The United States of Africa

megacities_poverty_mainA few weeks ago I ran into Samuel, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States.   A well-educated businessman, his wife is a political consultant whose work takes her to every corner of Africa.  Samuel made his living buying cars in Europe and the USA, and selling them in Nigeria to corporate clients who work for Shell, Coca-Cola, and other well-heeled clients.  But he says it’s getting almost impossible to do business in Nigeria.

I try to keep up on international news, including Africa, and eagerly asked Samuel what’s happening in his home country.  He confirmed and amplified what I already knew: that Nigeria would be one of the wealthiest nations on Earth if it were not for the relentless government corruption.  Muhammadu Buhari was elected president last year, replacing the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.  Samuel told me Jonathan had risen to the presidency promising to put an end to the rampant cronyism and corruption that has infected the Nigerian government since its independence.  But under Jonathan the corruption only got worse.  And his replacement, Buhari, is no better, having installed his own cronies and schemes.   Samuel described how the government officials and their friends are putting him, and most Nigerian entrepreneurs, out of business.  He now drives Uber full time to put food on the table, and hasn’t been home for six months.

I sympathized with Samuel.  “That’s where my country is headed, too.  I would never have dreamed the United States government could become so corrupt.”

Hollywood could not come up with a plot so thin and unbelievable, and yet it unfolds before our eyes.

The U.S. Secretary of State sells influence to foreign leaders – greasing the skids for defense contracts, granting uranium mining rights on US soil to Russia, steering favorable rulings from international agencies – in exchange for cash contributions to her “foundation”, which is nothing more than a multi-billion dollar slush fund.  The foundation pays no taxes and makes few charitable contributions; even worse, it siphons off legitimate disaster funds for the benefit of the Secretary’s family, friends, and cronies.  American corporate cronies get in on the act, expecting “pay for play” rewards from the Secretary, who is presumed to become president.

The Secretary sets up a secret and illegal communication system to hide her corrupt dealings from public view, and when it is discovered, she has all of the records professionally “bleached” from her servers, laughing at congressional subpoenas demanding their release.

An FBI investigation ensues, but the director of the FBI gives immunity to everybody who could have been indicted for illegal handling of classified government communications and tampering with evidence.  He does not even listen to the damning facts revealed in Congressional hearings or an FBI interview with the Secretary under oath, and hastily proclaims that the Attorney General should not prosecute.  Almost simultaneously, the Attorney General has a clandestine meeting with the Secretary’s husband and former president, the subject of which is clearly either threat or payoff.  The inquiry is dropped.  And the stench of corruption hangs thick all over the nation’s capital.

The most creative fiction writer on planet Earth could not come up with less plausible story.  Or at least this could only happen in a third-world hell-hole in Africa, right?  Certainly not in the United States of America, the world’s champion of fairness, truth and democracy.

But it is happening, here and now.  And our media, plus most of the American public and all of our representatives and senators (except for a few brave Freedom Caucus members) are perfectly happy to look the other way.  No indictments.  No impeachments.  Not even a breath of criticism.  The most corrupt political leader in the history of our nation may very well soon be our president.

This is unprecedented.  It is clear that our government is now irretrievably corrupt.  Citizens can no longer have any confidence in the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Congress, the Administration, or any federal agency. Congress could impeach the director of the FBI, and the Attorney General.  But they won’t.  Laws don’t apply to the politically connected.  There is nobody left to stop the corruption except the citizens.

I don’t want our government to collapse, and I don’t want my grandchildren to live (or die) through a civil war.  Sound extreme?  Look back through history.  Whenever governments become unbearably corrupt and untouchable, change ultimately comes via brute force.  And it’s never pretty.  Ask any African.

Right now American citizens have only one course of action: to elect a president who is not part of the corrupt political machine, and hope for the best.  The corrupt legislative branch and the corrupt judicial branch will take years to turn over, but the corrupt administrative branch can be overthrown in one day.  Failing that, we might as well be the United States of Africa.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Let’s fight corruption. Let’s fight corruption.
Let’s fight corruption as much as we can.
Let’s fight corruption. Let’s fight corruption.
Let’s fight corruption, together we stand.

The Child Africa Corruption Song

 

 

Career and Technology Education – An Alternative to College

The nexus between education and employment has never been more complex.

Some political leaders and candidates say a college education is so vital in today’s job market that taxpayers should provide it as a free entitlement.  Most high schools view anything short of college admission as a failure.  But many college graduates, despite racking up huge student loan debt, have such a hard time finding jobs that they end up tending bar or waiting tables.  Meanwhile employers contend that they can’t find employees with adequate skills for entry level or more advanced positions.  And foreign students dominate advanced-study courses at our universities, casting doubt on the rigor and subject matter of our traditional high school classes.

Clearly something is out of sync in the school-to-career formula.

School choice is widely embraced as the primary vehicle for improved educational outcomes.  There is no longer any question that schools who compete for students and have the freedom to try innovative methods deliver better results than traditional schools.  Still, many “choice” schools offer the same college-prep curriculum, but in a different building or perhaps using alternative methods.

Recognizing the disconnect between education and jobs, some states and school districts are now focusing more on Career and Technology Education (CTE).

While my home state of South Carolina does not specifically address school choice on a state-wide basis, the department of education’s Career and Technology Education division offers significant profile-of-the-south-carolina-graduatesupport to designated “choice” districts.  Many of these districts now offer alternative education options to their resident families, including CTE centers.  Greenville County Public Schools, for example, enrolls 15% of its students in non-traditional “choice” schools.

The South Carolina Dept. of Education provides standards-based curricular and instructor support for both traditional and specialized schools.  The department hosts training workshops and seminars, administers standards, and tracks performance through a highly organized program funded by a combination of federal grants and state education money.

Suggested and supported course offerings are organized into “career clusters”, and the list is impressive:

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, AV Technology and Communications
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Education and Training Careers
  • Finance
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

The Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center in York, SC shares a campus with a traditional high school, and provides career and technology education for students in the county who apply and are accepted.  Ron Roveri, Director of Career and Technology Education for the state, headed the Tech Center for fourteen years prior to accepting the top state CTE post.

I asked Roveri if South Carolina held the same strong bias toward college prep that I find in other states and districts.  “Not at all,” he replied.  Our program is designed to work seamlessly for students who are preparing to enter college, the work force, or the military after high school.”

As college graduates find it increasingly difficult to land good jobs, and employers struggle to find good employees, the pressure is on our school systems to make students career-ready – even those who don’t attend or graduate from college.  Career and Technology Education choice schools are a solution whose time has come.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideEvery morning about this time
She get me out of my bed
A-crying get a job.
After breakfast, every day,
She throws the want ads right my way
And never fails to say,
Get a job!

Get A Job – the Silhouettes

 

No More Immigration Until We Fix Anacostia

anacostia-school

photo by Chris Roberts, American Renaissance

It was a short drive from my hotel in Washington, DC’s toney National Harbor district to the Capitol.  But we were stuck in heavy traffic on I-295 into downtown.  My Uber driver slid to the outside lane and hit the exit.  “I have a quicker way to get downtown,” he said.  That was fine with me, although I really wasn’t in a hurry.

Within minutes we were smack in the middle of the Anacostia ghetto.  We might as well have taken the exit to Mars.

I live in South Carolina, in a comfy suburb across the lake from Charlotte (NC).  My town seems to me like normal America.  My trips to the city can sometimes take me through areas that are not exactly high-rent districts.  But they don’t look or feel anything like Anacostia.  Over the years I’ve been through the barrio on Figueroa in LA,  I have cruised around South Chicago, I’ve seen some of the underbelly of Detroit.  I thought I had seen some of the ugliest armpits our nation has to offer.  But Anacostia was an eye-opener.

We drove through mile after mile of liquor stores, check-cashers, and raggedy store-fronts, each decorated with young black men (and a few women) leaning against them.  It was 10:00 a.m., and clearly none of the Anacostia folks had anywhere to go or anything to do.  Some chugged beers, a few shared doobies openly on the street, and here and there were clusters of guys who appeared to be negotiating their next big deal.  It was so totally foreign, I gaped out the passenger window in dropped-jaw amazement.  I must have looked like a zoo animal to them.  A boarded up dilapidated cafe, an elementary school unfit for the rats that live there, a rehab clinic doing brisk business.  A muscular young guy jogging and shadow-boxing, Rocky-style.  A wheelchair-bound young woman rolling up to a grubby corner drug store.

I’m not one who notices race first, but the segregation was jarring – there was not a single face that was not African-American.

My Vietnamese immigrant driver pretended to be oblivious to the bizarre scene, but his eyes saw what mine did.  “It nicer across freeway,” he repeated several times in broken English.

Block after block, my state of mind shifted from shock to amazement to concern.  By the time we emerged from Anacostia and re-entered the “normal” world, I was despondent.  How the hell did this happen?   Why hasn’t anybody done anything about this?  We can’t just leave these hopeless people and this God-forsaken mess like it is.

There is no excuse for this kind of scene in the United States of America.  Whoever gets elected in November had better take a good hard look at what’s going on in Anacostia, and Detroit, and South Chicago, and LA.

I could bore you with all of the tried-and-failed stock solutions to poverty and blight.  But you’ve heard plenty of empty promises over the years, from the left and the right.  More welfare is not the answer – it hasn’t worked and it never will.  Telling people to get to work isn’t it either – there are no jobs for the totally unskilled and unschooled people of the Anacostia ghetto.  This won’t get better until the American people decide it is unacceptable, move in, and get after it.

My trip through the ghetto brought home one message loud and clear.  We had better not waste another dollar or another ounce of labor or another drop of compassion on opportunistic foreign immigrants until we bring Anacostia back to normal America.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

It’s survival in the city
When you live from day to day
City streets don’t have much pity
When you’re down, that’s where you’ll stay

In the City – Joe Walsh

 

 

Bull Riders Call Charlotte Arena’s Political Correctness ‘BS’

bull-riderThe bull riders were ready to pack up their saddles and head off toward the sunset.  Even the world’s toughest athletes can only take so much bull***t.

For some reason Charlotte, NC is seeking the title of “Most Politically Correct City in the USA,”  and just can’t seem to stop poking itself in the eye.  This summer Charlotte found its first brush with worldwide fame – not for any positive accomplishment, but for passing a city law that allows men to use women’s rest rooms, locker rooms, or any other private facilities.  And vice versa, although I don’t understand why women would prefer the nastiness of some of the men’s rooms I have encountered.  Anyway, the city law was so stupid that the governor had to step in and overrule it with a state law before things got really crazy, like men choosing to compete in women’s sports, and lechers hanging out in the girls’ locker room at the YMCA.  As a result, the city and state are being blacklisted by politically correct entertainers, athletic event organizers, etc.  But I digress.

Last weekend the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) came to town for the Charlotte Invitational.  If you have ever watched a PBR event, you know that these are the roughest, toughest hombres in the world of sports.  Their idea of Friday night fun is climbing on top of a 2,000 pound animal named Perfect Poison that was specifically bred to be mean as a rattlesnake and tough as a . . . well, a bull – and try to stay on for 8 seconds.  And then not get stomped to death.

These are not the kind of guys who are politically correct.  In fact it would be fair to say they are pretty strong-willed, especially when it comes to love of God and country.

border-patrol-at-charlotte-pbrSo when the manager of the Spectrum Center told PBR head honcho Sean Gleason that he could not have the U.S. Customs and Border Agents present the flag before his event because they carry guns, Gleason threatened to shut down the show.

Gleason wrote on his Facebook page:

“As Federal Agents working in an official capacity, they are not allowed to ‘surrender’ their firearms to anyone, especially a security guard working at an arena in Charlotte, NC!! That included the color guard who were presenting the American flag to our fans for the anthem.  What should have been a two-minute conversation with the GM of the building turned into a 1½ hour runaround involving lawyers and the most insane arguments and reasoning I have ever heard.”

One minute before the event was to begin, the arena manager relented, allowing the Border Agents to enter the arena, albeit with a police escort.

At least half (I think a lot more) of Americans see this kind of lunacy (allowing men in womens’ rest rooms, and not allowing professional law enforcement officers to enter a building with their weapons) and wonder if the other half is drunk, crazy, evil, or all the above.  Thank God there are still some no-nonsense guys like the PBR cowboys who are willing to take a stand against this politically-correct BS.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Well the one hand hold is all you got
It’s you and the bull against the clock and a cross crowd
And once upon a spinnin’ ton
Nothin’ else you’ve ever done can pull this way

Bull Rider – Johnny Cash

 

Hillary and the Liberal “Basket Wars”

photo by Chris Ayers

For the past several weeks, every time I drive down Tyvola Road in Charlotte I suffer a temporary case of road rage.  I’m not angry at other drivers.  What makes me flipping furious is the big church reader board sign that says, “STOP KILLING, DISRESPECTING BLACK PEOPLE”.

My visceral reaction is always the same:  “Are you talking to ME?”

I assure you, I have never killed black people.  And I have never disrespected black people.  At least not any more than I have disrespected white people or yellow people or red people who don’t deserve my respect.

So why do I have a sign in my face, demanding that I stop killing black people?  How does anybody who doesn’t know me assume I am a racist?  Or a murderer?  Or both?  And what about the other tens of thousands of people who see that sign every day?  How many of them kill black people?

I am so sick of being called a racist that sometimes I think I should become one just so I wouldn’t be so damn mad about being falsely accused of it all the time.  That sign doesn’t apply to the 99.9999% of the people driving by who don’t kill black people.  So what’s the point of sticking it our faces?  You don’t say, “Thank you for not killing black people.”  You just accuse us all of doing it.

hillary-shadesAnd now, just to top it off, the Democrat candidate for president of my country calls me a “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic DEPLORABLE.” 

Well here’s the thing.  I know a lot more about you, Hillary, than you know about me.  You must feel threatened, because every time a liberal feels threatened he or she falls back on false accusations, name-calling and race-baiting.  Your Chicken Little “everybody is racist” game has Martin Luther King turning over in his grave.  Thank God the American people, and especially our African-American brothers and sisters, are finally catching on to your evil, self-serving, manipulative treachery.

photo by liberalrev.comAnd let’s be clear.  This is not a black-on-white attack.  My black friends accept me as an American brother just as I do them.  In fact, almost every black guy I meet is as politically conservative as I am.  No, this is the work of political hack liberals, like Dr. Chris Ayers, pastor of Wedgewood Church, who only see people in categories – white, black, gay, straight, rich, poor, and then pits them against each other.  Hillary calls these categories “baskets”.  And she lumps everyone who doesn’t vote for her into a big basket called “Deplorables” and labels us with every vile characterization she can think of.

Despite the accusations, all of us who drive on Tyvola Road, and all of us who won’t vote for Hillary, are saddened by any untimely deaths of black people.  And white people.  And gay people and innocent Muslim people, and soldier people and truck driving people and Russian people and all people.  We are normal, compassionate human beings. When are the liberals going to knock off the “basket wars” and let us be a big, happy basket of Americans?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

She’ll hang the baskets on the walls
Don’t you know I’ve seen it all before
She’ll hang the baskets on the walls
But I’ve seen it all before, heard the slamming of the door
Come summer, come fall
Come winter, there’ll be baskets on the floor

She’ll Hang the Baskets – Cake

This tune is a little bit obscure, but a cool song by one of my favorite newer bands. Sorry, no live recording.

 

 

More Ugly Obama/Clinton Crony Corruption

hillary-and-warren-buffett

Hillary Clinton and billionaire Warren Buffett, who invested $30 billion in taxpayer-subsidized solar and wind energy –  photo by NPR

Robert Murray may be the most frustrated and abused CEO in the USA.

The owner of Murray Energy is the last man standing in the fight to save the coal industry from the Obama / Clinton “war on coal”, and his emotional appeals on the news networks reveal that he may be down for the count.

robert-murrayMurray grew up poor, picking up a shovel at age 16 to keep his family afloat after his father was paralysed in a mine accident.  He persevered through good times and bad to become one of the biggest players in the coal business, and now, at age 75, Murray sees all his hard work and investment going up in smoke, along with the livelihoods of his employees.

When President Obama declared in 2008 that he would destroy the coal industry, he wasn’t kidding. “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” he said.  “It’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

Over 400 coal mines have shut down since then, putting 83,000 miners on the street.  As coal companies headed for the exits, Murray bought many of them, unable to accept that the nation would allow such a valuable and strategically critical industry to just die at the whim of an imperious and misguided president.

Eight years later, Obama’s pre-ordained successor, Hillary Clinton, has doubled down, promising to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Obama’s and Clinton’s pretense for eliminating the source of one-third of America’s electricity is their desire to save the planet and its inhabitants from “carbon pollution”.  But Murray isn’t buying it, as he told Fox Business:

“Windmills and solar panels generate 26 cent per kilowatt hour electricity – coal is only 4 cents a kilowatt hour.  The reason why she wants to see coal eliminated is because she’s getting millions of dollars of kickback to the Clinton Foundation and to her campaign from people who she says needs government help. You know who she’s talking about? She’s talking about Warren Buffett, the Pritzkers, Elon Musk, Tom Steyer—all billionaires that are making billions of dollars off of windmills and solar panels that are made in China.”

“She’s getting hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the largest banks in the country, from some of the largest electric utilities, and from these billionaires that I just mentioned.  They need the subsidies – wind and solar are not competitive with coal or other fossil fuels.  So they are making billions of dollars, these billionaires, and they are kicking back millions to the Clinton Foundation and to Hillary Clinton – it’s a story we have been hearing over and over.  The lowest 25 million families on the poverty scale in the country now spend 22 cents of every dollar they earn for energy.  We need to be worrying about the energy poverty in this country, not making more billionaires as Hillary Clinton attempts to eliminate the reliable low-cost electricity and substitute these ‘crony capitalists’.  It’s fraud – it’s absolute fraud!”

Today President Obama announced his “Clean Power Plan”, a new set of standards to limit “carbon pollution” from power plants.  The plan makes the outwardly pure-hearted promise to “decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent.”  We all love kids, and don’t want them breathing soot and smog, right?  But the plan’s main thrust is to control carbon dioxide emissions, which have absolutely nothing to do with “soot and smog”.  Carbon dioxide is clear and odorless, it is necessary for plant life, and it has no impact on global temperatures or pollution of any kind.

coal-fired-power-generation-plantDemocrats sob about “the children” and flaunt blown-up photos of old Chinese factories belching smoke, pretending they are modern American electrical power generation plants and hoping the low-information public will believe the carbon dioxide hoax pumped through their politically-motivated news media.  Meanwhile, they destroy our clean and efficient energy infrastructure for no purpose other than to generate profit for their crony friends and receive kickbacks in return.

I never dreamed my government could become so corrupt, or that so many of our citizens would be unwilling or unable to put up a fight.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Hanging on every word, believing the things I heard
Being a fool
You’ve taken my life, so take my soul
That’s what you said and I believed it all
Liar!  Liar!

Liar – Three Dog Night

 

 

What Is ‘School Choice’ for Special-Needs Students?

All parents want the best possible educations for their children.  “School choice” has been embraced by our country as a way to improve educational outcomes.  Parents can now consider:  What schools are available? What will be taught?  Who pays for it?

These questions are daunting enough for the parents of a “normal” kid.  But not all kids are “normal.”

Some are blind or deaf.  Some have learning disabilities, mild or severe.  Some are autistic.  Some have psychiatric disorders.  Some struggle to just stay alive.  If you think a parent’s challenge to get the best education for a “normal” kid is tough, just imagine getting a good education for a special-needs student.

With a special-needs student, the same questions apply.  What schools are available?  What will be taught?  Who will pay for it?  But because special-needs students make up such a small proportion of the population, results may vary.

Let’s not dance around the main issue:  educating special-needs kids is expensive.  School districts who are accustomed to paying $12,000 per student/year tend to freak out when faced with a $70,000 bill for an itinerant special ed teacher who serves only one student.  Plus these students might affect the school’s standardized testing performance.

It raises the age-old question:  Should special-needs students be mainstreamed in public schools with their “normal” peers, or should they be sent to schools with specialized programs and teachers who are better equipped to handle them and their disabilities?

In 1974 Congress passed the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees children with disabilities a public education appropriate to their needs, at no cost to their families, with these provisions:

  • Children with disabilities must be educated with students who do not have disabilities and should attend the school that is closest to home.
  • Children with disabilities must be provided with support services that assist them in benefiting educationally from their instructional program.
  • An assessment must be completed to determine the child’s needs. This may be done only with the parent’s informed written consent.

Parents of special-needs students will pretty much unanimously attest that getting educational services at any acceptable level involves a tremendous battle – my wife and I raised a totally blind son through public schools and can offer personal testimony.  “School Choices” can seem binary to special-needs families.  Will my kid get a real education, or not?  And where:  local public schools, or special school?

Most states still operate resident deaf / blind schools.  And all public school districts are required to provide special-education services.  Now that most states offer public school choices – traditional schools, charter schools, alternative schools, innovation schools, trade- or discipline-specific schools – the situation is all the more confusing for special-needs families.

An often-heard concern about privately-operated charter and innovation schools is that they will not accept or provide appropriate services for special-needs students, despite federal requirements.  The jury is out, but early studies suggest that parents of special-needs students usually choose traditional public schools over charter schools for their students.

The new alternative school models usually run on lighter budgets, and are sometimes rigidly driven by profit.  Will this relegate special-needs students to the traditional public schools, limiting their access to other schools of choice?  On a recent visit to Denver for the Franklin Center’s #AmplifyChoice conference, I was pleased to see that one of the major independent school networks has schools that specialize in services for students with certain disabilities.

Most likely the key element to the successful education of special-needs students will not change in the new “school choice” environment.  Parents who aggressively advocate for their kids will receive good services, and those who don’t, won’t.  Let’s hope that states and districts keep the interests of their special-needs students at heart as school choices evolve.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideWhen some loud braggart tries to put me down,
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
“Now what’s the matter buddy
Ain’t you heard of my school?
It’s number one in the state!”

Be True To Your School – the Beach Boys