Friday, November 26, 2010

Some November Odds and Ends...

It’s time for some odds and ends.  Here are some important items that might have passed us by without notice as we enjoyed this Thanksgiving holiday week-end. 

I’m going to begin with an Op-ed piece by the excellent NYTimes columnist Roger Cohen, titled “The Real Threat to America.” [Here]  Cohen starts with:
The full-body scanners and intrusive pat-downs that are fast becoming the norm at U.S. airports — just in time for Thanksgiving! — do at least provide the answer to what should be done with Osama bin Laden if he’s ever captured: Rotate him in perpetuity through this security hell, “groin checks” and all.
Cohen goes on to say that he does not doubt the due diligence and patriotism of the TSA agents, but he does mention the paid-lobbying activity that Michael Chertoff has done to get those machines operational and in our face.  Cohen reminds us that:
When a government has a right to invade the bodies of its citizens, security has trumped freedom.
...America is a nation of openness, boldness and risk-taking.  Close this nation, cow it, constrict it and you unravel its magic.
Roger Cohen then also reminds us of our Fourth Amendment.  (I wonder how many of us have read it lately.  Please read it slowly and carefully.)
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. 
Cohen ends his column with a reminder of what Ben Franklin was quoted as saying after the Constitutional Convention, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  

Cohen then ends with this exhortation:
To keep it, push back against enhanced patting, Chertoff’s naked-screening and the sinister drumbeat of fear.
Yes, indeed.  And I wonder if one fought back against this invasion of fundamental rights, as the ACLU is doing, and took one’s grievance to the Supreme Court, how that high court, as presently constituted, would decide...
Next item: It seems that a deal has been reached between the State education commissioner David Steiner and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg over the mayoral appointment of Cathleen Black to be NYC’s school chancellor.  [Here]  The deal between the mayor and the state’s commissioner involves the appointment of Shael Polakow-Suransky as a deputy under Chancellor Black.  He will be responsible for performance and accountability.

Are all the sides happy?  We don’t know.  They certainly should be.  It appears that New York City’s school system will be stronger with the addition of the new deputy chancellor who has extensive and recent hands-on teaching and administrative experience in the NY school system.  From what we gather, the two new appointees have been in close discussions about how they would interface.  We are also told that Mr. Polakow-Suransky has been Black’s recent choice as deputy.
It sounds that, on the face of it, the issue has been resolved intelligently, although we would nevertheless be happier if Black knew something about public education and had a passion for it.  Certainly with the push for charter schools and privatization in the air, we would all breath more easily if we knew--really knew--New York City’s children had a devoted advocate in their corner.
The last item was in a NYTimes editorial about the NRA.  (Isn’t it splendid that there is still one important group that will face down the NRA!!)  It seems that the NRA has launched two lawsuits in Texas to force the state to allow 18-20 year olds to be able to buy handguns and carry them, concealed if they wished, into public places.  [Here]  
As the Times points out, the 18-20 age group represents only 5 per cent of the population but 20 per cent of the national manslaughter and homicide arrests.  And that high statistic occurs without the present legal right of those young people to carry guns.  Can you imagine if they could not only buy hand guns but carry them around, concealed in their pockets?
Yesterday we wrote about tasering in Oklahoma and now we add this worry about pistol-packing 18-20-year olds in Texas.  In view of the airport pat-downs and scanners, it seems to me prudent to stay home for a while and play with the dog.  
It's safer and certainly more fun...

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