Saturday, January 28, 2012


There are a number of post lately with clips of favorite earlier country singers.

Here's one of mine:  Dick Curless.

the Ol'Buzzard



President Obama appeared on TV with his Secretary of Education who outlined his objectives to revitalize the educational systems so as to guarantee a more educated population of the future. 

Sorry, but it is a failure before it starts. 

My background is in education: I have taught elementary, middle school and highs school, and I have been both an elementary and a high school principal. 

Let me address this policy from my point of view.

The new Secretary of Education comes from a background of privileged schools.   These are schools that succeed and score high because the demographic is upper socio-economic, and most parents have a college background.    The schools that are failing do not have the same demographic, the same problems or require the same solutions; and I find the Secretary out of touch with these schools

The Secretary’s entire focus seems to be the same old trite mantra of blame the teachers: increase certification requirements, reward the good teachers and get rid of the bad teachers. 

There are very few bad teachers – but there are plenty of burned-out teachers.   Teachers that enter the field of education are definitely not motivated by income.   They tend to have an ability to teach, they pass strenuous requirements and they hope to find working with young people rewarding. 

The fallacy about bad teachers has been decried by politicians and echoed by unsupportive parents.   When I went to school, had the teacher or principal called my grandmother and said I was misbehaving in class I would have caught hell when I got home – the teacher would have been supported and not vilified.  This is not the case today. 

Teachers undergo the most strenuous oversight of any occupation.   They are required to continue college courses in order to recertify every five years, and at inservices throughout the year and in the summer teachers are brought up to speed on the latest teaching techniques and philosophies.   New teachers receive two formal evaluations each year and tenured teachers receive at least one formal evaluation each year.  Teachers who are having a problem are placed on improvement plans and assisted with improvement.  A good principal not only conducts formal evaluations but sits in on every class room at least a couple of times a month.  Teachers are always under supervision.   

There are occasionally superior teachers; but there are also many good – in the trenches – teachers that teach to the curriculum and do their best, under adverse conditions, to care and educate their young wards.  

More than likely your child’s teacher is better educated than your local bank president, and yet works for a salary more comparable to skilled labor.   The Secretary stated the need to drastically increase the salary of teachers in order to attract other highly qualified people who tend to go into more lucrative fields.   This is needed, but where does the money come from?    

 The Secretary also promoted performance pay – this is not only demoralizing to other teachers but also will tend to go to the teachers in the more productive (elite) schools that continue to excel in test scores. 

The fallacy is, that here again, we are setting up a one size fits all education outline which is contrived by elite educators and unqualified politicians and that is not suited to all public school demographics.

In the average public school, and particularly the schools in crisis, the major problem is that children come into the system unprepared to learn.  These children have poor social skills and are backed by parents unwilling to take responsibility for their child’s behavior.   These children know that bucking the teacher will result in little or no consequence; therefore, classroom behavior has become the major problem for every teacher.   Some of the children are in school to learn; but for many, disrupting the classroom is the goal that will result in peer approval.   Some of these children are actually dangerous.  There are few tools that teachers have to command discipline, and without a disciplined class room requisite learning is impossible. 

The failure to maintain discipline in the classroom is often the fault of the principal, and by extension the superintendent.   Without a strong principal to back the classroom teacher, a knowledgeable teacher can be barbarized by the students, humiliated by the parents and unable to impart the required subject matter. 

Here is the rub: the principal and superintendent hold political positions and are hired and fired at the whim of the school board; therefore, principals (and superintendents) tend to placate irate parents instead of backing the classroom teacher in a controversy.   

School boards are not made up of educators, but most often of parents who have an axe to grind or local politicians looking for an addition on their resumes.   These board members don’t have the education background or the in-class-room experience to understand the complexities of class room teaching.  My last school board was far more concerned (and militant) about why certain children were not eligible to play basketball, than supporting teachers and increasing learning.  The monthly school board meetings were always more like an inquisition than a cooperative learning exercise.

Now we come to testing:  I have taught school in the Eskimo and Indian villages of the Alaskan Bush.  In these villages grandparents speak the traditional language, parents and children speak a bastardized mixture of English and Native language – yet on the test they are expected to read and write and comprehend in highly stylized English.   A few can get past this hurtle, but many can’t.   So, instead of the children being evaluated by twelve years of education within a cultural perspective, we condemn many of these children to failure.   Is it fair to that Native children and children from other cultural perspectives to be denied a diploma, and thereby denied other opportunities for growth and development in adult life, because they can not meet some arbitrary standard devised by politicians and the educational elite?  

It is not rocket science:

We need 100% Federal financing of public schools.

If we took the money we spend on maintaining the largest and most expensive military in the world and divert it to educating our children the problem would be solved.  The main answer for increasing educational outcome for all of our children is a smaller student-to-teacher ratio.  More highly paid teachers in a classroom with a maximum of twelve children would insure the one-on-one time necessary to advance each student.  In low performing schools the student-to-teacher ratio should be smaller.

There is also the necessity to set a high standard of order and discipline in the classroom by removing disruptive student.  There should be highly structured alternative public schools available for the assignment of habitually disruptive students.  Difficult parents of disruptive students would always have the option of enrolling their child in a private school (at their own expense.)

Finally we need to do away with local school boards and have schools run by non-elected educators.   Superintendents and principals need to be judged on performance not popularity.   Expectations of Superintendents and principals need to be increased and teacher performance will follow. 

It is as simple as where we place our priorities: 
We spend more of our National Budget maintaining our massive military than every other country in the world spends on their military - combined.  Likewise, we spend far less on the education of our children than most other advanced countries.  True educational reform of public schools will be costly - a tweek here and a tweek there will not solve the problem.

Educational reform is a political talking point, but the will to actually tackle the problem does not exist.   

The rich and well to do of this country are not concerned about the standard of education of their children – they will have the best education money can buy.   These same people are not particularly concerned about the war fodder being matriculated through our public schools – though they speak to “the problem.”     We have in this country a disconnect between the have and have not’s.    And, as long as the focus of our government is to placate the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, serious educational reform of public schools will remain a political talking point and our education system will continue to decline. 

the Ol'Buzzard approves this post.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Strategic Vision

Bigniew Brezinski is one of the most intelligent men alive today.  He is currently publishing his new book Strategic Vision.   He appeared on Morning Joe on MSMBC on the 24th and 25th of January to discuss his book which details the decline of America as the preeminent power in the world.  

There is nothing I could add to this post that would enhance this discussion.   It is a must see – and possibly the final word on the state of the nation.  
the Ol’Buzzard

(this begins with a clip from the State of the Union, but stay tuned.)

Friday, January 20, 2012


I first saw Etta James live was at the Henderson, Kentucky Blues Festival.

Presidents, politicians and prominent people come and go, but when we loose a talent like Etta – it is a lasting hurt. 

Turn up the volume and


the Ol'Buzzard

Thursday, January 19, 2012



According to Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, all corporations are viewed as persons – with all the financial rights to donate to campaigns as any individual.   Romney said that corporations are people.

I am just wondering:
If it can be determined that a corporation was conceived and born in the United States could we apply for a birth certificate, and if so could we run a corporation for President? 

This would surely cut out the entire red tap.   Why nominate a proxy of big business for President?   Just go for the real thing.  


the Ol’Buzzard
(and don’t call me Shirley.)

Monday, January 16, 2012



I am seventy-plus years old.   I have been around the block numerous times; and though I don’t think that age necessarily equates to intelligence – I can post an impressive resume.  And, the one thing I know for sure is: I don’t blindly trust our government to act in our best interest.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a loyal American (of American ideals) – and I have the scars to prove it.  But, I don’t trust our government (politicians.)    Our government has never been a government of the people, by the people… etc.   It has always been the government of special interest and “the bigger picture” gamesmanship.

Our government constantly packages swamp land as “Preferred Real Estate Property” and sells it to the citizenry.   They tell us it’s candy but in the bottom of the box there is often a scorpion.

The last thing I blindly bought into was the liberation of the South Vietnamese people in the Vietnam war; only to discover that our real reason for occupying South Vietnam was to tactically establish a permanent nuclear military presence on the southern border of China (sounds familiar in reverse: Cuban missile crisis.)    Then, of course, “Iraqi Freedom” where a White House full of oil men invade a country with the second largest oil reserve on earth. 

We have constantly been sold a bill of goods only to find that some patriotic spin name has been added to cover up the smell:  The Patriot Act – I need say no more.

We have moved from Bush’s “phone tapping of (only) foreign suspected terrorist”, to authorized surveillance of American citizens and to expanded surveillance authority for civilian police.  Now Obama has just signed an appropriations bill that allows the government to arrest and detain, without trial, any American citizen suspected of terrorist connections.   Obama says he will not use this authority, but what about a future fundamentalist, Tea Party, Republican President – what about a President Cheney clone?  
 Think about how this could fit in to George Orwell’s 1984 repackaged as 20XX.  

Now there is a new government threat covertly aimed at taking the first step to control and censor the Internet.

On October 26, 2011 the Bill HR-3261 was introduced by Lamar Smith (R-TX.)   The bill is touted to prevent the piracy of U.S. copyrighted material.  The bill is commonly known as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act.)  The actual title is “To Promote Prosperity, Creativity, and Innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes."

It’s the - “and for other purposes,” - that bothers me.  At first glance the bill seems to require Internet providers to monitor customer’s traffic and block web sites suspected of copyright infringement.  

But, the bill also states that it would make unauthorized streaming of copyright material a crime with a maximum imprisonment of 5 years for ten infringements within six months.

That has me nailed; and probably everyone reading this blog who include pictures or YouTube clips on your post.  This is an open invitation to some political regime of the future to use the NSA or FBI to monitor web sites and blogs that they feel are not in the best interest of Big Brother and shut you down; or to threaten or actually imprison people that speak out.    (Does anybody still remember the First Amendment to the Constitution?)

The internet should not be the property of any government and no government should have the right to censor it “for the greater good” of its people.

the Ol’Buzzard.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012



I am up this morning at six o clock and as I pass the window, on the way to the bathroom, I note the snow has not arrived.   WCSH weather forecasters said it would start at six: six to ten inches in our area.   We have had one snow this winter worth shoveling out.  As I start the fire to warm up our cabin, my wife is still in bed,  I am joined by our old cat.  She somewhat impatiently waits for me to finish the fire and make her breakfast of salmon juice laced with her thyroid pill.

 I sit and watch the fire build in the wood stove and think about the earlier days and the changing face of Maine. When I first came to Maine in 1962, Maine was still a wilderness.   At that time Rangeley, Maine was a two cafĂ© and one grocery store town (now, like L.L. Bean, it has become a yuppie Mecca for sportsman.)   My buddy and I would drive the icy roads to Rangeley to deer hunt – and you had better bring your snow shoes if you planned to leave the road.  In that era snow came in the woods in late fall and staid and grew; by mid winter you could step off your snowshoes and sink in a drift up to your chest.   There were no snowmobiles; and few people other than the locals.  

In the spring I would go to Joe Mary Lake and spend a week.  More than likely I would not see another human unless I went out to the local town for supplies.  In the evening, by the camp fire, I would listen to the wood cock and the king fisher as they settled in, followed by the song of the night hawks and fish splashing in the shallows as the sun went down.   In the morning I would climb from my sleeping bag and shiver as I lit my fire set.  I would set the tea water on the Coleman gas stove and then go down to the lake’s edge to wash my face and get a bucket of water; I would often find a moose feeding in the nearby cove and sometimes see bear tracks on the beach.   Back at the fire I would warm up and get dressed - a cup of tea – some cold biscuits from the night before and then out in the canoe for the morning trout rise.   Today Joe Mary Lake is filled with housing. 

In the early sixties I ran the Allagash River.  We drove two hours on dirt logging roads to get to the base lakes to launch.   It took us three days paddling (and fishing) on the base lakes to finally arrive at the dam that marks the headwaters of the river.   The Allagash runs 110 miles, from south at the dam, north to the town of Allagash - where we would take out.   The first fifteen miles of the river, known as Chase Carry Rapids, is a sometimes dangerous but always challenging stretch of water.  Once you have run Chase Carry the rest of the rapids are manageable; the only other concern being Allagash Falls.    We spent seven days on the river - and on the fourth day a motorized canoe with a game warden stopped and talked to us, and then headed north – we didn’t see him or anyone else again.   The trip was through beautiful, unspoiled wilderness - what memories.   

Back in Brunswick, about once a month, my buddy and I (we were both in the Navy and both Maine State guides) would  get off work, drink a few beers and around midnight decide to drive fourteen miles to L.L.Bean.  Today Bean is a mega store catering to upscale couples: selling everything from designer boots to clothing to household furnishings – their hunting and fishing supplies are there more for the ambience then to cater to the local Maine woodsmen.  

Back then, L.L. Beans was a warehouse – with concrete floors.  They were known for their rubber-bottom-leather-top hunting boots.   Bean was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; but made most of its money selling mail order.   Their products were designed and practical for Maine and the northern bush wilderness.  When you entered the front door there was a counter with pipes for sale and pipe tobacco: they always had open cans for sampling and my buddy and I would fill our pipes and spend two or three hours rambling through the store checking out Fendwick fly rods, fishing flys, guns, Old Town canoes and tents.  Back in the parking lot we would drink some more beer or whiskey before heading back to our respective families.  The next day we would show up work somewhat bleary eyed, at the Navy survival school where we were assigned. 

Here it is: eleven o clock and still no snow.  

 Maine still has beautiful wilderness, but not as pristine and untrod as it use to be.  Today hikers on the Appalachian Trail look for high terrain where they can find a cell phone connection.   People carry GPS instead of compasses.   They dress in microfiber instead of wool.   At night they sit around the camp fire with headphones in their ears while texting or playing Angry Birds on their cell phones. 

There are thousands of miles of snowmobile trails that now crisscrossing the Maine wilderness.   Where my cabin is located there are seven camps owned by people from Massachusetts.   They are good people, and they maintain their camps.  Usually, on a long week-end they show up on a Friday night – whoop it up – and the next morning, bright and early head out in a pack, like Hell’s Angles of the wilderness.  They storm along the snowmobile trails for a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles to some designated lay over where they have rooms reserved and they can enjoy a steak dinners, sit in a hot tub, drink beer and ogle at the waitresses.   The next morning they are up at dawn for another marathon ride to their next destination.   Finally on the third night they return to their camps – crash early and the next morning head back to Massachusetts - driving too fast, and riding the bumpers of the slower Maine drivers.   It is kind of sad: I can see more wildlife and experience more of the wilderness wonders in one hour on my snowshoes than they will see in three days.

What has happened to the Maine wilderness?   I guess I am among the last generation to remember the skills of camping and woodcraft - being alone and traveling through the wilderness.   It breaks my heart to see the warning in the Maine Fishing Regulations telling pregnant women not to eat the fish from Maine waters and warning fishermen not to have more than one fish meal a week.  

There was a time when our little town had one old, rundown theater; and you could get a meal at either the local diner or one prepared at the local drugstore on hot plates.  At that time my wife and I lived in an old farm house without water, sewerage or electricity and we traveled back and forth to college on our motorcycle.

Today the Maine wilderness has opened up – it is now a destination for people seeking their “get away.”  MaineVacation Land.    Change has its up side and down side: now our little town has nice restaurants and a multiplex movie theater; we have an excellent hospital and many amenities we would not have with out the growth and tourism. 

I am retired and my wife and I make (barely) enough to keep the wolf away from the door.  And, at my age I know my future is short; but I would not trade the memories I have of the real Maine wilderness for the memories that the young people of today are amassing.

It is noon and still no snow.   I wonder where the snow has gone – perhaps the Massachusetts people have taken it. 

Two p.m. it’s snowing.

 the Ol'Buzzard

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Excerpt from: TIMELINE, by Michael Crichton.

“Everybody expects to be entertained, and they expect to be entertained all the time.   Business meetings must be snappy, with bullet list and animated graphics, so executives aren’t board.   Malls and stores must be engaging, so they amuse as well as sell us.   Politicians must have pleasing video personalities and tell us only what we want to hear.   Schools must be careful not to bore young minds that expect the speed and complexity of television.   Students must be amused – everyone must be amused, or they will switch: switch brands, switch channels, switch parties, switch loyalties.   This is the intellectual reality of western society at the end of the century… The great fear is not of disease or death, but of boredom.   A sense of time on our hands, a sense of nothing to do.   A sense that we are not amused.”

Crichton not only writes a great story in TIMELINE, but between the lines are truisms that jump out at you if you read carefully.  

Look at today’s Republican Presidential caucuses – very few people are interested in the actual policies, and the future results these policies would have on the nation at large.   People hear only what they want to hear, and they will switch if their candidate is not amusing. 

Regardless of Democrat or Republican; any politician that dares deal with the dry, realistic, real politics of a party, without amusing, is dead in the water.  

Dead in the water: Along with that line of thought – by all means read Crichton’s EATERS OF THE DEAD (later repackaged as THE 13th. WARRIOR.) 

the Ol'Buzzard

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Buzzard Egg Omelet #3


This Christmas there were pictures on the TV of people, mostly children, from Darfur.  They were malnourished – they looked like skeletons with a skin covering; their bones stuck out, their limbs were ricketed.    These were to poor – they were the poor of the country.

In the book The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga - he writes about rural India.  His protagonist wishes to be fat, because he says that being fat is a sign of wealth – it is a sign that you are successful – that you have made it.  

In the United States, however, the rich are thin and the poor are fat.   The more affluent you are the thinner you are apt to be, and the closer to welfare the more chance you have of being fat – obese. 

Isn’t that ironic?

Rick Santorum for President?

Rick Santorum is more dangerous to a free society, than any Republican Presidential candidate.  The election of Santorum would be a giant step toward a theocracy.  He makes statements of his strongly held beliefs and then juxtaposes them with a caveat saying if elected he would not support the legislation of these beliefs.

If you want to waste the next forty five minutes, elevate your blood pressure and fuck up your composure for the rest of the week-end, watch the attached clips. 

Marriage is a bridge too far for African American women and undesirable for African American men – resulting in 75% of black children being born out of wedlock.    And, we don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money.

Same sex marriage is a violation of natural law and should not be sanctioned by the state.  Same sex marriage should be prohibited.

We should reinstate Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – or, if pollible, prevent gays from serving in the military.

Abortion should be a crime and abortion doctors prosecuted. Women should be forced to give birth to the child of a rapist, a pedophile or that is a product of incest.   A child is a human from the moment of conception and should be protected.

How a woman would stand before Santorum's God.

Social Security is insolvent because one-third of all children are aborted:  criminalizing abortion would solve the Social Security dilemma.

Santorum Supports the assassination of scientist working in Iran.

The base of the Democratic Party is single mothers living off government welfare.  The solution for welfare is to eliminate single parent families (make divorce harder - illegal?)

God’s law (Christian law) should take precedence over civilian law.   BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID.

Santorum and Glen Beck: bomb – bomb – bomb Iran.  Profile Muslims

Posted by the Ol'Buzzard
All-right - this has nothing to do with my  post
but I couldn't help myself.