Monday, February 26, 2018

Delinquent Disability

How was Nikolas Cruz able to buy a gun after so many reports to both school officials and law enforcement that he was “dangerous” and “about to blow”? The short answer is that even though Cruz had likely broken the law, he had no record. Why? Because schools and law enforcement cover up crimes by kids like Cruz in Florida and elsewhere. Why? Because it keeps budgets down and they get awards for doing it.

Juvenile delinquents aged 14-18 were my first students in 1975, but weren’t called that. Under the Massachusetts’ first-in-the-nation special ed law “juvenile delinquents" were re-labeled “emotionally disturbed.” They had a “disability.” That didn’t make them any less delinquent, but it signaled a new approach with lots of tax dollars to implement it. The special ed bureaucracy was born and eventually grew into the national behemoth it is now.

My “disabled” students were habitually absent Mondays because they were being arraigned after getting arrested over the weekend for shoplifting, drug possession, breaking and entering, purse-snatching, and other crimes. When I asked if they were afraid of going to jail they said, “They can’t do anything to me until I’m eighteen. I’ll stop then.” Massachusetts had closed all its county reform schools as part of its new approach. 

Special ed law gave my students a legal right to a free, appropriate education to “meet their needs” in the “least restrictive environment” no matter what the cost. Mine was a private day school with 100 students and 36 professional staff. Tuition was expensive, but not as costly as a residential school which would be the next step on the restrictive environment continuum. Those could cost $80,000 per year in 1980 dollars — much more now I’m sure.

At such prices, school systems kept residential placements to a minimum. My day school clearly wasn’t “meeting their needs” if students were arrested so often, but “evaluation team” meetings were confidential, inclined to smooth things over with little or no oversight. Only rapists and murderers went to residential placement. The rest avoided punishment because they attended our special school, but unlike in today’s Florida, their crimes were on record at least. 

In spite of all the money spent during my two years there, I saw little evidence of rehabilitation. After obtaining a graduate degree I became a special ed director for a Maine school district for another two years before going back to the classroom to teach history.

Years later a “disabled” boy came into my history class mid-year with a full-time aide assigned just to him. I knew his family and suspected the district was babysitting him to avoid the cost of residential placement. He reminded me of the worst delinquents I taught in Massachusetts and he didn’t stay long. I wasn’t told where he went or why. Later, he was the prime suspect in the murder of his father, was arrested with someone who slit the throat of a cab driver, and was jailed for assaulting a local woman in a home invasion. I don’t know what he’s doing now.

The “new approach” I saw forty years ago has “progressed” in Florida and probably explains why Nikolas Cruz could buy a gun., reported that schools and cops in Dade County and Broward County began covering up their crimes, including those by Trayvon Martin, allegedly to circumvent the “school-to-prison pipeline” for minority male students, It was supposed to remain confidential, but word leaked out. An Internal Affairs investigation didn’t look into the cover-ups, only the leaks. Mainstream media gave that story a good leaving alone.

Then came federally-imposed quotas on how many minority students could be suspended during the Obama Administration which accelerated coverups of juvenile crime. According to “Initially the police were excusing misdemeanor behaviors. However, it didn't take long until felonies, even violent felonies (armed robberies, assaults and worse) were being excused.” 

The Miami Herald reports that Nikolas Cruz was transferred six times in three years because of his extremely disruptive behavior. If my experience is any guide, it’s likely the district was trying to cut costs. “Under federal [special ed] law, Nikolas Cruz had a right to a ‘free and appropriate’ education at a public school near him. His classmates had a right to an education free of fear. Their rights often collided,” said the Herald.

No kidding.

Some media erroneously reported Cruz was expelled. He wasn’t. That is illegal for someone with a “disability.” Cruz was sent back at Douglas High School and whatever he might have done remained confidential under federal law. Without a criminal record, he could pass an FBI background check and buy a gun because whatever crimes he may have committed would have been covered up by school resource officers — like the one who cowered outside as Cruz murdered his classmates.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Train Teachers To Shoot Intruders

Five years ago I wrote a column titled: “Time to Arm Teachers.” That wasn’t a popular notion in 2013 but perhaps its time has come after the Florida shootings last week.

The idea was pitched to me by men uniquely qualified to train those teachers willing to carry concealed weapons and confront armed intruders in schools. One was father to a former student who’d done several tours in the Middle East as a Green Beret. He was still doing three-month hitches in Afghanistan with his team of other highly-trained, contracted soldiers who would deploy for ninety days over there, then serve another ninety here in New England protecting courthouses, then back to Afghanistan, and so on.

When asked my opinion of their proposed enterprise I said it was a great concept, but public schools would never allow it, being almost completely staffed by anti-gun leftists who believe only stricter gun laws will prevent school shootings. Maybe school officials have since taken a lesson observing Chicago over the interim five years where even with the strictest gun laws, almost as many young people are shot every weekend as were shot last week in Florida.

Our schools have been “gun-free zones” for twenty-eight years now since Senator Joe Biden introduced the bill that became federal law in 1990, and how has that worked out? We could argue that “Gun-Free Zone” signs posted at schools attract whackos like Nikolas Cruz who can be assured that nobody in the school will be able to shoot back.

Gun-free zones parody

People like guns where I live in rural Maine because when seconds count, the police are minutes away — and my town doesn’t have a police department. We rely on the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police. They do as good a job as they can, but it’s not enough. Armed criminals tried to break my neighbor’s house across the street and were repelled after discovering the old man who lived there with his elderly wife had a gun of his own. Police arrested the men later based on my neighbors’s descriptions.

“When you see something, say something” we’re told by the FBI, but people have said something several times lately to no effect. The FBI was warned about the Tsarnaev brothers who blew up the Boston Marathon. They were warned about Omar Mateen before he shot over a hundred people in the Orlando night club massacre. And, they were also warned about Nikolas Cruz before he killed students and teachers last week.

When I started teaching here in rural Maine forty years ago, young men came to school with high-powered, semi-automatic rifles on racks across the back windows of their pickup trucks during hunting season. Those guns could have been used to shoot up the school but they weren’t. Guns haven’t changed since then but people have — and that’s clearly the problem.

Mainstream media don’t report stories like that, or incidents like my elderly neighbors scaring off intruders with their gun. They don’t fit the progressive, Democrat, gun-control narrative. Media did print warnings about what would happen if Maine and New Hampshire allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons without permits, but those states went ahead anyway.

Concealed carry permits were never required in Vermont and sensible people knew it wouldn’t be a problem in Maine or NH either. It’ll be three years this summer here in Maine and there’s been no increase in gun violence. It’s been a year in New Hampshire. Vermont never had a problem.

There’s a squad car parked outside Whole Foods in Portland every day. Inside stands an armed cop who I asked one day why he was always there. There’s usually a cop in Portland supermarkets he said, often in plain clothes. We see them in airports and court houses. The student council at my last school had to pay a cop to guard school dances. During my last few years I could only use the main entrance because other doors were locked on the outside. Why not post an armed guard there and arm teachers in every wing of the school? That’s what Israel does — a country in a constant state of war. They’ve had only two school shootings in over forty years.

Ever since Columbine twenty years ago, brave teachers have died shielding students with their bodies at nearly every school in which shootings have occurred. Imagine if those teachers had been armed. How many students could they have protected if they shot back at the intruder instead of just absorbing his bullets? Had they been armed, we would likely be seeing stories of how Nikolas Cruz was killed attempting to enter the school instead of the national keening we’re undergoing now.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Left and Right February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday, Valentine's Day coincide, State of the Union, FBI guy Bill Priestap, Russia/Trump alleged collusion, voter ID, winners and losers, good news/bad news, Iran/Israeli sable-rattling, GDP nears 5%, national debt rising under Trump as a national security issue, House intelligence committee memo, Democrat memo, Susan Rice email to self. Lame duck President Obama withholding information from incoming President Trump? Russia/Trump "collusion" case disintegrating.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Skiing With The Grandchildren

Shawnee Peak in summer

This is the third winter during which, together with their mother and their other grandfather, I’ve been teaching four of my grandchildren to ski. Their mother was a racer during high school. The other grandfather is a retired principal who once coached a ski team. Their father comes as well when he can take time off from interning to become a teacher and running a contracting business. I’m a retired history teacher and former ski instructor.

On a winter evening

We started with the older two, both girls, when they were five and four respectively. Last year, we began with their brothers — twin boys who were nearly four years old then and who will turn five in a couple of weeks. This year is more fun because all four can now ski on their own. No longer am I in perpetual snowplow with a child between my legs. No more must I follow one while holding a harness. All that was hard on my aging body.

One of the twins starts to get it

This year I can I can get to know each of them better individually as we ride up on the lift together and talk. Then we slide off and experience the sheer joy of letting gravity pull us back down the hill as we shush from side to side — all the way to the bottom. We ski right back onto the lift because there are no lines to wait in. It’s up-and-down all morning, then into the lodge for lunch.

Granddaughter learning
Every Tuesday is homeschoolers’s day at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, Maine and we pretty much have the mountain to ourselves as homeschooling families from southern Maine predominate. We arrive about ten in the morning and leave around three in the afternoon — just as busloads of public school students arrive and noisily fill up the lodge. Every week I’m struck by the contrast in demeanor between homeschool and public school kids.

One of the twins on the "magic carpet"

There’s a sweetness about homeschoolers; they look me in the eye and smile. Public schoolers seldom do as they’re almost entirely absorbed with one another. Homeschoolers respect grownups while public schoolers tolerate them, much preferring to interact only with each other and reluctantly permitting interruption by adults. It all brings back memories from twenty-five years ago when I used to race home from my classroom, get into my ski-instructor outfit, then race to Shawnee Peak to meet the public-school group of six to ten students I taught for six weeks.

Grandson picking it up
Usually I’d be assigned a group of beginners we called “Never-evers” because they’d never, ever been on skis. There was no “magic carpet” back then — the outdoor conveyor belt that carries skiers up a short, gentle, beginners area with barely enough slope for gravitational pull. We would have to select a flattish area between the lifts and practice just walking on skis.  Then I’d teach the “snowplow” or “wedge” or “pizza slice” as that beginning posture is variously called, before venturing to the bunny slope.

As when teaching anything to any group, some picked it up very quickly while others didn’t. Some took the entire six weeks to make it down the bunny slope by themselves. The fast-learners were quickly bored so I would pass them up to intermediate groups with other instructors while I continued working with the slow-learners. However, such common-sense ability-grouping was vehemently resisted in the public middle school where I taught US History. There, we were expected to teach students of varying abilities all together in one classroom because that was the sacrosanct “middle-school philosophy” of progressive educators. Maybe they’ve realized by now that philosophy only holds the fast learners back, but I doubt it.

After several years as an instructor, skiing lost much of its allure for me as it became associated more with work than with fun. I only did it because one of the benefits was that my own children got season passes I could not otherwise have afforded. Shawnee Peak is only ten minutes away so they skied several times a week. In the intervening fifteen or so years since then I’d skied only about a dozen times.

It’s different now. I’m still instructing but the fun is returning. The grandchildren love it and their excitement is infectious. They spontaneously split off into small groups with other homeschoolers of similar ability, each supervised by a parent or grandparent when necessary. Some stay on the bunny slope while others take different lifts to intermediate or expert slopes.

In one such group with my oldest granddaughter, I asked the names of the other girls and told them mine. One girl asked for my last name, explaining: “We’re not allowed to call grownups by their first names.” Charming. This is my second extended experience with homeschoolers since retiring from public school. Their numbers are growing fast and I hope it continues. They’re such a pleasure to work with after thirty-four years in public schools.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Pardon Edward Snowden


That was my response at a 2013 dinner party when an old friend challenged me to sum up in one word how I felt about Edward Snowden informing the world that the United States government has the ability to spy on anyone who uses a digital device to communicate — virtually all of us.

Like me, many Americans were of two minds: dismayed that Snowden shared vital US intelligence with our enemies, but also grateful to learn that government can monitor every phone call, email, text, Facebook post we make. It can turn on our computers’ cameras and watch what’s happening. It can turn on microphones in our cell phones and hear whatever it’s picking up. It can locate any of us using our cellphones’ GPS function.

I’m not ambivalent anymore. Now I would urge President Trump to pardon Edward Snowden and let him return to the United States from Moscow where he’s been holed up for the last five years to avoid prosecution for treason. Snowden is a hero. Why?

After last Friday’s release of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) memo, I watched Oliver Stone’s movie “Snowden” during the making of which Stone collaborated with Snowden himself for accuracy. One horrifying scene depicted Snowden looking over the shoulder of another CIA hacker as he surveilled a Pakistani banker whose name Snowden had just given him. Using the capabilities Snowden revealed to all of us in 2013, the hacker then gathered information not only on the banker, but on everyone with whom the banker had any contact — and anyone with whom each of them had contact — in an ever-widening network.

The hacker started by watching the banker’s sister get undressed in her bedroom through the camera on her laptop she had left open on her desk. Then he went into the daughter’s Facebook account and those of all her friends. Facebook messages revealed her sexual activities with a boyfriend whose own account revealed that he was having sex with two other girls as well — also that the cheating boyfriend and his mother were living illegally in Geneva, Switzerland.

The CIA leaked that information to get the boyfriend deported whereupon the daughter had a nervous breakdown. Agents used additional information from the ever-broadening surveillance to totally screw up the unfortunate banker’s life. Snowden was horrified, but he continued using his computer hacking skills to benefit the CIA for years before he finally resigned in 2013 and told the world what was happening.

We may assume the intelligence community’s spying capabilities are even more powerful five years hence but here’s the kicker: the extent of surveillance on that poor Pakistani banker Stone’s “Snowden” movie depicted was also applied to Carter Page, the low-level Trump campaign volunteer on whom the Obama FBI and DOJ obtained a FISA warrant.

NSA Headquarters

It wasn’t just any FISA warrant; it was a “Title I” FISA warrant. According to, the difference is: 

‘Title I’ FISA surveillance of U.S. citizens is the most intrusive, exhaustive and far reaching type of search, seizure and surveillance authority, permitting the FBI to look at every scintilla of Mr. Page’s life.  All communication, travel and contact can be opened and reviewed. All aspects of any of Mr. Page’s engagements are subject to being secretly monitored. This is an entirely different level of surveillance authority, the highest possible, and has nothing to do with FISA-702 search queries (Title VII) of U.S. persons.” goes on to explain the potentially explosive significance of Title I: 

Labeling [Carter Page] as a foreign agent allowed the FBI to look at every single person he came in contact with; and every single aspect of their lives and their activities in growing and concentric circles; without limits to current time or historic review. The “Title I” designation as a foreign agent applied retroactively to any action taken by Mr. Page, and auto-generates an exponential list of other people he came in contact with.  Each of those people, groups or organizations could now have their communication reviewed, unmasked and analyzed by the DOJ/FBI with the same surveillance authority granted upon the target, Mr. Page.” [emphasis added]


In other words, everyone in Trump Tower after October 21, 2016 could be surveilled. This Title I FISA warrant was obtained by the same Obama DOJ and FBI officials who “investigated” and cleared Hillary Clinton in her private email scandal during the campaign. The HPSCI memo tells us they used opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the form of the unverified Trump dossier. It’s no stretch to assume the Obama FBI and DOJ knew everything going on in Trump Tower two weeks before the election and during the transition. Did they share that information with the Clinton campaign and President Obama?

President Trump: How about pardoning Edward Snowden and doing a joint press conference?

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Left and Right show January 31, 2018

We discuss Trump's first state of the union address Tuesday. Gino offers background on FISA. Tom accuses him of doing preemptive mitigation ahead of the soon-to-be-released "memo" from the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats are afraid of what it will expose about Obama Administration efforts to influence the 2016 election. Gino beats the drum for Russia/Trump collusion. He claims Obama deserves credit for our current economic boom.