Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trump is "honored" to have been a part of this? Trump is an idiot.

I used to think that a successful CEO of a large commercial entity would be the best candidate for president of the United States. Jimmy Carter was a successful CEO, but he was not a very good president. It simply wasn't the right job for him. After getting out from under that millstone, he became a great statesman and humanitarian. Ross Perot might have been a great president, but he stumbled too many times on the campaign trail. A presidential campaign requires charisma and leadership, which he had in spades, but also diplomacy and tact, which he didn't value and therefore didn't stock up on.

Now we have Donald Trump, with one of the world's biggest fortunes and an ego to match. A week or two ago, Trump jumped on the "birther" bandwagon, echoing the idiots that four years ago started claiming that Barack Obama was not a natural-born citizen of the U.S., and therefore constitutionally ineligible to be president.

And Trump wouldn't shut up about it. All sorts of perfectly valid, perfectly legal proofs of birth were brought out by Obama's campaign office pre-election, and by the White House post-election, but those weren't good enough for the "birthers," and loudly not good enough for Trump, either.

What Donald Trump and the other "birthers" loudly demanded was a confidential document, the "long form birth certificate," which by law could only be requested by, and released to, those who had signed the birth certificate. In Obama's case, that's his mother, the attending physician and one other person (not his father) whose identity escapes me.

I imagine that the president wields special powers, because the president requested, and Hawaii's state Director of Health approved, that the state release a copy of the document to him. One of the president's personal aides flew all the way to Hawaii, retrieved the copy, and flew all the way back to Washington D.C. The trip was completed with some haste, and so I don't think it was a commercial aircraft. That means that the taxpayers paid top dollar for this junket.

I'm not faulting President Obama here. I'm faulting Donald Trump, who wouldn't shut up about it, and whose ceaseless yammering about it became, in the words of White House spokesmen (including the president himself), a "distraction," "silliness", and a "sideshow." Every time the president or a spokesman would hold a press conference on one of the serious issues facing the Executive Office, someone would invariably ask a question about the "birther" issue -- and at least one follow-up question. What a ridiculous waste of time.

Try putting the shoe on the other foot. I'll bet there are a few things in Donald Trump's life that he'd prefer to keep private, things he would rather not share in public. What if every time Donald Trump was approached by a reporter, all they could ask him about was his many rumored affairs? Or his publicized and well-documented manipulation of bankruptcy laws? Or whether his hair was a poorly-fitted toupee or just an awful hairstyle?

Here's what White House spokesman Jay Carney had to say about the whole "birther" issue: "The president feels this was bad for the country, that it's not healthy for our political debate." And White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said, "It was a constant discussion on main stream news organizations."

Donald Trump is oblivious to such things. It doesn't matter to him if he inconveniences people and interrupts the workings of the nation, and forces taxpayer money to be spent on trivialities, as long as he gets the spotlight. Here's what he had to say about it, after landing in New Hampshire and taking full credit for getting the birth certificate released to the public: "He should have done it a long time ago. I am really honored to play such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue." (italics are mine)

I hope that Donald Trump gets his nose rubbed in this mess at every campaign stop. I hope that it becomes a distraction to his presidential campaign, to the point that he withdraws completely. I don't want to give the power of the executive office to someone as petty and self-important as he is.

Honored? I wouldn't want to take the credit for pulling off an idiotic stunt like this. He oughta just put on giant shoes, a puffy orange bowtie and a red clown nose. Democrat or Republican, I wouldn't vote for him if he were the last billionaire egomaniac on earth.

UPDATE, April 28: From this morning's paper, here are the words of the Prez himself: "We do not have time for this kind of silliness .... We've got better stuff to do." And my personal favorite: "We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers." Hear that, Trump? He says you're an idiot! And most Americans agree with him.

And here's one final shot from Trump, who wants to go on record as still being an idiot: "I hope it's true so we can get on to much more important matters." (italics mine)

UPDATE, May 16: Donald Trump announced today that he will not run for president. Here is an excerpt from his announcement: "I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election. I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half heartedly. Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."

We'll give him props for those last two sentences. Prudence and good judgement like this don't come easily when power and ambition are on the line. (And world domination.)

However, his first sentence, the one that sounds like "yeah, I could win if I wanted to," is a throwaway line. It's an unprovable assertion, the kind of smack talk that comes from a bully or a smartmouth who knows he'll never have to back it up with action. Talk is cheap, especially talk like that.

"So, Brain, what are we gonna do tomorrow night?"

"The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What hurts, part 2

(This is another rerun from something I posted on Myspace when I was a schoolteacher, again from October 2006.)

Sometimes my kids can't concentrate in school or get their homework done at home because their mom is an alcoholic and a smoker and their stepdad yells a lot, and the kids stay awake way past midnight because they can't get to sleep while mom and stepdad are yelling and fighting in the next room, and the only way to get away from it is to stay with their dad who lives and works about 30 miles away, so they have to get up extra early to go to school, and they have to wait for him to pick them up when he gets off work, and so it's either endure the long hours and the 30-mile drives every day or endure the drinking and the fighting at home, and although I take my hat off to honor the dad for doing what he's doing for the kids, it's still a sucky situation for the kids any way you look at it, and it's no wonder they can't get any learning done.

Rather than try to teach them math, I want to give them a blanket, a pillow, some cookies and milk and let them curl up someplace safe in my room for an hour and a half.

How much is a teacher worth?

(This is a rerun of a note I posted on Myspace in October, 2006, back when I was a schoolteacher. It's even more relevant today than it was back then. Oh, and it turns out that my $45,000 figure was almost right on, for the state of Colorado in 2006.)

Okay, let's do a math problem here.

Let's say that the average teacher makes $45,000 a year. (That's probably a little off, but let's go with it.)

Now, that teacher has to work 182 days out of the year. Maybe 7 of those days are non-student-contact days, which takes us down to 175 days spent with students. That means a teacher makes, um $257.14 per teaching day. Or, to look at it another way, the taxpayers pay a teacher $257.14 a day to teach their kids. (Did everybody follow that?)

Good! Now, a typical teacher sees 80 to 100 students a day. Mrs. D. sees 96 students in three class periods. I see 83 students in three class periods. Let's use 90 as a (very) rough average. Divide a teacher's daily pay, $257.14, by 90 students. You should get $2.86.

That's right, two dollars and eighty-six cents. That's how much the taxpayers pay teachers to teach one student for between 60 and 90 minutes.

1. My own students make more money than that per hour, babysitting.
2. At those kinds of wages, why would anyone ever consider teaching as a profession?
3. Those of us who teach do it for more than the money. You kids are a BIG part of why we teach.
4. Now you know why some teachers are so crabby. You would be too, if that's all you got paid for dealing with the crap some kids throw at them ('scuse the expression).
5. Teacher pay is a highly visible measure of the value, or lack thereof, that the American taxpayer puts on education.
6. Any adult who votes down a local school district funding proposal is either very selfish, or has sawdust for brains. Do the math, grown-ups!

Some people say, "Well yeah, but teachers get the summer off, and two weeks at Christmas, and spring break, and so on." Most teachers work another job or take additional college courses, required to keep their teaching license, during their "summer off." And most teachers spend "spring break" at home, grading projects and getting ready for the final few weeks of school. The kids come back from vacation with stories about Cancun, Hawaii and Europe, and the teachers smile warmly and choke down their envy.

I love my students, and they love me. Many teachers aren't as fortunate as I am. For whatever reason, they don't get the affection, the gratitude and the non-monetary paybacks that I've gotten. If you want to make a teacher's day, pick one of the less popular ones and say something nice (like "thanks") to him or her. If enough of you do it, you might just make up for the lousy pay.