’t believe me.  It wasn’t the Democrats, he said; it was the cable conglomerates.

Back when Al Gore announced that analog television broadcasts would be phased out by 2009, to be replaced by HDTV, no one knew what Gore was talking about and since the economy was doing pretty darned well, thanks to the Republican Congress, no one was really worried about it.

Who wouldn’t prefer cable over the standard broadcast, HDTVs to analog television sets (whatever HDTV was)?  Who wouldn’t want a better picture? But then, the economy tanked, even while cable bills kept rising, some as high as $200 per month (mine was $150).  People began to see cable television for what it was:  an expensive luxury.  Especially if you’re unemployed.

Only since the FCC ruled that analog television would be phased out, giving more spectrum space to cable providers and telecommunications and satellite companies, those who still had analog television and could depend upon the free over-the-air broadcasts were just plain out of luck.  Certainly, the big cable conglomerates didn’t care.  Their attitude was that HDTV would be subsidized for the poor – meaning the taxpayers would pay for it.  The conglomerates didn’t much care where the money came from to pay the cable bill.  Anyone paying the cable bill was more profitable than free, over-the-air broadcast viewers.

In 1990, the FCC decided a HDTV digital signal could be simultaneously broadcasted until analog signals were phased out.  In order to receive this signal, people would need to buy either a digital TV set or a converter such as a set-top box (ka-ching!).  A digital TV tuner card could work for their computer.  Eventually, four proposals seemed serious, but no one was the winner. A suggestion was made to form a “Grand Alliance” between these contenders:  MIT, Philips, AT&T, General Instrument, Zenith Sarnoff and Thomson. After much discussion in 1996, the FCC adopted the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) Digital Television Standard based on an MPEG-2 compression scheme proposed by the “Grand Alliance” displacing the NTSc (National Television Systems Committee).  Also in 1996, the Telecommunications Act was passed, allowing telecommunications and satellite systems to offer television (and radio) broadcasting. Then in 1997 the FCC allocated pure digital spectrum, (not analog or a blend,) to broadcasters.  In addition they decided to require broadcasters to transmit digital programming on a graduated schedule by 2006, (which was extended.)

Here’s the technical explanation for this “transformation”:  The digital broadcast video (and audio) signals are encoded as a series of pulses where the pulse height and distribution define the signal. Rather than being directly related to the voltage applied to the electron guns of analog TVs, digital to analog converters (DACs) are needed to convert the signal pulses into the proper voltage levels.  A digital TV signal gets decoded into 3 simultaneous voltage levels, one each for the 3 electron guns of the digital TV.  The voltages are applied in the same manner as for analog TV, only the method of developing the voltages is different.  In terms of scanning, even digital TV is an analog process, since the scanning signals are analog (at least on the standard CRT picture tube; this is not the case with LCD displays.)

The digital broadcast video (and audio) signals are encoded as a series of pulses where the pulse height and distribution define the signal. Rather than being directly related to the voltage applied to the electron guns of analog TVs, digital to analog converters (DACs) are needed to convert the signal pulses into the proper voltage levels. A digital TV signal gets decoded into 3 simultaneous voltage levels, one each for the 3 electron guns of the digital TV.  The voltages are applied in the same manner as for analog TV, only the method of developing the voltages is different. In terms of scanning, even digital TV is an analog process, since the scanning signals are analog (at least on the standard CRT picture tube; this is not the case with LCD displays.)

During the 1990s, there were a number of important related developments:

(1) The cable industry became a powerhouse across the country.
(2) The PC revolution gave the television and film producing industry software tools to digitally edit and manage their work, especially those from Macromedia, Avid and Adobe.
(3) The CDROM industry became a leader in the development of interactive multimedia applications.
Satellite companies, eager to get a bigger piece of the market, introduced smaller 18 inch to a yard in diameter residential satellite dishes for homes (Direct Broadcast Satellite {DBS}). These dishes receive transmissions of hundreds of channels of digitally encoded NTSC broadcast signals to digital-to-analog set-top boxes nationally and internationally. Typically they offer more interactive television than their cable counterparts.
(5) A mix of analog and digital consumer
electronics devices also appeared such as CD-ROMs, VCRs, camcorders, laser disks, and digital video disks.
(6) The success of the Internet seriously affected the television industry. Among other things, a lot of TV viewers, and thus advertising revenues related to them, were lost to folks who were spending time concentrating on the Internet. Something had to be done.

Fully digital television requires much more technically advanced equipment than does analog TV.  Digital television receivers rely on advanced electronic circuitry to decode the digital signals in real time.  Unlike the backward compatibility between color and black and white analog sets of yesteryear, fully digital broadcasts cannot be displayed on analog equipment without additional components.

There are a number of differences between digital and analog television, several are noted below:

1) The DTV hardware reads or turns the broadcast signal (depending on the hardware involved) into bits and bytes, which is the language of computers. This makes computers and HDTVs compatible. As the primary language (code) for the World Wide Web is HTML, which is a computer code turned into bits and bytes, this makes for a much more efficient way to experience and interact with the Internet.

2) Digital TV signals are much less susceptible to interference. With MPEG compression (and other) technologies, an error-free picture is possible, even if minor signal errors are present. With an analog broadcast signal, minor signal errors can cause minor picture degradation (ghosting etc.).  As interference becomes worse, the picture becomes worse. With a digital signal, because of the way the error correction works, the picture will still look perfect until the threshold FEC signal to noise ratio is reached. Ratios below the threshold lead to an unacceptable picture (which is called catastrophic degradation.)

3) The use of compression (which DTV does) means that a standard 6 MHz TV channel bandwidth can carry around 4 or 5 separate digital TV channels (versus one with the analog signal) and have the same good resolution.

4) DTV can offer at least twice the picture resolution of straight analog TVs, this making possible a cinema-quality image as well as sound quality like that of a compact disc.

5) Signals for adjacent digital TV channels do not interfere with each other like those in analog systems. Therefore more channels can be occupied.

6) Unlike analog systems, the resolution of the digital TV broadcast can be varied.

7) Because digital signals can be compressed when they're sent to the DTV, the viewer can receive a great many more channels. This allows for the development of channels with content that only a select group of viewers would be interested in. With some sort of back channel the viewer can interact with others more freely.

8) With some sort of
return path (back channel) the viewer can interact with others more freely.

On June 13, 2009, FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein made this statement on the digital television transition:

 We are ushering in the end of analog broadcasting and the beginning of the digital age.  Things went about as smoothly as we could have hoped.  It’s looking more like Y2K than the Bay of Pigs.  Certainly, if we had not delayed and prepared, it might have been a disaster.  But with the additional time, resources and actual planning, we put things in order just in time.

We cannot become complacent or rest on our laurels.  Over the next few days, weeks and perhaps months, we need to keep our efforts in overdrive, continuing to conduct a national field, phone and Internet operation.  We need to “search and rescue” viewers who are still unprepared.  And we need to remind viewers to rescan their TVs and boxes, and adjust their antennas. 

The Commission has truly conducted an unprecedented effort to prepare millions of viewers for the transition of 974 TV stations throughout the country.  To be sure, some viewers are still unprepared, unaware, or – in some instances – frustrated.  But the Commission’s outreach effort has been vast, comprehensive and effective, reaching from every public housing unit in urban areas and to every farm in rural parts of America.  We have also focused on the groups that are particularly affected by the transition.  As a result, we have cut the number of completely unprepared households in half since Feb. 17th.
The Commission’s activities have included deploying legions of trained and dedicated FCC employees to nearly every television market in the country, operating hundreds community-based walk-in centers, responding – yesterday alone – to a record number of more than 300,000 consumer calls in a host of different languages, and installing  thousands of converter boxes in unprepared homes.  Our website,, has also been very successful in providing consumers with the information they need to prepare for the transition, allowing them to apply for converter box coupons and getting antenna and reception information.  During the month of May, there were more than 2.5 million pages viewed on the website.  Yesterday, we exceeded that number, topping 3.1 million pages viewed.

So with the continued hard work of FCC staff in the field and at the Commission, along with our governmental and private partners, especially broadcasters, cable and satellite television providers, consumer electronic retailers and all of our vendors and volunteers, we will continue to respond to every single concern that is brought our attention.  We will also continue to reach out to those viewers who have not yet made the transition to digital television.                                                                               
            Our work is far from done, but we are off to an impressive start. 

According to a memo written by the Federal Communications Commission (in WordPerfect which had to converted to ASCII Text format, both ancient), dated Dec. 26, 1996 on the subject of Advanced Television Systems and Their Impact Upon the Existing Television Broadcast Service:     
“This proceeding began in 1987, when we issued our first inquiry into the potential for advanced television (‘ATV’) services.  Subsequently, over the course of the past decade, we have issued a series of Notices concerning ATV and, based upon the comments received, have made a number of decisions.  In the fall of 1987, a few months after initiating this rulemaking proceeding, we were allocated  “Committee" or "ACATS") to for television broadcasting, but that existing broadcasters should be permitted to upgrade their transmission technology so long as the public remains served throughout any transition period.  We later decided "that an ATV system that transmits the increased established the Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service ("Advisory provide recommendations concerning technical, economic and public policy issues associated with the introduction of ATV service).  Early in the process we decided that no additional spectrum would information of an ATV signal in a separate 6 MHz channel independent from an existing NTSC channel will allow for ATV introduction in the most non-disruptive and efficient manner."  As the proceeding progressed, all-digital advanced television systems were developed and we began to refer to advanced television as digital television ("DTV") in recognition that, with the development of the technology, it was decided any ATV system was benefit significantly from further development and none would be recommended over the certain to be digital.   In February of 1993, the Advisory Committee reported that a digital HDTV system was achievable, but that all four competing digital systems then under consideration would others at that time.  In May of 1993, seven companies and institutions that had been proponents of the four tested digital ATV systems, joined together in a "Grand Alliance" to develop a final digital ATV system for the standard.  Over the next two-and-a-half years, that system was developed, extensively tested, and is documented in the ATSC DTV Standard.  On November 28, 1995, the Advisory Committee voted to recommend the
Commission's adoption of the ATSC DTV Standard.  [Pardon the poor wording, but there’s no typo here; this is the way the memo’s text actually reads.  This from our Federal Communications Commission!]

“We conclude that adoption of the DTV Standard will serve the public interest.  It will bring many benefits to American consumers.  By providing a requisite level of certainty to broadcasters, equipment manufacturers and consumers, the benefits of digital broadcasting will be realized more rapidly.  The public will receive more choices in video programming with dramatically better visual and aural resolution.  In addition, new and innovative services can be made available by the data transmission capabilities of the DTV Standard.  Further, the DTV Standard will permit interoperability with computers and encourage innovation and competition.”
The Digital Television Standard
       30.  Adoption of the Digital Standard.  In the Fifth Further Notice, we listed four objectives regarding the authorization and implementation of a DTV standard:  1) to ensure that all affected parties have sufficient confidence and certainty in order to promote the smooth introduction of a free and universally available digital broadcast television service; 2) to increase the availability of new products and services to consumers through the introduction of digital broadcasting; 3) to ensure that our rules encourage technological innovation and competition; and 4) to minimize regulation and assure that any regulations we do adopt remain in effect no longer than necessary.  In addition to these objectives, we stated our intentions to consider how adoption of the DTV Standard would affect other goals enumerated in this proceeding including facilitating the provision of digital video services, spurring a rapid conversion from NTSC to DTV, and recovering the analog broadcast spectrum after conversion.  
According to an article in The Cato Journal:
Congress enacted the "Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992'' over the veto of President George Bush.  This act purports "to provide increased consumer protection and to promote increased competition in the cable television and related markets.'' We here analyze some important economic implications of the act.  Our analysis of cable-television history (especially the brief period of deregulation, 1984-92) and of the contents and amendments of the new act indicate that the achievement of public-interest goals is most unlikely.  The Cable Act of 1992 admits self-interested outsiders (mainly, broadcasters in competition with cable operators, along with municipal tax collectors) to the profits generated by the supply of cable TV services. Further, the act will redistribute the profits of local cable companies by changing property-rights assignments without fostering new competition. Whether the nominal price of some homogeneous unit of cable services rises or falls, we argue that service quality (including the introduction of new technologies and products) will decline over time.

Following a review of the period of cable deregulation, this article treats two major aspects of the 1992 Cable Act. These are (1) the reinstitution of rate regulation at the municipal level of government under the aegis of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), [2] and (2) the restrictions imposed on ownership forms and on the ability of cable operators to choose which programs to carry. While other aspects of the act are important, a study of these two issues is central to the economic consequences of cable reregulation.

Several regulatory regimes have existed over the brief history of cable television in the United States (Posner 1972, Williamson 1976). A consensus between over-the-air broadcasters, the cable industry, and other interested parties was reached in 1972 under President Richard Nixon. This consensus set rules regulating the new and increasing cable competition facing broadcasters (Besen 1974). The goal then was to protect markets of the television networks and local broadcasters. Part of this protection included cable rate regulations.

There is some (admittedly anecdotal) evidence concerning the price-quality tradeoff from the period of cable deregulation. Basic cable penetration increased significantly over the period of deregulation. During the six years prior to deregulation, the number of homes passed by cable systems--the number of potential subscribers to cable--doubled from 34.9 million in 1980 to 69.4 million in 1986. But cable penetration--the percentage of homes passed that actually subscribed to cable--increased by only four percent, from 55.0 percent to 57.2 percent. In fact, in the three years prior to deregulation, penetration increased by only 1.8 percent. In the first three years after deregulation, in contrast, basic penetration increased by approximately 7 percent. By 1991, penetration exceeded 61 percent of the homes passed by cable systems

Increased cable penetration over this period of deregulation is consistent with the fact that rate deregulation was accompanied by product improvements making cable services, even at higher prices, more attractive to consumers. Increased penetration is consistent with the fact that cable operators improved quality in the kind of price-quality interplay described in the theory outlined above. Although evidence of increased penetration hardly proves that cable rates became perfectly competitive during the deregulatory period, it does suggest that deregulated rates were closer to competitive levels than were rates allowed by municipal price regulators. As argued above, all companies--whether operating under competitive or monopolistic conditions--will choose to improve their products if consumers are willing to pay for such improvements.

Field testing of HDTV at 199 sites in the United States was completed Aug. 14, 1994.  The first public HDTV broadcast in the United States occurred on July 23, 1996 when the Raleigh, N.C.   television station WRAL-HD began broadcasting from the existing tower of WRAL-TV south-east of Raleigh, winning a race to be first with the HD Model Station in Washington, D.C., which began broadcasting July 31, 1996 with the call sign WHD-TV, based out of the facilities of NBC-owned owned and operated station WRC-TV. The American Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) HDTV system had its public launch on Oct. 29, 1998, during the live coverage of astronaut John Glenn's return mission to space on board the Space Shuttle Discovery. The signal was transmitted coast-to-coast, and was seen by the public in science centers, and other public theaters specially equipped to receive and display the broadcast.

While the technological advances of cable television, satellite communications, and HDTV has increased our choices in program and the quality of the service, it has also increased our cost of living.  It has also given the government a chance to show how big it is by providing what was once a luxury service to the poor and insuring that they must be provided this service by making it impossible to receive a television signal in any other manner other than through the cable.  They only have two choices:  listen to the radio and go without the basic cable service (which includes news and weather information) or have the government pay for it.

I don’t miss anything that was on cable television.  I’m perfectly happy with Netflix.  But I still must pay for the basic cable service and the HDTV box.  I was ahead of my time on the HDTV.  I suffered the misfortune of watching my old, analog television set literally blow up one night.   We couldn’t really find a substitute analog TV, although there were flatscreen analogs.

“Don’t bother with that,” Big Brother said, as we were shopping for a new TV.  “Al Gore said the other night that in three years (2009), analog broadcasts are going to be phased out.  By 2012, you’ll have to have an HDTV, whether you want one or not.  You’ll just wind up buying another television set, or a converter box of some kind, because the HD signal is different from the analog.”

This was definitely a bipartisan effort towards Progressivism; there’s no doubt of that.  The government gets its fees.  The cable companies get loads of money.  And the American public gets Snooki, Desperate Housewives, Glee, and massive cable bills.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yet Another New World Order

“When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.” Plato,“The Republic”

“If I ruled the world…” No one knows who first uttered that ubiquitous, narcissistic statement. But we know that Alexander the Great harbored that sentiment within his breast. So did Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini and Chairman Mao. Now it’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s turn.

He told the Associated Press in an interview that he would much rather talk about his vision of what the “next” new world order might be, rather than his country’s progressing nuclear arms program or his support of the murderous Syrian president Assad.

“God willing, a new order will come and do away with….everything (particularly Israel) that distances us,” he said through a translator. “All of the animosity, all of the lack of sincerity will come to an end. It will institute fairness and justice.”

He went on to accuse the United States of following an international policy of bullying. “I do believe the system of empires has reached the end of the road. The world can no longer see an emperor commanding it.”

The United States would, naturally, play a much smaller role in this new world order and every country would enjoy equal standing . According to the Associated Press, he also proposed forming a new group of 10 or 11 countries to work to end the 18-month Syrian civil war. Representatives of nations in the Middle East and elsewhere would meet in New York “very soon,” he said.
Critics have accused Tehran of giving support to Syrian President Bashar Assad in carrying out massacres and other human rights violations in an attempt to crush the uprising against his rule. Activists say nearly 30,000 people have died.

"I will do everything in my power to create stability, peace and understanding in Syria," Ahmadinejad said, adding that he last spoke with Assad one year ago over the telephone.

Ahmadinejad denied Iranian involvement in plotting attacks on Israelis abroad, despite arrests and accusations by police in various countries. He also vehemently disputed the U.S. claim that Iranian agents played a role in a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States last year.
Ahmadinejad will leave office next June after serving two four-year terms. He refuses to speak of the state of Israel by name and instead refers only to the “Zionists.” And when asked on Monday about author Salman Rushdie, he made no attempt to distance himself from recent renewed threats on the author's life emanating from an Iranian semi-official religious foundation.

“If he is in the U.S.,” said the president of Iran, “you should not broadcast it for his own safety.”
Just what is so “new” (and different) about this new world order of Ahmadinejad’s? The first item on his agenda is destroy the state of Israel, which in his considered opinion, has no right to exist. The second is to establish a global caliphate– Muslims will rule the world. They’ll rule it with the sword the way the Nazis sought to rule the world with the iron boot, the Communists with the hammer and sickle, Napoleon with the musket and ships of war, and the Romans with whips and chains.

No one was ever better off in the unified world these tyrants attempted to create. Conformity was the rule, and sacrifice of the individual for the collective good. We’re being sold that bill of goods again, pitting the have-nots in an envious rage against the “selfish” haves. Dissenters were imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Riots in the streets of the Middle East were blamed on a stupid cartoon video depiction of Mohammed, when the real purpose of the riots was the same as the riots in the streets in Caesar’s day: demagoguery. You can’t have peace unless you first have violence that you, the tyrant, can personally assuage.

What Ahmadinejad offers – and the Communist, Socialist, Progressives, and others offer– is not a “new” world order but the same old world order of oppression, intimidation, and deceit that has kept tyrants in power for centuries. The creation of America disrupted that old world order. America offered the world the real path to peace and world order – freedom. America gave individuals the choice to determine their own paths for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country. What America did not offer, initially, was a free ride.

America made no promise except that you’d have the same opportunity to succeed coming off the boat from Europe with nothing just like anyone else. America promised that you could speak your mind, practice your religion (yes, even Islam), defend your property, and not be thrown into jail without due process of law. America stood aloof from guarding her people against anything except the threat to their liberties. America looked to God and the God-worshipping to help the impoverished. America promised equality, not equity. She assumed her people would be honest enough and have enough integrity to understand the difference.

America raised a bright banner of red, white and blue, not a black flag threatening death, intimidation and despair. Iran looks upon America as a “bully” because America is not afraid to stand up for its allies, such as Israel. America has not been afraid to champion freedom, especially where potentates fear it, where real freedom threatens the schemes of demagogic political organizations with no authority and no power except that of mindless, ignorant followers.

America is still the greatest nation on Earth. But like a victim hypnotized by media saturation, brainwashing, and drugs, she plays the part of a second-rate nation, her leaders bowing obsequiously in a craven posture of humility in the shadow of a second-rate, craven world’s opinion.

The United States needs to snap out of it before it’s too late. The cause of freedom is just; it always has been and always will be. We need not take the word of a petty, violent dictator in a room full of his own kind that a new world order will be established in which freedom will be abolished. We need no one’s permission to be a free people, least of all his.

A one-world order means doing things only one way, one person’s way, with only one voice speaking. Any other voices will either be muted or a unison, obedient chorus. They who come from the oldest part of the world, from its most backward regions, honing to an intolerant religion are scarcely qualified to lead any world order, old or new.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Edenwald and Lake Edenwold

Just a little geographical update.  Edenwald is a section in the Bronx, N.Y., now called Mount Eden.  Mom sometimes referred to it as Lake Edenwald.  Which was confusing to us growing up because the town next to ours had a section named Lake Edenwold.

Sorry for the confusion.

Taking Obama at His Word

Obama gave a fine-sounding speech yesterday before the General Assembly of the United Nations. He used the same kind of hope-and-changey phraseology that got him elected in 2008. You remember how that worked out?

Let us take a look at one or two of the questionable statements of his speech first:

“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Even Obama realized that was a loaded statement and quickly followed with:

“Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.”

What an interesting turn of a phrase for him to utter: “Yet to be credible.”

Desecrating the image of Jesus, bad as it is, is not quite in the same category as slandering the Prophet of Islam. People, such as Jim Mapplethorpe, have desecrated Christ’s image, soaking it in urine and putting it on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. A Danish cartoonist who depicted Mohammed wearing a turban with a fuse on it now has a price on his head.

Atheists daily criticize the Christian religion. Thanks to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, they suffer no penalty for doing so. Yet our own president declares that those who slander Mohammed will have no place in the future.

Obama makes such astounding statements, such as separate, independent nations of Palestine and Israel, that fly in the face of Middle East reality that pundits can hardly believe it. They declare that he must be an idiot, a moron. He just allowed the Libyans to assassinate our ambassador and, in his speech, thanked the government and the Libyan people for their help – ostensibly in the search for the killers. He must have missed the video of the jeering crowds as Stevens was dragged through the streets to the hospital, a hospital whose modernization he was in Benghazi to allegedly to fund with our tax dollars.

The key to understanding Obama is to take his every word and pledge at face value. When he promised to transform America, he meant what he said. Conservative pundits simply thought he was an idiot. When he vowed to redistribute the wealth, he meant what he said then, too. There’s to be yet another government stimulus package. ‘He’s ruining the country!’ pundits cried in exasperation.

Well, of course, he is. That’s what he said he would do. Back in 2007, I expressed the hope in this very blog that he would fail. So far, he’s succeeded exceedingly well in damaging our economy, driving up our debt, devaluing the dollar, reducing our military, putting people out of work, bankrupting our savings, destroying our housing market, excoriating the successful, advancing an expensive and useless industry of climate technology, instituting yet another government entitlement program (Obamacare), closing down our oil wells in the Gulf, thwarting the installation of a pipeline that would reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, raising our taxes, alienating our foreign allies, embarking on apology tours, and encouraging an Islamic revolution that will eventually enslave half the globe and make trading with them impossible.

All in his first term (I’ve probably missed something – the list is so long). But he got rid of Osama Bin Laden, although it probably had more to do with political timing than justice; Bin Laden was a dangerous nuisance. The 9/11 attacks had the effect of pulling Americans together rather than heightening divisions and fear. Had he been brought to trial, we probably would have learned things Obama would rather Americans didn’t know.

He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s surrounded himself with well-connected advisors such as Valerie Jarrett, who has numerous ties to anti-American billionaire George Soros. As President of the United States, Obama is (to paraphrase a line in the movie Apollo 13), a “successful failure.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lake Readenwald

“Who needs to know what the word ‘fetiparous’ means?” the Nephew complained.  I told him since he’s graduated with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, still doesn’t have a job, and is still living with his father (and occasionally his mother) that he ought to look it up, because that’s what he and his generation are becoming.  They need to know what the word means, actually.

Oh, I was no better.  If it hadn’t been for Jane Eyre, I’d never have gotten past community college and my typing and shorthand classes.  Elementary school was not just a social challenge, but an educational obstacle as well.  The Sixties was the era of Noam Chomsky grammar, “new math”, and social studies as a replacement for history.  Our school library was a janitor’s closet with a nasty librarian who enforced strict, grade-level reading rules.

For reading material, we were given the dreary short stories of Langston Hughes and Ring Lardner Jr., and the plays of Arthur Miller.  I could read the words well enough – I had a good vocabulary, thanks to my parents.  But I fell down in comprehension.  No , indeed, I could not comprehend the notion of a totalitarian society where down was up and up was down and ugliness was beauty.

By the time I got to middle school, I’d pretty much given up on reading.  The middle school librarian was a very nice lady and she tried to entice me with offerings of Anne of Green Gables and National Velvet, traditional children’s literature.  But I refused even these, not trusting anything anyone gave me to read, except Mom and Dad.

It was only in my freshman year of high school that I discovered – or I should say, rediscovered – the joys of reading when my English teacher assigned Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I read it through in one afternoon and was completely hooked on reading after that.   My next foray into the adventures of reading was A Tale of Two Cities (a parental recommendation) and then The Lord of the Rings, recommended by a book store clerk.  Ultimately, I got by on my SATs, but I was no scholar.  At least, not yet.  I wasn’t convinced that reading would do me any good; my parents had assured me that I was going to be a secretary.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, only 43 percent of 1.66 million private and public school students who took the college-entrance exam posted accepted scores that indicated they would do well in college.  The scores are unchanged from last year, and the lowest the scores have been since 1972.

Students need a score of 1550 out of the total 2400 to achieve college readiness, defined as a 65 percent chance of maintaining at least a B-minus as a college freshman.  Nationwide 44 percent of high school freshmen continue on to college and 21 percent of those earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

The SAT data mirror scores from the ACT college-entrance exam—which showed about 75% of students failed to meet college-readiness standards—and served to increase the hand-wringing over whether U.S. high-school students are prepared to attend college and compete in a global economy. Colleges generally accept results of either test.

College Board officials and other experts noted that the declining scores could have much to do with the testing pool, which is growing and becoming more diverse. Last year, 45 percent of students who took the exam were members of a minority group, up from 38% of the 1.56 million who took it in 2008. And 28% of test takers reported that English wasn't exclusively their first language, up from 24% in 2008.

Minority and low-income students are less likely to take a core curriculum—defined as four years of English and three or more of math and the sciences—that would help them prepare to do well on the exam.

David Rusk (Cities Without Suburbs; Inside Game, Outside Game); Myron Orfield, (Metropolitics:  A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability); and Peter Dreier, et al.  (Place Matters:  Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century) blame white flight and suburban sprawl for this educational apartheid.  The flight of the middle class to the suburbs and safer neighborhoods and better schools, left the metropolitan cities with no one to pay the bills or serve as role models for at-risk students.

All the authors recommend some form of regionalization or annexation by the cities to recapture the fleeing middle class before they get so far out of reach that there will be no possibility of taxing them for their “fair share” of urban education.  They admit that all the money that has been thrown at the schools has been for nought, as the most current SAT scores demonstrate.

They accuse the middle class of being selfish racists who have dragged the jobs too far away for the most poverty-stricken to reach.  No word is said of the heavy taxation and union rates that drove those manufacturing jobs out of the cities, and finally, out of the country.

Someone must have told Rusk to dial down the racism charges after Cities Without Suburbs, for he’s more willing to admit, in his second book, Inside Game, Outside Game, that the inner cities bear some of the responsibility for their plight.  One of the prime reasons for their failing schools is lack of stable, two-couple homes.  Female-headed households are more likely to be lower down on the poverty scale.

Rusk rode around with some inner city cops to get a feel for the neighborhoods.  He asked them what they thought was the biggest single contributor to urban blight.  “The drugs,” the policeman replied.  “Get rid of the drugs, and you won’t have any more problems.”

Rust tells a story of the creation of the Sprawl Machine by an evil enemy of America.  His advisor suggests luring the middle class out of the cities with dream homes and low-cost mortgages, without any money down on the property.  My parents paid the 20 percent down on our house in 1961, probably on Mom’s insistence.  My grandfather didn’t raise a stupid daughter.  But the real introductory agent that caused America’s economic spiral downward was not dream homes.  My parents weren’t all that happy about living 20 miles outside of the city where they both grew up.

The introductory agent was drugs, and other illegal activities.  White flight didn’t swallow up my great-grandmother’s house (which we drove by in the 1970s) in the Lake Edenwald (now called Mount Eden) section of the North Bronx.  The way Mom described her childhood home, we expected to find a neat little bungalow-type house with a tidy front yard and painted shutters.  What we found was a dilapidated house with a dirt yard, surrounded by barbed wire.  The local deli, which her friends’ parents owned, was a lonely outpost of commerce in a desert of vacant lots, long since burned out.  The neighborhood looked more like Mount Doom out of The Lord of the Rings than Mount Eden.

“Mount Eden” was in the news recently, when the north Bronx community unveiled a brand new school for the community.  I thought Edenwald was farther north than it is; it’s actually below the Cross-Bronx (Rusk and the other Regionalists bitterly hate this roadway – as does everyone who’s ever been stuck on it in traffic – for dividing the Bronx.  It wasn’t the highway that divided the Bronx, though).  Evander Childs H.S., both Mom and Dad’s alma mater, was farther north near the border with Mount Vernon.  The public schools in that area have dismal ratings; the charter schools are faring a little better, though only one was ranked “above-average.”

Things were no better in Camden, N.J., 12 years ago.  The city’s elementary schools were ranked dead last in the state.  The residents couldn’t participate in a volunteer garden planting for fear of the drug dealers.  Anyone who thinks legalizes drugs is a great idea should visit this section of Camden.  But be warned; in an effort at “efficiency,” the city disbanded its police department.

Drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity.  What Rusk and the others claim about intense segregation is undoubtedly true.  At least that’s what I remember from my linguistics class back in the early days of college, when I finally broke free of the secretary track.  Isolated communities tend to retain their original language, oral traditions, and even accents, if they aren’t exposed to other cultures.

Urban planners find it easier to blame “racist” white people for their urban ills rather than face up to the failures of the minority communities.  Excuse us white folks if we don’t want our children robbed in or on the way to and from school.  The urban schools are a hell of no discipline, gang wars, drug dealing, and intimidation.  That’s straight from a lucky group of students who got the opportunity to attend a charter school in Harlem.

The Regionalists believe that the low-income students will learn better if their blighted communities are broken up and Section 8 voucher holders be allowed to plant themselves, through federal legislation, in any community they choose.  Only a few here and a few there, we’re promised.

None of this is the fault of the kids.  Well, not exactly.  I’ve met some of them through Read for American programs.  There are minority kids willing to give reading a try.  The older kids are fans of the Vampire series.  The younger kids loved all the “lily-white” happy family, exciting adventures people donated.  They might take more of an interest in reading if someone wrote books about black and Hispanic kids in happy families, going on Harry Potter-type adventures, and so forth.  Most of their literature is about slavery and civil rights, and I’d bet that the average black student cherishes these stories about as much as I cherished Ring Lardner.

Giving them some readable, relatable literature would carry the minority kids a long way.  But before that can happen, something has to be done about their parents.  Kids are like ducklings – they pattern after their parents.  If they don’t see Mom and especially Dad, reading, they’re not likely to take up the reading habit themselves.  But of course, first, you have to find the black Dads, who may be in prison or wandering the streets.  Someone has to tell them, “Go home!”

Rusk notes that a large part of the problem with black marriages is unemployment.  True enough.  During the Great Depression, marriages took a huge nose-dive, and that included my maternal grandparents.  Kids who don’t have a father they see – and see going to work – have no path to follow.  So they’ll follow a gang leader or drug dealer instead.

Until black families get their acts together, white suburbanites are going to keep on fleeing.  The object of annexation or regionalization is to stop the flight by preventing the building of anymore suburbs.  In other words, we’ll be trapped ourselves, with no way out.  Regionalists who tout the positive aspects of their plans only need look across the Hudson at New York City, the most taxed city in the nation.  Crime isn’t as bad in New York as it is in Chicago, Murder Capital of the Nation, but the taxation is.  New York tried annexation over a century ago and it didn’t help the city much.  As soon as the George Washington Bridge was built, people started up buying up land here in New Jersey and the subdividing it.

In 1983, ethnographer Shirley Brice Heath published the now-discredited and out of print study, “Ways With Words:  Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms.”  Heath studied two mill towns in North Carolina, only a few miles apart:  one, white working-class, the other, black working class, and a third, wealthier white group referred to as “the Townspeople.”.  She recorded the differences in spoken language and reading habits between the two communities.  Heath found that even in two, fairly equal working class communities, there were noticeable differences in parental styles of teaching their toddlers to speak, read and learn (i.e., white townspeople began reading to their children much earlier and had books in the home, whereas the white working class people were not as focused on education and looked upon reading as a way to escape chores, and the black families had no books at all). 

It took a long time to find a copy of this book, which I first learned about in a Teaching Reading class in college.  This is the book I told my former colleague about.  She’s deeply involved in community outreach, and education in particular.  I started to tell her about it, but our department manager (both women are black) shushed me up.  Still, AL sounded interested and as I’m going to have lunch with my former boss this week (something I never did when I worked for him) I wanted to have him give her the book.

Only it didn’t come and it didn’t come.  I paced the floor every day last week waiting for the delivery truck.  Finally, it arrived today, along with the news about the SAT scores. 

The fetiparous graduating class of 2012 posted an average score of 496 in reading, a one-point drop from 2011 and a 34-point decline since 1972, the first year the College Board began tracking the scores of “college-bound” seniors. The way the test is scored changed in the mid-1990s, but the mean scores in prior years were recalibrated to make them comparable.

You get past the SATs and into college in much the same way musicians get to Carnegie Hall (“Practice, practice, practice”).  Practice, practice, practice for the tests and read, read, read.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Morsi to U.S.: Bite Your Tongue

Calling the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats, “a bump in the road,”  Obama today quietly cancelled his Camp David meeting with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.  Today, when he should have been meeting with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama was crossing legs with ABC’s The View, instead.

According to Administration officials, Obama had granted a request for the visit with cool caution.  The website, Commentary, noted before the meeting was cancelled, that:

The Egyptian government is looking to scrap parts of its peace treaty with Israel, according to an advisor to President Morsi, claiming a “strategic and security need.”  Morsi has let the Sinai disintegrate into lawlessness, paving the way for incidents like last week’s terrorist attack on Israel. Now Morsi advisors appear to be using the lack of security in the Sinai as a justification for amending the treaty.

In comments published in the online Dostor newspaper, one of Egypt’s independent dailies, a Morsi adviser, Mohammed Seif el-Dawla, was quoted as saying he will soon give the president a proposal on amending the treaty between Egypt and Israel.

El-Dawla provided no details of the proposal, which he said would be drawn up by a panel of consultants. Amending the treaty, he said, was ‘‘a popular demand and a strategic and security need.’’

The Egyptian government’s failure to secure the Sinai puts Israel in a tricky position regarding the peace treaty, and it appears that’s the intention. Egypt will point to each cross-border attack on Israel as a reason for why it needs to militarize the area. Meanwhile, efforts by Israel to fight back against the attacks will be criticized by Egypt as a violation of the treaty.

It’s yet another reason why the U.S. should put stipulations on Egypt’s foreign aid, with one of these demands being heightened border security. The aid has given us visibility into the government and the military, which is helpful, but why not get some more political leverage out of it? There’s no point in having leverage if we don’t use it.

Supposedly, Morsi was the one to cancel the meeting, although other reports claim it was Obama, anxious over a close election race, who put the kibosh on the meeting.  Morsi today lectured the United States on the proper use of freedom of speech.  According to the Islamist president, we must be more responsible in our utterances.  We know what the Islamic solution to criticism of the state and/or the religion is:  beheading.  When the sultan or emir is feeling benevolent, he might only cut out the offender’s tongue.

Congress, meanwhile, is considering cutting off $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt.  That would tend to make Morsi a tad cranky.  Morsi’s first state visits as president were to China and Iran, nations eager to weaken America’s superiority in the Middle East.  Morsi and his administration have signaled a new kind of relationship, based on “mutual interests.”  His foreign minister said Egypt had regained its “free will” in the relationship, according to a local newspaper report.

In response to questions about why Morsi isn't meeting with Obama one on one (they will both be attending the annual meeting of Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative), one Morsi official told a local Egyptian newspaper that the Egyptian president is “very busy” and will meet with Obama later this year. One hard-line Islamist group called on Morsi to cancel the visit altogether.

No matter what the White House tells the Media, and no matter how the Media tries to portray the polls, clearly the polls told Obama that his plans to meet with Morsi to discuss the release of the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman is a very bad idea with the election so close literally and temporally.

Nothing can really stop Obama from releasing the Blind Sheikh (or KSM) after the election, whether he wins or not.  In fact, he just announced today that he’ll be releasing 55 more terrorists from Guantanamo Bay.  Perhaps it was a move calculated to mollify Morsi until our election is over.  Obama knows he needs to concentrate on his campaign to win over Independent voters by “redistributing the wealth.”

When money talks, terrorists walk. 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dead Men's Tales

 CNN revealed that they discovered the late Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ journal among the debris in the aftermath of his assassination.  The latest reports indicate that he actually died of smoke inhalation and may have been the target of a kidnapping rather than an execution, in a bid for an exchange with the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.

CNN reported that there were just seven handwritten pages in the journal, in Stevens’ handwriting, expressing concern about the security in Benghazi, Libya.

Anne Frank recorded the D-Day Invasion in her diary for June 6, 1944:

A huge commotion in the Annex!   Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation?  The liberation we’ve all talked about so much, which still seems to be too good, too much of a fairy tale ever to come true?  Will this year, 1944, bring us victory?  We don’t know yet.  But where there’s hope, there’s life.  It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.   We’ll need to be brave to endure the many fears and hardships and the suffering yet to come.  It’s now a matter of remaining calm and steadfast, of gritting our teeth and keeping a stiff upper lip!  France, Russia, Italy, and even Germany, can cry out in agony, but we don’t yet have that right!

Oh, Kitty, the best part of the invasion is that I have the feeling that friends are on the way.  Those terrible Germans have oppressed and threatened us for so long that the thought of friends and salvation means everything to us.

One of the American diplomats killed in the bloody attack on the Libyan Consulate in Benghazi told pals in an online gaming forum hours earlier that he'd seen suspicious people taking pictures outside his compound and wondered if he and his team might “die tonight.”

Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, was well known in the online gaming forum EVE Online, where he went by the name “vilerat,” and was seen as a leader by his fellow gamers.  Smith was killed along with three others, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, when the consulate was attacked by an angry mob.  But hours before the bloody assault, Smith sent a message to Alex Gianturco, the director of “Goonswarm,” Smith's online gaming team or “guild.”

“Assuming we don’t die tonight,” the message, which was first reported by Wired, read. “We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.”  He also reported that they had mysteriously disappeared from their posts at the compound’s three entrances.  A short time later, Smith typed out the F-word, followed by “Gunfire” and then there was no more communication. Within hours of posting that message, Smith, a husband and father of two, was dead.

In the Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien sent his characters through the treacherous Mines of Moria, where the Dwarfs had once had a fabulous kingdom.  By the time the Fellowship reaches their halls, the dwarfs have long been dead.  In the tomb, Gandalf, the wizard, finds a diary describing their final hours:

We cannot get out.  We cannot get out.  They [the Orcs] have taken the Bridge and second hall.  The pool is up to the wall at Westgate.  The Watcher in the Water took Oin.  We cannot get out.  The end comes… drums, drums in the deep.  They are coming…

Help did not come in time for the fictional Balin, the dwarf, World War II’s Anne Frank (she and her sister Margot died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps about a month before the Liberation), Sean Smith, or Ambassador Stevens.  We only hear their warning cries through muted pieces of paper (or in Smith’s case, a computer screen) after it is too late.

Those who heed the warning cry ahead of time are discredited, as Winston Churchill was, ignored, or intimidated.  The bigger our bureaucrat government grows, the more muffled the cries of dissent and warning.  The enemies of freedom are all around us.  They are gathering their forces, intimidating the wise and seducing the foolish.

They are coming.