Zero Tolerance Helps to Make Us Dumber

I just added a new paragraph to last month’s essay about how we are getting dumber, thanks to our technology, schools and government.  Quote:

Special mention should be given to "zero tolerance" policies. Originally these were used to get drugs out of the workplace, or to make sure people didn’t drink alcohol while driving. When applied to school issues, however, they allowed faculty members to act without thinking, leading to idiotic results. I remember a news story back in 1993 where a six-year-old boy kissed a girl in his class and was accused of sexual harassment, and other stories about how plastic knives in lunchboxes and inch-long toy guns were seen as violations of rules against bringing weapons to school. I am writing this just a month after the tragic mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and already since then, there have been two cases where small children were suspended from class because they pointed fingers at each other, pretending to have guns. What message does it send to our students, when they see those in authority enforce rules and not think about the consequences? Or maybe I should put it this way: How many times can someone act stupid, before he becomes stupid?

Morgan Freeman on the Connecticut Tragedy

Last Friday I told readers why I have a personal interest in the shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, CT; twice I have lived less than twenty miles from there, and as recently as eight months ago, I was in the same county.

Ever notice how local news programs seem to be preoccupied with crime stories?  Their motto seems to be:  “If it bleeds, it leads.  If it booms, we zoom.”  Well, Newtown has just been put on the map, in an unfavorable way.  Some of you may remember a TV show from a few years back called “The Gilmore Girls,” which was set in a fictional Connecticut town that was attractive and full of small shops and quirky people.  Well, after my recent job in Connecticut, I can testify that several Connecticut towns really look like that (e.g., Bethel, Brookfield, Huntington), though the people aren’t as strange as their TV counterparts.  Most of them are considered suburbs of New York City, which may explain why people can afford to live in those affluent places.  Newtown looks like “The Gilmore Girls” setting, too, but unfortunately, if you hear about Newtown in the future, you probably won’t think of the shops or scenery.

Predictably, several people are also speaking out on what can be done to prevent such tragedies.  Including gun-control advocates, though they have yet to offer an effective way to stop a bad guy with a gun, besides a good buy with a gun.  Just keep in mind that Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people in Oklahoma with just a truckload of fertilizer, and that an awful lot of people are killed every year by weapons that a cave man would have no trouble using.

Normally I avoid posting quotes from Hollywood celebrities.  Most of them are so idiotic they only prove that our actors were hired for their looks; they obviously don’t have perfect brains to match their perfect bodies.  However, Morgan Freeman said something about the Newtown tragedy that deserves our applause – that we should pay attention to the victims, not the killer.  Perhaps he has enough sense to say this because he has played God more often than any other actor since Charlton Heston.  Anyway, check it out:



“You want to know why.  This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it.  Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities.  Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine?  Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way.  Why a grade school?  Why children?  Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another.  Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening.  Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours.  Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity?  None that I’ve seen yet.  Because they don’t sell.  So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim.  You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem.  You can help by turning off the news.”


That Could Have Been My Elementary School

Of course the main news story today was the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT.  This is too close for comfort.   I have lived in two Connecticut towns, Huntington (1964-66) and Danbury (2011-12).  They are twenty-five miles apart, and Newtown is right between them. In fact, I remember driving through Newtown, one Saturday night last winter (see my message from February 25, 2012).  If that school was a few miles closer to Huntington, it could have been the place I attended in first grade.

Connecticut town looks within for support after unspeakable tragedy

For tonight the candles at the beginning of this message will be for the victims of this senseless act, as well as for Hanukkah.

New York City Really Does Have Killer Seafood



Literally.  This shark was seen swimming at 142nd St., in Manhattan.

What a mess the people on the mid-Atlantic coast are going to have to clean up, now that the “Frankenstorm” is over.  From what I hear on the news (57 dead, millions without power, the NYC subways flooded), this definitely sounds worse than the two storms I went through, when I was in the Northeast last year.  I think next week’s election will go on without a delay, but I expect the repair/cleanup work will continue for the rest of the year and beyond.

Here in Kentucky, several thousand people also lost power, but fortunately that was only in the easternmost counties of the state.  Most of the snow I was expecting dropped in West Virginia instead; because the temperature here stayed above freezing, we just got rain.  It wasn’t even enough to make up for the rest of October being dry, by comparison.  Today was the first sunny day this week, so we’ll see if it is a sign of what November will bring.

From Indian Summer to a Nor’easter, and a North American History Update

For the past week the weather here has been unusually warm and dry, ten degrees above what we’re used to in October.  Yesterday, for instance, we got a high of 79, and because this is another one of those times when we don’t need the heat or air conditioning, the temperature indoors soared as high as 84.

Well, that Indian summer ended today.  As I write this, the sky is overcast, it is starting to rain, and a cold front is passing slowly east across the state.  Our attention is also being drawn to Hurricane Sandy, now that it has left Jamaica and is approaching the United States.  Yesterday the hurricane was heading due north, meaning the edge of it would scrape Florida, and the main storm would come ashore at or near New York City next Tuesday.  Today, though, it has taken on a zigzag course, allowing it to hit anything between Virginia and Connecticut.  The most interesting part is that it is expected to collide with one or two cold fronts, causing a “nor’easter” that will dump feet–not inches–of rain or snow.  Therefore it sounds like a perfect repeat of the “White Halloween” I experienced last year in Connecticut (see my messages from October 29-31, November 3, and November 6, in 2011).  Today the media also predicted more than $1 billion in damages, and power blackouts that could delay voting in some states; I hope they’re just panicky.

Meanwhile here in Kentucky, I reorganized part of my North American history project, “The Anglo-American Adventure.”  I haven’t written anything new lately; I don’t think I can properly cover the Obama administration if I write about it before it is over.  So if he is re-elected in eleven days, I might wait four years before bringing those pages up to date.

What I did was remove three sections from the end of Chapter 5, changing the cut-off date of that chapter from 2009 to 2008.  The removed sections are now Chapter 6, which I call “The USA Today (not the newspaper!).”  Whenever I write any new sections for the project, they will go in Chapter 6.  The original Chapter 6, my Canadian history chapter, was renumbered; it’s now Chapter 7.

Here are the papers I have for that project.  If you have not seen them yet, go to and click on the links:

Chapter 1: Native America (Before 1607)
Chapter 2: Colonial America (1607 to 1783)
Chapter 3: Pioneer America (USA 1783 to 1861, Canada 1783 to 1867)
Chapter 4: Industrial America (USA 1861 to 1933)
Chapter 5: Pax Americana (USA 1933 to 2008)
Chapter 6: The USA Today
Chapter 7: The Great White North (Canada Since 1867)
Two special pages on US presidential elections and the Black Muslims

How UK Honors Its Coaches

It has been a nice week in central Kentucky, weather–wise.  The temperature outside has fallen until it is in the 60s and 70s by day, 50s or less by night; it was even 43 yesterday morning.  Aside from all the rain we got on Monday and Tuesday, it has been ideal for outdoor activities, while inside, we have reached the perfect situation where we can be comfortable without running either the heat or the air conditioning.

On Monday I got four phone calls from the agency that sent me to Connecticut last year.  This time they offered me a temporary job that’s less than half as far away – in Cahokia, Illinois, also known as East St. Louis.  Of course it’s a long shot, but who knows?  After a week and a half without finding any job that is even worth applying for, this one looked pretty good.  In the meantime, while waiting for any other message about that job, I remind anyone who cares to listen that 900 years ago, Cahokia was the largest city in America.

One of the main events in Lexington this week was the unveiling of a statue of Joe B. Hall, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach from 1972 to 1985.  The coach himself is alive and well, and thus attended the unveiling; I know he is active in the community because he is one of two talk show hosts that does the “Joe B. and Denny Show”, on the radio from 11 AM to noon on weekdays.  Anyway, he joked about pigeons appreciating the statue; here he is, sitting between the statue and the current coach, John Calipari.

A statue honoring legendary former Kentucky head coach Joe B. Hall was unveiled in front of the Wildcat Coal Lodge on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

And here you can read about the unveiling and watch a video of it:

Joe B. Hall statue unveiled at new home of UK men’s basketball team

I think I told readers in the past about how here in Lexington, the one person everyone knows about is not the mayor, but the UK men’s basketball coach.  If you come and visit, for instance, I can show you where John Calipari’s house is (a block from Henry Clay’s estate).  That’s how serious this town is about college sports.  For those not familiar with our basketball, here is a summary of the coaches we have had since 1930, in fifteen words:

Rupp ruled,
Hall hailed,
Sutton sucked,
Pitino prevailed,
Tubby toppled,
Gillespie gulped, and
Calipari conquered!

Our Secret Weapon–Bacon and Beer?

I don’t see Islam ever getting popular in Alaska, because it’s too far north.  How do you observe the Ramadan fast in a place that experiences the midnight sun, if Ramadan falls in the summer like it’s doing this year?  Likewise, I don’t see Islam catching on in Hawaii.  According to Wikipedia there are 2,000 Moslems in that state (1,999 if you don’t count President Obama), but it’s hard to be perpetually angry in a place as nice as that.  Along that line, have you noticed that Indonesia is 90 percent Moslem, but the inhabitants of Bali, another famous island paradise, still practice the ancient religion that existed before Islam came to the rest of the archipelago?

Last year I shared two videos from this Wild Bill fellow; now he seems to have hit the nail on the head, about what Americans will really fight for.  My favorite line is this one on why Americans should drink:  “We don’t have the option of putting unattractive women in burkas, and if it wasn’t for alcohol, liberal women might never have children!”

Islam will never conquer America’s Heartland as long as we remember the message in this video.  You know it’s true with Texas, and I can testify it’s true with Kentucky, too.  In Florida there is a chain of restaurants that specializes in salads, called Crisper’s, but after six years I have not found any restaurant like that here in Kentucky.  On the other hand, we have plenty of barbecues.  On July 10 I went to the newest barbecue place in Lexington, to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and boy was it crowded!  Normally I dislike crowds but the food was fine, the service was very efficient and the customers were happy, so I’ll probably go back there some day.

Likewise, I felt a little homesick in Connecticut last January, when my birthday came around and my whole family was hundreds of miles away.  Two months earlier I discovered an authentic Southern-style barbecue over there called RW’s; it is probably the only one in that part of Connecticut, a state where you are usually within walking distance of a Mom-and-Pop-style Italian restaurant.  Anyway, I went there for my birthday, and they cheered me up.