Tuesday, July 30, 2019

From Charm City to Harm City

From Charm City to Harm City
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 30, 2019

Once again, racial invective has been invoked in an effort to tarnish President Donald Trump while ignoring similar comments made by Senator Bernie Sanders (S-VT).

Less than a week ago, in a reply to Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings (D), who made disparaging comments about the living conditions of asylum seekers on the Southern border, Trump told Cummings to focus his attention on his home district. “Cummings’ District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place…. No human being would want to live there,” said Trump.

The so-called mainstream media was apoplectic falling all over themselves to call Trump and his comments racist as quickly as possible.

Let’s rewind to December 8, 2015 and a speech given by Sanders in Baltimore. “The fact of the matter is that America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood [West Baltimore] would not think you’re in a wealthy nation. You would think that you’re in a third world country.”

The reaction from the same media? Crickets.

Facts are not racist. Trump and Sanders are correct in their assessment both in 2015 and in 2019. Sadly, the state of affairs in “Charm City” has been in a constant state of decline, deteriorating steadily for decades.

Even former mayor Catherine Pugh (2016-19), during a walking tour in September 2018, condemned parts of her own city. “What the hell? We should just take all this shit down,” she said regarding the dilapidated and boarded up buildings and row houses in East Baltimore.  “You can smell the rats. Oh my G-d, you can smell the dead animals.” While absolutely correct, nothing changed during her scandal-ridden administration ending with her resignation in May of this year due to her pushing a series of children’s books in exchange for city contracts.

Were Pugh’s comments racist? What about the myriad reports by PBS, The Baltimore Sun, and The New York Times? All racist? No. None of the comments or reports are racist.

Sanders’ visit to Baltimore came on the heels of the April 19, 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a West Baltimore resident who died from spinal cord injuries while in police custody. His death sparked a spate of violence, looting, and rioting in the city, that among other repercussions, included shutting down public schools, the playing of a Baltimore Orioles baseball game in a fan-free Camden Yards, as well as moving a home weekend series against the Rays to their home in Tampa.



The Baltimore mayor at the time, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, against whom I had run for a City Council seat in 1999, handled the unrest in a most unprofessional manner, actually giving the thugs and miscreants open season to “destroy” their own neighborhoods. 

“We also give those who wished to destroy, space to do that,” said Rawlings-Blake. Rawlings-Blake opted not to seek reelection in 2016. She assumed the mayor’s office, as president of the city council, following the resignation of Sheila Dixon after her conviction for embezzlement. 

So, two of the last three mayors resigned due to scandals and the third surrendered the city to the animals.

Baltimore is a blue collar town - either the southern most northern city, or the northern most southern city - with character - the home of Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key penned the poem that would become the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, during the War of 1812. Some of the pride of Baltimore include, but are certainly not limited to, Cab Calloway, Frederick Douglass, Dashiell Hammett, Billie Holiday, Johns Hopkins, Al Kaline, Eli Lilly, Thurgood Marshall, Jim McKay, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Post, Pam Shriver, and David Simon.

However, those famous folks were and are not in a position to turn around a city that has been slumping for decades and under constant Democrat control. The last Republican mayor of Baltimore was Theodore McKelden (1963-67) and the last time a Republican was elected to the city council was 1939. When one party rule goes unchecked for decades, complacency, carelessness, and corruption sets in. When President Trump makes remarks some call incendiary, while others, who make similar comments that go unnoticed, people are simply looking for a scapegoat. Trump has been in office two and a half years - he is most certainly not remotely responsible for the strife that has befallen Baltimore.

The drugs, crime, single-parent families, virtually non-existent academic success in a minority-majority run city - mayor, city council, police chief - is a state of insanity - continuing to mishandle things the same way for decades, yet expecting change and improvements.

I started visiting Charm City in the mid-1980s while in college at the University of Maryland, and moved there in the late-1990s to take a teaching position at a middle school - ranked the worst in the entire state of Maryland. There were at least three pregnancies in the one year I taught at this particular school. One rookie teacher went home to Missouri for Christmas-New Year’s break and never returned. I had 40 students in a class, and rest assured there were not 40 seats or textbooks in the classroom. The so-called history textbook only went so far as to have Jimmy Carter as the most recent president. More than 90 percent of the students received “free” lunch and there were no after school activities.

This scenario played out in most schools throughout the city, and this was nearly two decades before Freddie Gray. Gray was and is merely a symptom of the larger microcosm of drugs, murder, and no education plaguing this city for generations. I used to enjoy attending concerts at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, going to Orioles games at Camden Yards, taking in the sites at Federal Hill, Fells Point, the Inner Harbor, most of which today, just aren’t as safe as they once were. Restaurants on Charles Street, the home of Johns Hopkins University, and in Little Italy are not as attractive due to the increased level of unrest in the city, and these are the areas that used to attract tourists in droves. This is not hyperbole, nor is it racist.

The murder rate in Baltimore is 56 per 100,000. Detroit is closest behind Baltimore at 40 per 100,000. There were 344 homicides in 2015, 318 in 2016, 342 in 2017, and 309 last year with a projected greater than 300 for the fifth year in a row. Baltimore is a deadlier killing field than Chicago, in the news regularly for its slayings. Baltimore is just under 40 miles away from Washington, DC, but it may as well be 4,000 miles with the lack of attention it gets.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, who spent more than 30 years as a pediatric neuro-surgeon at Johns Hopkins, reported that 65 percent of the children in Baltimore live within single-parent families, trends that have been worsening for decades, and are statistically worse in black communities as compared to white, Hispanic, and Asian communities. Pointing this out, and what the real solutions are, only get people labeled racist.

Project Baltimore reported that in 13 of 39 city high schools there were zero students proficient in math - zero - let that sink in for a minute. In six more schools, only one percent tested proficient. In roughly half the schools, 3,804 students attempted the exam, with a mere, a tragic, 14 proficient in math. Not 14 percent, just 14 actual students. With numbers this low, it’s no wonder the poverty rate in Baltimore is 22 percent. Once again, identifying the problem and the potential solutions, gets one tagged with the Scarlet R.

Sadly, Baltimore is not an anomaly. See also Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, and St. Louis, just to mention a few. Progress begins with education and it starts at home - preferably in a two-parent home with married parents who at the very least graduated high school. Those factors will give every child a head start, said Carson, who also added that in this era of no judgments, again, gets people labeled an -ist or -phobe when pointing out what should be the obvious.

It’s long overdue for people to roll up their sleeves, put aside the partisan bickering, name calling, and face reality - the past 60 years have been a dismal failure and calling people racist for pointing out the facts helps no one, least of all the children - the most vulnerable of all. Virtually the entire public school system is corrupted by incompetent so-called leaders, teachers’ unions whose main goal is to indoctrinate students while protecting the worst of their constituencies hiding behind tenure - a system that shields bad teachers while hurting students, condemning the next generation to living life as if it were an episode of The Wire or my favorite, Homicide: Life on the Street.

Like Trump; dislike Trump. Either way he was correct with what he said about Cummings’ district - specifically Baltimore, and Cummings is too smart to disagree, but he has to play the same political game. People can stand in opposite corners calling each other racists, but it will accomplish nothing, other than getting more corrupt politicians richer while cities like Baltimore continue to fester and stink of urban rot, decay, and failing schools. 

And, yes, I did actually put my money where my mouth is and ran for the city council in Baltimore in 1999 - beyond a fool’s errand. In a city, at the time, with eight percent registered Republicans, needless to say, I did not win. Like the City of Baltimore, not every story has a happy ending.

 Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Sanders' Salary Hypocrisy

Sanders’ Salary Hypocrisy
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 19, 2019 

“The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” - Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) British Prime Minister (1979-90)

The trouble with Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT) is that he is an enormous hypocrite calling for a $15 minimum wage while not paying his own staff that much. Grassroots field staffers complain they are not being afforded the minimum that Sanders demands of the rest of the country.

Quite frankly, during the ‘80s when candidates would staff their campaigns, most people were just happy to be a part of a campaign, paying their dues as grassroots field staffers barely earning enough money to fill their gas tanks and living half a dozen in a two bedroom apartment. The reward would hopefully come at the end of the campaign with a victory and an invitation to join a Congressional, Senatorial, or even White House staff - working even longer hours for barely what they earned in the field. Some of you are reading this thinking, yeah, those were the days!

Now these young grassroots workers are unionized, making demands that if fulfilled on a nationwide basis could cripple the economy. While the current minimum wage of $7.25 clearly is not enough for a person to live on independently, a sudden boost to more than double that amount will actually cost people their jobs. Based upon an eight hour day, five day week, and 50 weeks of work per year, a $7.25 an hour worker would earn $14,500 before taxes. The $15 an hour employee would earn $30,000, which in quite a few places is still a challenge on which to make ends meet. Costs of living vary from state to state and even within states - New York City versus Elmira for example; Chicago versus Pittsfield; Dallas versus El Paso.

A gradual rate increase would make sense, but it must include qualifiers. Small businesses, size to be determined by the Commerce Department, would be exempt, as should part time, temporary, and seasonal employees. The $15 an hour rate would take effect in 2025, according to the proposal by House Democrats. Incremental raises should be implemented to soften the blow and keep costs and unemployment from rising too drastically instead of a potentially sudden rate increase.

Employers required to pay workers more than double what is currently mandated will cut those costs by eliminating and downsizing their workforce, thus raising unemployment, and ultimately, the need for government to pay greater unemployment benefits to more people, perhaps for a longer period of time. The rate increase could likely see prices rise if some businesses opt not to downsize the labor force. It then begs the question, will the rate increase offset the increase in unemployment and the rise in prices? Economists are divided on that question.

People should earn a living wage, but it should also be incumbent on the job one performs. This is based upon the concept of equal opportunity, not equal outcome. Equal opportunity begins with education and it is up to the family and the students to work as hard as they are able to ensure success. There are no entitlements, and affirmative action in education has proven a failure. A fast food worker or coffeehouse barista are literally not brain surgeons and should be paid what the market demands. Athletes and entertainers will continue to make multi-million dollar salaries as long as they fill stadia and theaters with people willing to pay the ticket prices - like anything else, it’s a matter of simple economics - supply and demand. 

Simultaneously, people must live within their means - make coffee and lunch at home instead of spending $5 for Starbucks ® and another $7-10 on food. Shop for new clothes when needed and wait for sales. Let supermarket circulars be the guide for weekly grocery shopping. Maintain vehicles regularly, get as much life out of them as possible. When a car loan is paid off, pay yourself the same monthly amount in savings toward the next car. These are simple ways to economize.

Yet, none of this matters to Sanders, the original socialist from the 2016 campaign. As long as he has the indoctrinated and ignorant from the colleges campuses, he can continue to make the case for more government running and ruining our lives with higher and higher taxes convincing them to vote against their own self-interests. This multi-millionaire, multiple home owner, is a hypocrite of the highest degree. This is not to disparage Sanders’ for his wealth - accumulated out of the pockets of the American people having never held a job not paying him from the people’s coffers - as a capitalist, it is his G-d given right to earn what he can and again, what the market will allow.

How is socialism working out in Venezuela, once upon a time, one of the most successful, thriving countries in both South America and the Western Hemisphere? Or Angola? Or Cuba? Or the former East Germany? Or Vietnam? Socialism fails because it lacks consistency with human behavior. People inherently protect what is theirs - they work for a paycheck and want to keep as much of it as possible -  to spend as they wish and need. People are also generous when they see people in need - to help them as they choose - not as per government dictates. Take more money from people in taxes, the first to suffer, charitable contributions as people still have the necessities in their lives of paying mortgages/rent, electric, phone, cable, tuition, grocery bills. With more money in their pockets, people are more generous. It is government that needs to pare back and stick to what the Constitution requires.

Sanders can pay his people $15 an hour or not, but those employees knew their salary when they were offered the job. That doesn’t make Sanders any less a hypocrite who clearly does not understand economics. Pay no attention to the talking heads discussing their candidates seeking the Democrat nomination. Listen to the actual words of the actual candidates - they are far more truthful and dangerous.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Holocaust is a Fact, Principal Obvious

The Holocaust is a Fact, Principal Obvious
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 9, 2019

After only a half year of the moronics that is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the anti-Semitism that is both Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) plaguing the United States Congress, there comes now all rolled into one, William Latson of Florida.

No, Latson is not a Congressman. He is far more dangerous - a high school principal - or at least he was until he was secretly spirited away to environs still unknown. Latson is a gutless moron, perhaps too stupid to be an anti-Semite, but until March and April of 2018, he apparently was able to fly under the radar as the principal of Spanish River a high school serving more than 2,300 students in Boca Raton. Why it took this long is incomprehensible.

A parent, the mother of a Spanish River student who wished to remain anonymous for the sake of her child, texted/e-mailed Latson asking if the Holocaust was being taught at the school. The simple answer should have been that Holocaust education is mandated in the Florida public schools, of which Spanish River is one.

Instead, Latson e-mailed the parent that Spanish River had “a variety of activities” for Holocaust education, without specifying any, adding, the “lessons are not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.”

What is G-d’s name is that supposed to mean? Are students allowed to opt out of the class if they don’t believe the Holocaust as historical fact? If a student believes the earth is flat, he or she allowed to opt out of a geography class? If a student doesn’t believe in proper spelling and punctuation, can he or she opt out of an English class? This is a level of insanity even a teacher’s union could not have dreamed up.

Apparently the mother felt likewise as she was flummoxed regarding Latson’s response and wanted further clarification. “The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief,” she wrote back.

“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs,” came Latson’s even more incredulous response. Continuing to dig deeper, Latson wrote to the mother, that “as an educator [he] had the role to be politically neutral but support all groups in the school. I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.” 

This is disturbing beyond words and reality. Politically neutral? Who was Latson afraid to offend? Anti-Semites? Supporting all groups in the school? To whom was Latson catering - the Holocaust deniers club? The Neo-Nazi association?

Latson’s remarks were obtained by The Palm Beach Post via a public records request.

“All students in every grade level in the district are taught a historically accurate Holocaust curriculum, one which leaves no room for erroneous revisions of fact or the scourge of anti-Semitism,” said school board chairman Frank A. Barbieri, Jr.

“It is incredibly concerning that someone charged with educating children would be unable to speak unequivocally on the realities and horrors of the Holocaust,” said Senator Rick Scott (FL-R), via Twitter.

Tell General Dwight D. Eisenhower, later president (1953-61) the Holocaust was not real as he and American and Soviet troops liberated concentration camps. Tell it to the local citizens in Germany, Poland, etc., forced to clean up what they allowed to occur.

Almost 10,000 people signed an on-line petition calling for Latson’s ousting. Latson has been reassigned to an unspecified district position, according to BuzzFeedNews - yet, still a paid employee of the school district. Akin to reassigning a priest to a new Diocese for questionable behavior. Let them be someone else’s problem, yet they are still a problem without a solution.

The school district said Latson “made a grave error in judgement,” and demanded he “further expand the Holocaust curriculum at Spanish River.” At the time, Holocaust education was reduced to reading Elie Wiesel’s Night, while it was nebulous why the variety of activities referenced above somehow never managed to come to fruition. Additionally, Latson spent several days at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in an effort to become more educated on the subject.

So, basically, a vacation, a reassignment, no loss of job or career, and no punishment for Latson who continues drawing a paycheck from the taxpayers of Florida for being both ignorant and a moron.

While Latson later apologized for his choice of words, a person in his responsible position requires more than a modicum of education, and certainly knowing the Holocaust is a historical fact is, at a bare minimum, basic information for which there can be no denying. For this level of ignorance and insensitivity, Latson should have been relieved of his position in the school system, not simply reassigned to sweep his inactions and words under the rug.

Had a principal deigned to suggest that not everyone believes American slavery as a historical fact, no question he or she would be on the unemployment line - and rightfully so. Facts are facts and remain irrefutable. One plus one will always equal two. It’s wrong to hear people applaud others for “speaking their truth.” There is only one truth - not a liberal truth, not a conservative truth, not a black truth, not a white truth - believe it.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He is also a charter member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Who's Running Nike?

Who’s Running Nike?
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 2, 2019

Independence Day is approaching in these United States, except for Nike, which apparently can not or will not break free from football has been Colin Kaepernick. 

The sneaker company’s new launch, the Air Max 1 Quick Strike, adorned with the Betsy Ross flag, has been struck down due to the opinion of one anti-American, hypocritical malcontent. The flag, featuring 13 white, five-pointed stars on a field of blue in the upper left corner, and the traditional 13 stripes - seven red and six white dates back to the Revolutionary War-era. 

Kaepernick claims the Betsy Ross flag offends him because it is used by an alleged white supremacist group. Additionally, Kaepernick said the flag offends him as it comes from a time of slavery, according to The Wall Street Journal. Based upon that “logic,” only flags dating from 1865 would be acceptable to Kaepernick? Anyone offended by the American flag should not live in the United States.

And by the way, the Betsy Ross flag was the flag of the American colonies when the British surrendered at Saratoga. Additionally, that same flag adorned both of the Obama inaugurals, so evidently he did not see it as a symbol of racism. Old Glory is a symbol of unity, under which Americans of all colors, creeds, and orientations served and fought. This includes Crispus Attucks, a patriot of African and Native American descent, believed to be the first person killed in the Boston Massacre (March 5, 1770) and thus the first person killed in the Revolutionary war.

Nike’s long-standing slogan is “Just do it.” Kaepernick says just don’t do it, and Nike falls to its knees shuddering in a most cowardly manner, deferring to Kaepernick, giving him more power than he deserves. Nike folded like a cheap tent in an effort to pander to Kaepernick and his minions.

In a statement explaining why it pulled the shoes, Nike said it did not want to “unintentionally offend and detract from the patriotic holiday,” believing Kaepernick holds sway over more people than those who would purchase the Air Max 1.

Kaepernick is certainly entitled to his First Amendment right of free speech in expressing his opinion about Nike’s use of the Betsy Ross flag. Similarly, everyone else has the same rights afforded by the First Amendment to condemn Kaepernick and/or Nike. If Nike had any guts, it would stand up to Kaepernick, praise Betsy Ross, and defend the use of an American flag. Just because a supposed white nationalist group co-opted the Betsy Ross flag does not make it permanently theirs. Nike should commandeer the flag back to the side of the good and deny the evil its appropriation.

Yet, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage, the Betsy Ross flag does not appear on its extensive list of hate symbols it tracks. “The Betsy Ross flag is not common among white supremacists,” said Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) rescinded a $1 million tax incentive for a Nike factory in the Grand Canyon State. “Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism,” Tweeted Ducey. Ducey’s office later confirmed the cancelation of the $1 million from the Arizona Commerce Authority Competes Fund.

“The Betsy Ross flag is now a symbol of White Nationalism and slavery? Not defiance against a distant monarchy? PC madness is accelerating just in time for 2020,” Tweeted co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Joe Scarborough opposing the Nike decision. 

If Kaepernick doesn’t like the sneakers, he should not buy them. Who the hell is he to dictate what a corporation sells or does not sell? Let the free market system decide. Both Kaepernick, an attention whore who hasn’t suited up in the NFL since 2016, and Nike have embarrassed themselves. Stop giving Kaepernick a forum and perhaps he’ll quietly slink away. 

One of the great aspects of the United States is freedom of choice. I have exercised my right to shun Nike since they made the mistake of giving Kaepernick a platform, and will continue to speak with my wallet by shopping elsewhere. Celebrate your economic freedom by exercising your right to exercise in anything but a pair of Nikes. Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.