The Long Version

Retired broadcast journalist. Blogging helps scratch the itch. Recovering exRepublican – Sober and still Conservative.

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Battle Over New School District Gets Ugly

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I’ve lived in Orem for 38 of my 62 years on the globe. I graduated from Orem High School in 1978. I own a home in Orem where I currently reside with my wife, youngest son, and two dogs. So the issue of possibly creating an Orem School District caught my attention. Initially, I was leaning against the idea. Many of my neighbors are against it. Friends and people I know who work as teachers and administrators in the Alpine School District have come out against it. But when it comes to political issues I’ve never been one to make a decision based on the decisions of others; family, friends, or otherwise. I also carry the blessing or curse, it can be both, of having a journalism background that leads me to be skeptical of everything government says and does. It requires I do my own due diligence to the best of my ability to discover and learn the facts and then make an informed choice.

So I started digging.

The city of Orem in Utah County has considered creating its own school district at varying times for over 20 years. A number of feasibility studies have been done over that period, with the most recent study being completed this year. Orem City Council voted 4-3 to put the proposal on the ballot and let the people of Orem vote on it. Alpine School District had been successful in previous years to dissuade Orem’s elected officials from putting the measure on the ballot and letting the people have a say, you know, democracy and such… This time, with a new mayor and several new city council members, democracy got its chance.

From the outset this issue was going to be a data driven decision for me. Public schools are funded by tax dollars, predominantly property tax dollars at the local level, state funding, and some federal funding. One might think crunching those numbers, as the feasibility study was designed to do, would make the choice pretty black and white. I mean, math doesn’t lie…unless those doing the math want it to. It seemed pretty straight forward. Look at the tax rolls and see how much money Orem residents pay in to the current Alpine School District. How much comes back to Orem schools? How has the district responded to Orem school needs, building issues/repairs, student learning and test scores, teacher pay, etc. Ultimately the decision should be based on which option will most improve the learning environment and education for Orem’s kids. Is that better accomplished creating a new district or going with the status quo?

Alpine School District administers public schools for 14 cities. This is a very large school district and is in the top 50 largest districts in the country. Some say it has gotten too big and isn’t serving the needs of the students in some of the older cities in Utah County. The Daily Herald wrote a story about this back in 2016, when members of the school board discussed the idea of a split. At that time ASD had just over 75,000 students. It now has over 85,000.

It didn’t take long for the proponents and opponents of the Prop 2 as it appears on the ballot, to start slinging the mud at each other. The feasibility study was the first target for opponents who weren’t happy to see a positive result in favor of Orem’s desire to split. Opponents aggressively attacked Discovery Education Consultants, the group that conducted the study. StrongerTogether’s criticism lacked any data to allow readers to verify their claims. This becomes a theme of the arguments at ST’s website. But a closer look shows that 4 feasibility studies have come to the same conclusion yet ST doesn’t malign the other 3.

Both sides have websites giving their version of the numbers, reasons for or against, and all the typical fear mongering that goes with this kind of heated emotional issue. I have done my best to dig into the arguments of both sides, wade through the rhetoric, and try to find the verifiable numbers and facts. I’ve provided links to the two main websites here. I’ll provide other links at the end of this article.

StrongerTogether.com – The opposing view

OremsFuture.com – The supporting view

As mentioned before, in my mind this issue should be about data, numbers, what’s on the tax rolls, and how it all adds up for or against a new school district. How will the split effect current schools, class size, and teacher pay? How will it effect student learning, grades, and test scores? Getting those numbers has been harder than you might think as both sides work to spin them to their advantage, but what I’ve found so far has favored the spilt more than not.

Alpine School District, we’ll call it ASD going forward, has published numbers on their website that honestly I can’t find anywhere else and they do a poor job showing how they came to their conclusions. It leaves the reader with only one option, take their word for it. Opponents say a new Orem School District (OSD) will result in a 50% tax increase! Nowhere can I find any data that even comes close to corroborating that claim. In fact the Utah Taxpayers Association analyzed that claim and said it was totally fabricated. They even said a tax increase for Orem residents didn’t look likely at all based on the current funding and how that funding would be appropriated if Orem voted to split.

Orem is an older city with declining enrollment, older schools are in need of seismic upgrades and repairs or rebuilding for safety in an earthquake. Orem complains that it pays far more to the district than it gets out. ASD claims the opposite to be true but then blames any reduction in funding on the declining enrollments. But what do the numbers really say? That’s what I’ll attempt to summarize here while providing links to resources you can use to do your own due diligence.

ST makes the claim that ASD subsidizes Orem schools to the tune of $21 million per year and that the cost per student for Orem schools is higher than other schools because of declining enrollment, while operational costs have remained the same or increased. When I first saw this claim I was unable to find any data to substantiate it. The link on the page making the claim sent me to a Truth About Taxes page, but nowhere on that page was there any source data for the number in the claim. Then a link to a page I couldn’t originally find was posted on Facebook that did provide calculations for that number. I’m still not sure how to navigate to that page at the website, but thanks to Dallas Helquist for pointing me to that page in a Facebook post.

That said, the Utah Taxpayers Association makes a good point regarding this claim by ASD. “…If the claims by “Stronger Together” were correct (in that the remainder of Alpine School District subsidizes Orem to the tune of millions of dollars per year) why would they so vociferously oppose letting the Orem tax base form its own district? If one part of an organization is a financial drain, why oppose letting that part go? The vocal opposition to this proposal leads one to believe that the opposite is true: the Orem tax base is valuable and in fact, contributes more than its fair share to the Alpine School District.” Great question and one I’ll take a shot at answering in a moment.

What I found at the StrongerTogether website were a lot of claims and accusations but little verifiable data to back them up. As I went though the website it became very clear that the folks at ASD are simply telling Orem residents to vote no because “we say so and so do a lot of other important people.” Every text link is an internal link, meaning it just takes you to another page inside the website. None of the links I clicked took me to 3rd parties or outside sources. This website is rife with “What if’s” and fear inducing claims. Fear is a great motivator and this site uses it to the max. Everything from “teachers won’t stay in Orem” to “your taxes will go up by 50%.” ST continues to make the claim that Orem’s taxes will have to go up by 50% to pay for the new district even though that number has been mathematically debunked and proven to be a fabrication. Yet they continue to use it to frighten voters.

When you go to OremsFuture.com you’ll find their arguments FOR Prop 2, but also numbers to corroborate their arguments. The site has sourced graphs and data. What a concept! After reading through each website it became very clear, the OSD proponents are data driven, letting the numbers make their arguments, while the opponent’s arguments are largely emotionally driven. StrongerTogether is full of emotional pleas, endorsements, and testimonials but lacking in real data that can be cross-checked and verified with outside sources.

Unfortunately, when emotions rank higher than facts things tend to go downhill fast and the side relying on emotions, loyalties, and relationships to win rather than the merits of its argument tends to do and say things that aren’t 100% true and accurate. That’s where this story and this issue has turned ugly and starts reading more like an espionage novel than a ballot issue.

As mentioned earlier, the StrongerTogether website claimed it “began as a group of parents concerned about Orem City’s approach to splitting from Alpine School District and creating an Orem-only district.” Not quite…

StrongerTogether is actually a registered PIC (political issues committee). GRAMA requests have since revealed that it was ASD board members Ada Wilson and Sara Hacken who are behind the formation of the PIC and have admitted to forming it while insisting they did so as private citizens, not as ASD Board Members. Kinda sounds like a conflict of interest to me, but I digress. An email sent to their founding board members was signed as “ASD Board Representatives Ada Wilson and Sara Hacken.” Take from that what you will.

Oddly Wilson and Hacken’s email was dated February of 2022. You have to ask yourself, why would they go through the hassle of creating a PIC when the Orem feasibility study hadn’t even been completed, before anyone knew how an OSD would effect anyone in Utah County or the ASD? To make things more murky, StrongerTogether leadership claims ST was formed AFTER the feasibility study was published. This claim was made again at a cottage meeting recently. But this is a provable lie.

Why? Well, they probably didn’t expect a GRAMA request to be filed allowing others to see their email communications with dates and times on them.

Ada Wilson also sent emails to all of the nine PTA heads in Orem. Ada Wilson was working to sway the PTA to go against the OSD proposal by discrediting the feasibility study 5 months before it was even published. In an another email to Rob Smith, Cissy Rasmussen appears to admit that the claim “services will go down and taxes will go up” has no data upon which to substantiate the claim, but StrongerTogether continued to perpetuate that claim for months, even after the Utah Taxpayers Association debunked the claim. The emails and timelines acquired via the GRAMA request show that Ada Wilson and Alpine School District were actively working to discredit the feasibility study before it even began.

StrongerTogether claimed they asked and received permission from the regional PTA to forward a survey they had sent out to teachers in ASD, but there is a conflict of interest problem there as well. The founding board members of the StrongerTogether PIC are all members of the regional PTA. So basically they asked for and granted themselves permission to survey members. There are still founding members listed on the StrongerTogether website making the claim that ASD has no involvement with StrongerTogether in direct conflict with acquired emails. Why all the secrecy? Why the obfuscation and denials? Well, there may be a few ethical and even legal reasons for that.

Ada Wilson was doing a lot of her communicating with ASD officials and administrators including Rob Smith ASD business administrator on their ASD official email accounts which would be a violation of the Political Activities of Public Entities Act, Utah State Code 20A-11-1205. On February 17, 2022, David Stephenson the communications director for ASD sent an email to Ada Wilson and Sarah Hacken with the subject line: Proposed Messaging for Orem City. The email contained a full page of anti-split talking points, the same talking points used by StrongerTogether for months now.

Ada Wilson, Sara Hacken, and PTA members also used additional district resources to campaign against Prop 2. One email detailed how district employees helped Cissy Rasmussen bypass the district firewall to ensure their Prop 2 surveys reached the teachers. Based on emails acquired through a GRAMA request, it appears StrongerTogether, ASD, and the PTA used district time and resources to campaign against Orem’s proposal. The problem is private citizens don’t have access to the resources or carry the influence school board members do, which is one reason why this kind of behavior is illegal as well as unethical.

Was it ignorance? Was it overzealous loyalty to ASD that made these people do some of the things they did? Or was it money?

ASD is pushing Prop 1 on the ballot right next to Prop 2. Prop 1 is asking taxpayers to approve a $595 million dollar bond. Now the fog starts to clear a bit. If Orem splits from ASD, how is that bond going to be paid for without tax increases on everyone else in the district? ASD knows that Orem, Lindon, Vineyard, and other east bench cities must be kept in the club for them to pay for this massive spending. A bond that will add another $116 million to Orem’s portion of ASD debt but return only $20 million for the construction of two new gymnasiums in Orem…wait what? Why does Orem need or want two new gyms? Are you starting to see why so many Orem residents are beginning to say yes to Prop 2 once they understand all of the facts?

StrongerTogether says teachers won’t stay in Orem if Prop 2 passes. It has come to my attention that teachers, who do not wish to be identified, were told by Prop 2 opponents they’ll lose their jobs if Prop 2 passes. Gee, I can’t imagine why teachers would be against it… Of course that’s nonsense and according to “math” OSD will be able to keep teachers at current pay and even increase pay. However, teachers do lose their jobs when ASD closes schools and it has closed and combined Orem schools in recent years. During an October 18th bond presentation, Kim Bird and David Stephenson from ASD announced that they are considering closing more title 1 schools in Orem. They are considering closing and consolidating seven more Orem schools. Talk about disruption to the students and putting teachers’ jobs in jeopardy. ASD is now saying that’s not true, but people who attended the bond presentation say otherwise.

In a recent debate, Ada Wilson said that they will be closing and “merging” more Orem schools. At the bond presentation, ASD confirmed that. How many more schools will we have left by the time Alpine finally decides to split the district on their terms? The split will eventually happen, but on whose terms is the question.

Here’s the cynical side of me. ASD has said publicly that a district split will eventually happen, but now is not the right time. Could their timing concerns have anything to do with holding on to Orem for a few more years and getting more of our schools closed (due to declining enrollment), selling the land, continuing to collect Orem tax dollars, and make sure Orem’s bank account is in play for the nearly $600,000,000 bond they are aggressively pushing to pass? Those reasons make a lot more sense to me than the ones they display on their website and in their literature. Especially knowing how it all started and the subterfuge to make Orem residents believe the opposition was just made up of concerned folks with kids in Orem schools. “Trust us” was their mantra. “We know best” when asked why. Sounds a lot like big government, doesn’t it?

On the StrongerTogether website it states, “At Stronger Together, we have no motive other than what is best for students and the community as a whole. In that spirit, many of us—average parents, grandparents, teachers, and taxpayers have spent months of our personal time to do a careful examination of the study.” I disagree. I believe they have 595,000,000 reasons to block Orem’s proposal and I believe the main backers and promoters of the NO on Prop2 campaign are, in fact, ASD insiders.

I don’t blame my neighbors and other residents of Orem for wanting to trust the Alpine School District. But this time, they’ve done and said things that go beyond what I deem appropriate and ethical behavior and have misled people with information and numbers that not one single certified financial analyst has verified. They have maligned individuals by name, spread rumors about the intentions and credibility of those who conducted the feasibility study, attacked the study itself, and then when the non-partisan Utah Taxpayers Association debunked their claims of increased taxes to fund OSD, they attacked the Utah Taxpayers Association with claims they were “bribed” and “paid off.” Those claims forced the UTA to come out and defend their position. You can read that here: Utah Taxpayers Association Response to Allegations of Bribery

I know most folks don’t have the time or even want to take the time to dig into this kind of stuff, but our kids and grandkids deserve the best possible education we can give them. To be totally honest that’s probably only available with Home Schooling in this day and age, of which I am an advocate. But I also know that’s not feasible for many parents. Based on what I’ve learned and the disturbing revelations regarding ASD’s handling of this issue and campaign of rumor and innuendo against it, I will be voting yes on Prop 2.

The cards are definitely stacked against it. Unfairly, in my opinion, but the chances of this proposition passing are slim. I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m not, I hope the people at Alpine School District show more ethical restraint and don’t become vindictive toward the parents, teachers, and Orem City leaders who believed an Orem School District was the right thing to do at the right time. I hope the school district realizes and admits to the value they have placed on Orem and treat its residents and schools accordingly.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind at this point, but if verifiable facts and figures matter, and people should seriously question the opposition and their rhetoric. Call the ASD offices and ask that they provide citable information that you can use to verify their financial claims, but don’t expect much, not even 3rd party financial analysts can do it.

I want to believe everyone in this fight is truly fighting for what’s best for the kids. We won’t really know until well after the election, but I will tell you this, I will be paying much closer attention to what ASD and our school board does going forward if Prop 2 is defeated.

I hope everyone will.

 

Other links in favor of Prop 2

Orem’s Future YouTube page

Orem School District Funding Calculations with John Barrick PhD, CPA

Yes on Prop2 Cottage Meeting – Part 1

Yes on Prop2 Cottage Meeting – Part 2

Orem City District Feasibility Study

Other links that oppose Prop 2

Orem Teachers are voting No on Prop 2

Stronger Together Facebook Page

Survey of Teachers

Other Source Materials

Transparent Utah

Utah State Tax Commission

Utah Board of Education

Orem City Transparency Portal

Alpine School District Business Services

DEC Consulting Services

Orem City Schools

Utah County Property Taxes – Treasurer

ASD Annual Budget

Utah Taxpayers Association Schools Spending Report

ASD Financial Report

National Center for Educational Statistics

ASD Enrollment History and Projections

 

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Written by DCL

October 22, 2022 at 6:06 pm

9/11 – 19 Years Later

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19 years ago America revered its police officers, firefighters, and other first responders as they watched so many of them rush into the inferno to save people they didn’t know, had never met, and would likely never see again.

We seemed to understand and appreciate how the vast majority of them were honorable, selfless, good, and caring people and we admired them for it. That was the case for as long as I can remember prior to this year and the incredible 180 degree turn that has pit so many Americans against those same people.

So what changed in two decades to completely reverse those sentiments of admiration and respect among seemingly so many Americans today who call for the organizational abolishment and removal of our police from society?

Is it the police officers, as a whole, that became more violent, abusive, and lawless in their actions toward the people and communities they are sworn to serve and protect?

Is it the American people, as a whole, who became more violent, abusive, and lawless in their behaviors and actions in general?

Or is it possible that neither of those scenarios hold the answer to where we find our nation in the year 2020?

I submit that it isn’t a seismic shift in how people in law enforcement see those they swore an oath to serve and protect, nor is it a massive American migration toward criminality, but rather subtle, incremental shifts, in the values, morals, and ideologies of the society we all belong to.

A society that has grown to love itself more than others. A society that too often first looks outward to place blame rather than inward to consider personal behavior, attitudes, or culpabilities. A society that is quick to judge and condemn, but so slow to forgive. A society that demands complex issues be explained in simple platitudes.

How can a society that has lost its faith in the divine, ignores the lessons of history, and admires wealth, power, and status over the basic principles of life, liberty, and happiness, expect to see and experience anything but a degradation of societal norms that leads to the kind of upheaval and chaos we are now experiencing in so many places in America?

I believe the answer is a simple one. We have to learn to forgive. Unconditional forgiveness requires humility. Humility opens our hearts to love. And love for one another is the healing balm this nation needs.

And one other thing. We need to invite God back into our country. His absence has a lot to do with the changes we’ve seen in the past 19 years…

Written by DCL

September 11, 2020 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Faith, Family

Tagged with ,

The Divine Strength of Womanhood

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This is a repost of a blog by Dustin Phelps at happiness-seekers.com

Dustin’s blog is currently on leave while he writes a book. 

I was deeply moved by this article and whether you’re a believer or not, I think you too will appreciate this perspective and example of how we should all view the women in this world.

It deeply pains me that over the course of history, some people have insisted not only that women are inferior to men, but that God agrees. ~ Doug Long – TheLongVersion.com

 

I have been disheartened to learn how many women feel conflicted about their place in God’s plan and whether He really sees His daughters as being equal to His sons.

So today I want to share the most powerful evidence I have ever come across that God—despite the cultural views of some of His children—has always held a grander view of womanhood than any of us could conceive on our own.

This article deals with one of the most widely known scriptures about Mother Eve. The verse in question has been used by some as an excuse to marginalize women, but, as you will see, it actually contains an extraordinary tribute to Eve and all women.

This discovery has fundamentally deepened my respect for womanhood and led me to believe that we are only beginning to understand the breathtaking vision God has for the role of women in the Church and in Society.

However, before I dive in, I have to explain something.

This discovery will be much more fascinating with some essential context. So, I’m asking you to trust me. People who read my articles know that I occasionally ask readers to 1) read more carefully than normal and 2) read until the end. 

This is such an article. 

Let’s get started.

When Brittney was pregnant with our first child—per the norm—everyone would always ask what we were going to name him. When they learned that our son’s middle name was going to be Ebenezer, we’d get all sorts of surprised looks.

“You mean like Ebenezer Scrooge?!” They couldn’t believe it. Some friends and family members would joke about how they were going to call him “Scrooge” when he got older. 

But the truth is that we didn’t choose the name Ebenezer on a whim nor out of a fascination with the literary accomplishments of Charles Dickens.

As it turns out, Eben-Ezer, a Hebrew term from the Bible, has special spiritual significance.

There was a time recorded in the Old Testament when an enormous Philistine army was invading Israel. The force that stood against Israel was completely overwhelming. Things got so bad that the people realized that they were doomed to destruction if the Lord did not intervene. 

Realizing this, the people went to the Prophet Samuel and begged him to plead with the Lord to spare their lives. Samuel did so and the Lord intervened. 

With the Lord’s help, the outnumbered Israelite soldiers were miraculously able to defeat the Philistine armies. 

On the battlefield, while the victory was still fresh in the minds of the people, Samuel erected a monument and called it “Eben-Ezer” (which means “Stone of Help”). And then he declared the significance of the monument:

“Hitherto has the Lord helped us.”

You see, Samuel was concerned that the people would forget how they had won. He was worried that they might take credit for the victory. The Prophet wanted the people to never forget that they had only defeated their enemies because of the Lord’s help. And if they were to hope for His blessings and protection in the future, they needed to continue relying on Him.

Incidentally, if you’ve ever heard the beloved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, you may have wondered what the author meant when he wrote: ”Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by Thy help I’m come.”

Well, now you know.

Anyway, with all that in mind, we can now approach the discovery. 

About a year ago I was asked to speak at a relief society function. The topic was “The Divine Role of Womanhood.” As a man, I felt pretty unqualified and uncomfortable speaking on such a grand topic…especially to a group of women.

I was humbled and a little mortified at the task that lay before me.

As I prepared my remarks, I reflected on Mother Eve, the progenitor of all women.

A couple of years previous, I had written an article about ways in which centuries of cultural misunderstanding have distorted the message of Genesis 2:18 which reads:

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; [so] I will make him an help meet for him.”

As I reflected on the article I had previously written and then pondered further the words of Genesis 2:18, I decided to see if the Hebrew from which the words were translated could provide any additional insight.

I was specifically interested in the Hebrew word that had been translated into “meet” because it has complex meaning and is pivotal to the verse.

But as I turned to the original Hebrew rendition, something else in the verse caught my eye:

“Ezer”

I noticed that when God says that Eve will be a “help” to Adam, the original Hebrew usage translated into “help” is…”Ezer”.

Wait? Ezer…as in Eben-Ezer? It was the same word.

If it weren’t for the significance of Eben-Ezer, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But I was suddenly intrigued.

I looked up the definition and etymology of the word and learned that some scholars trace the Hebrew word “Ezer” to a combination of two source words, one which means strength and another which refers to rescuing, saving, and defending (source).

I searched “Ezer” in the Hebrew text and found that it is used two dozen times in the Old Testament.

Remarkably, “Ezer” is always used in a military context (except when referring to Eve) and almost every time it is used to describe God as the Divine Helper and Protector of Israel.

It is this same word that is used to describe Eve.

Many women have written to me and expressed how they have always felt marginalized by this verse; it makes them feel as if God’s vision of woman was that of some second-class “helper”.

But here was the ultimate evidence that society had projected their own ignorance onto the verse.

Eve is described with a word that everywhere else in the Old Testament is only used for virtually two purposes 1) to describe God when he is coming to stand with Israel against its enemies or 2) when other nations come to march with the soldiers of Israel as they face their foes (list of “ezer” usages found here).

So, “Ezer”, the word used to describe Mother Eve as a “help” to Adam, has nothing to do with the role of an inferior or domestic servant. 

The word that is used to describe the Creator of the Universe as a savior, source of strength, and “the Helper of Israel” cannot have a demeaning implication. God blesses His people, He loves and cares for His people, and He stands with His people…but He is not subservient to them. 

In the Old Testament, the Lord is described as an “Ezer” when Israel is too weak to face its enemies alone. Other nations are described as an “Ezer” to Israel, when Israel’s strength is insufficient to defeat its enemies.

And so it is with Eve. Eve is referred to as an “Ezer” when God sees that Adam cannot do it alone.  Eve is referred to as an “ezer” because she was Adam’s first ally and friend, his partner in doing battle with evil and bringing about the purposes of God upon the Earth.

So, the very verse that has been used to marginalize women, was really God’s own tribute to His daughters.

It is high time that we reclaimed and embraced God’s vision of women.

Exciting things are on the horizon. Women in every quarter of the world are rising up and the women of the Church must rise to lead and influence them.

So, the next time you read Genesis 2:18 and you are tempted to imagine a submissive housekeeper, instead think of a warrior with a drawn sword. Think of a change maker. Think of a leader. Think of an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a mother, a wife, a young women’s leader, or Sunday school teacher.

Your influence has changed me; it has changed the people around you. Thank you for being an “ezer”. Thank you for your service, for your voice, for your leadership, for your courage, and for your sacrifices.

We cannot do this without you.

Written by DCL

March 9, 2020 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Faith, Family, Good News

Tagged with , , , ,

Muhammad Ali and Me

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Muhammad Ali defeats Sonny ListonThe Greatest is gone.  At age 74, Muhammad Ali has died.

My dad was a boxer.

Everything I know about my father’s boxing career comes from the stories, the trophies, and old photographs. I never saw him fight. He quit boxing before I was born. I can’t say I know the reasons, but I can guess it had something to do with supporting a wife and new family, namely me in 1960.

Born in 1936, his early childhood spanned a world war and it was in post war America, with Joe Louis as the boxing hero, that my father’s love for the sport was born.  In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, boxing clubs were as common as convenience stores today. It was kind of a rite of passage for young men to try their hand in the ring and my dad was pretty good at it. He never lost a fight.

For me and boxing it was 1970 and a controversial figure named Muhammad Ali. I remember my dad talking about this fighter and calling him Cassius Clay and then explaining to me that he changed his name for his religion and that he refused to go fight in Viet Nam because of his religious beliefs. At age 10 those things weren’t all that interesting to me I just wanted to see if there was going to be a knock out, but it appeared to me even at that young age, that my dad respected Ali for that. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were Mormons and he understood what it meant to make choices that were very different from the world due to one’s faith. I don’t know. But I do know we never missed an Ali fight.

I can’t say I was an Ali fan. I think it had something to do with my mother’s teaching that it was wrong to be cocky, boastful, and arrogant, and Muhammad Ali was all of those things and then some. So, due to a mother’s strong influence, I always cheered for the other guy. History says I cheered for a lot of losers.

In that first fight of 1970, Ali’s return from exile after three years of being banned from the ring due to his decision not to go to Viet Nam, my guy Jerry Quarry, lost when a cut in the 3rd round forced an end to the fight and a TKO win for Ali.

Outwardly, I may not have been a fan, but inwardly I loved to watch Ali fight. He was light on his feet, quick, always moving, fast hands and feet, and when he struck it was hard and accurate. His style was truly elegant and graceful which is why the phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was the perfect simile.

I don’t think my dad and I missed a single heavy weight bout by Ali. Boxing was on free TV then. We watched the majority of his fights on a little black and white set. I remember listening to Howard Cosell at ringside giving the call blow-by-blow.

By the late 70s and early 80s, as the Champ’s career was coming to a close, I was more fan than foe. Ali had been so good for so long, it was hard not to like him and impossible not to respect him. Though I never had the opportunity to meet Muhammad Ali he had become a friend. No longer the foe. No longer the recipient of my agitation. When he fought Leon Spinks, losing once then coming back to win the second time, and then Larry Holmes who exposed the declining Ali and handed him the worst defeat of his career, I… no all, could see the end was near. When it did end, it happened in a less than spectacular 10 round loss by decision to Trevor Berbick on December 11, 1981. My heart ached for the man I loved to hate for so long who’s only real defeat in my mind came at the slow and methodical hands of father time. That irony isn’t lost.

The Greatest of all time had come to the end of his dominance in the ring and I was sad.

Now 25 years after his last defeat in the ring, The Greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali, has come to the end of his sojourn on this earth.

And I am sad.

 

A Mother’s Prayer

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A Mother’s Day story dedicated to my amazing wife and mother of our four children and to my mom, a woman my feeble words cannot adequately describe.  I love them both more than words can express.

A Mother's Prayer

You came into this world in a rush amid a chaotic scramble to usher in your first breath.  The heart monitor was strapped around your mother’s stomach.  We watched blips on a screen and listened to the rhythm of the beats, but that was the cause of our concern.  There wasn’t any rhythm to it. “No heart beat… there’s no heartbeat,” the words sent doctors and nurses scrambling, taking your mother with them they quickly disappeared from view.  Unlike your other siblings, your father wouldn’t witness this delivery nor would your mother for this time she would be sedated to allow the scalpel to do its necessarily swift job.  Minutes passed but felt like days. Finally, a smiling nurse and doctor appeared.  All is well.  You are here, healthy, and in the arms of a groggy, but smiling, mom.

This Sunday started out like any other. A mother works to get her six little ducklings ready for church.  The weekly process consists of a combination of skirmishes and diplomacy but eventually all eight are in route to the meeting-house.  You are still little, the youngest of the brood, and today you are very fussy.  Not like you.  As the worship service progresses you become ever more agitated and increasingly warm. Your mother feels impressed to take you home leaving the rest of the family at church. By the time you get home you are burning with fever. 100, 101, 102 and climbing.  A telephone call to the doctor results in another trip, this time to the local children’s hospital.  When you arrive your temperature is over 104 and pushing 105.  The nurses immediately take you and wrap you in cool wet towels to try to bring the fever down.  The doctor can find no other symptoms of illness, only the high fever. He requests a procedure known as a spinal tap and your mom is asked to leave the room. In anguish, she tearfully obeys. — Spinal meningitis. The words fall heavy from the doctors lips onto the ears of a distraught and panicking mother.  A deadly disease in 1971.  If death did not occur in the first few days the patient was sure to have severe complications, from blindness and deafness to mental disabilities. The doctor’s prognosis left hope dangling by a thread, seemingly out of reach, but not all hope.  You spent a number of days in a hospital room under the watchful eye of your mother, each day showing signs of improvement.  You made it past those initial, crucial stages with your life.  Your continued improvement encouraged doctors to allow your parents to take you home, but it would be weeks, even months, before anyone would know the toll the prolonged fever would take.  Six months later, you were pronounced healthy with no ill effects.

Another night at football practice. The nightly scrimmage was like any other. Repetitions. Lots of repetitions. You run each play over and over until assignments and execution become second nature. The play was a pass play. You took the snap from center and dropped back, eyes darting about the field for an open receiver.  You never saw it coming.  The blitzing linebacker from your blind-side. He lunged at your legs, the crown of his helmet striking just above the ankle.  Your mom was there in an instant hearing your screams of pain, rushing to your side trying to calm you and provide comfort, when someone said, “ankles aren’t supposed to bend that way.”  She never left your side. There was no separating you. She was there assuring you that everything would be alright.

And for the most part, things have been alright.

Oh you’ve made some poor choices, dealing with the consequences, suffering more pain along the way, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  And every hurt, every heartache, every painful experience has been shared by your mother and will continue to be for as long as her life is connected with yours.  Because the bond between mother and child is unlike any other relationship human beings are blessed to experience in this life — for a mother’s arms encircle a child both literally and figuratively throughout his or her life with tender restraint, security, and love. There to protect against fear, harm, and evil.

Motherhood is the highest, holiest service assumed by humankind. It’s the definition of selfless service. It’s both a daunting responsibility and a glorious opportunity.  The divine role of motherhood is a gift from God, and key to His plan of happiness for all His children.

When she heard the words, “there is no heartbeat”, a mother prayed.

When she heard the diagnosis of spinal meningitis, a mother prayed.

When she heard the agonizing cries of her son in pain, a mother prayed.

A man of great knowledge and wisdom once said, “There are few things more powerful than the prayers of a righteous mother.”  I believe motherhood is a divine and appointed calling enabling them to receive help from above in times of need.  Through sleepless nights, dark days, and seemingly impossible and difficult circumstances, the prayers of mothers have been a source of unparalleled divine power in homes, communities, and nations.

That power has been exercised in your behalf countless times through your life.  Do you know what the truly amazing thing is?  She asks nothing in return.  She just wants you to be happy.

On this Mother’s Day and any day you get the chance, tell your mom how happy you are because she is your mom.

It will be an answer to a mother’s prayer.

 

Written by DCL

May 9, 2015 at 9:42 pm

The Wisdom of the Aged

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James K. Flanagan passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack on September 3, 2012. But he left behind the wisdom he gleaned from the 72 years of his life in a letter to his five grandchildren.

It is wisdom that will benefit us all if we will but take heed.

 

James K FlanaganDear Ryan, Conor, Brendan, Charlie, and Mary Catherine,

My wise and thoughtful daughter Rachel urged me to write down some advice for you, the important things that I have learned about life. I am beginning this on 8 April 2012, the eve of my 72nd birthday.

1. Each one of you is a wonderful gift of God both to your family and to all the world. Remember it always, especially when the cold winds of doubt and discouragement fall upon your life.

2. Be not afraid . . . of anyone or of anything when it comes to living your life most fully. Pursue your hopes and your dreams no matter how difficult or “different” they may seem to others. Far too many people don’t do what they want or should do because of what they imagine others may think or say. Remember, if they don’t bring you chicken soup when you’re sick or stand by you when you’re in trouble, they don’t matter. Avoid those sour-souled pessimists who listen to your dreams then say, “Yeah, but what if . . .” The heck with “what if. . .” Do it! The worst thing in life is to look back and say: “I would have; I could have; I should have.” Take risks, make mistakes.

3. Everyone in the world is just an ordinary person. Some people may wear fancy hats or have big titles or (temporarily) have power and want you to think they are above the rest. Don’t believe them. They have the same doubts, fears, and hopes; they eat, drink, sleep, and fart like everyone else. Question authority always but be wise and careful about the way you do it.

4. Make a Life List of all those things you want to do: travel to places; learn a skill; master a language; meet someone special. Make it long and do some things from it every year. Don’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow” (or next month or next year). That is the surest way to fail to do something. There is no tomorrow, and there is no “right” time to begin something except now.

5. Practice the Irish proverb: Moi an olge agus tiocfaidh si “Praise the child and she will flourish.”

6. Be kind and go out of your way to help people — especially the weak, the fearful, and children. Everyone is carrying a special sorrow, and they need our compassion.

7. Don’t join the military or any organization that trains you to kill. War is evil. All wars are started by old men who force or fool young men to hate and to kill each other. The old men survive, and, just as they started the war with pen and paper, they end it the same way. So many good and innocent people die. If wars are so good and noble, why aren’t those leaders who start wars right up there fighting?

8. Read books, as many as you can. They are a wonderful source of delight, wisdom, and inspiration. They need no batteries or connections, and they can go anywhere.

9. Be truthful.

10. Travel: always but especially when you are young. Don’t wait until you have “enough” money or until everything is “just right.” That never happens. Get your passport today.

11. Pick your job or profession because you love to do it. Sure, there will be some things hard about it, but a job must be a joy. Beware of taking a job for money alone — it will cripple your soul.

12. Don’t yell. It never works, and it hurts both yourself and others. Every time I have yelled, I have failed.

13. Always keep promises to children. Don’t say “we’ll see” when you mean “no.” Children expect the truth; give it to them with love and kindness.

14. Never tell anyone you love them when you don’t.

15. Live in harmony with Nature: go into the outdoors, woods, mountains, sea, desert. It’s important for your soul.

16. Visit Ireland. It’s where the soul of our family was born — especially the West: Roscommon, Clare, and Kerry.

17. Hug people you love. Tell them how much they mean to you now; don’t wait until it’s too late.

18. Be grateful. There is an Irish saying: “This is a day in our lives, and it will not come again.” Live every day with this in mind.

As was written in his obituary, James K. Flanagan “was proudly liberal and fought unyieldingly for the underdog. He was an accomplished author, poet, and seanchai — Irish storyteller; he reveled in recounting the joy of growing up Catholic in Jersey City and his adventures in the Adirondack Mountains and on the Western coast of Ireland. His greatest love was spending time with his family, most of all his five grandchildren” Ryan (11); Conor (10); Brendan (9); Charles (8); and Mary Catherine (5).”

*Previously published in the San Francisco Globe.

Written by DCL

March 29, 2014 at 11:40 am

The Miley and Robin Letters

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MTV stands for Music Television.  But this past week MTV became Miley Television.

402631-miley-cyrus-grabs-crotchMiley Cyrus, the once cute and lovable Hanna Montana on the Disney channel, displayed her disturbing and sexually overt persona transformation into a tongue wagging, butt slapping, twerking spectacle at the VMA’s and and in that instant became a polarizing pop culture figure.

I’m not going to discuss the disgusting details of Cyrus’ performance or failure depending upon your perspective.  What I want to share are the lessons that can and should be learned by every person who watched or has read about the now infamous awards show.

The lessons have been eloquently penned by two bloggers in the form of letters to their sons and daughters.

Some will read this and be changed by it.  Others will scoff, mock, and dismiss as an over-reaction or old-fashioned thinking.

You have your agency to choose how you react, but at least choose to read and consider.

 

Penned by Blogger Kim Keller at Roadkillgoldfish.com

Dear daughter, let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to you.

Yes, this is what happens when you constantly hear everything you do is awesome. This is what happens when people fawn over your every Tweet and Instagram photo. This is what happens when no responsible adult has ever said the word “no,” made you change your clothes before leaving the house, or never spanked your butt for deliberate defiance.

If you ever even consider doing something like that, I promise you that I will run up and twerk so you will see how ridiculous twerking looks. I will duct tape your mouth shut so your tongue doesn’t hang out like an overheated hound dog. I will smack any male whom you decide to smash against his pelvis – after I first knock you on your butt for forgetting how a lady acts in public.

Why would I do that? Because I love you and I want you to respect yourself. Miley Cyrus is not edgy or cool or sexy. She’s a desperate girl screaming for attention: Notice me. Tell me I’m pretty. See how hot I am. I know all the guys want me. All the girls want to be me.

You probably know girls who will emulate this behavior at the next school dance. Don’t do it with them. You are far too valuable to sell yourself so cheaply. Walk away. Let the boys gawk and know in your heart that they see only a body that can be used for their pleasure and then forgotten.

I’m sorry if you’ve ever felt sad because I haven’t gushed over everything you’ve done. My role is to praise when praise is due, but also to offer constructive criticism and correction when it is needed as well. I’m sorry if you’ve ever felt demoralized because your Instagram following isn’t in the thousands, and I’m sorry those “selfies” can never capture how amazingly beautiful you truly are. I’m sorry if you’ve ever wished you had a friend instead of a mom, and I promise you that I will probably get worse when you hit high school.

Dear daughter, I am going to fight or die trying to keep you from becoming like the Miley Cyruses of the world.

You can thank me later.

**********************

Penned by Blogger and Radio Show host Matt Walsh at The Matt Walsh Blog

Dear son,

Don’t let Robin Thicke be a lesson to you.

Don’t let any of these pigs and perverts you see on TV be a lesson to you. They treat women like garbage; they possess no chivalry, no self control; they are disloyal and dishonest; they spend all day pursuing pleasure at the expense of others, and they encourage you to do the same. You might be tempted to follow suit. In fact, you WILL be tempted. These male pop stars and celebrities, look at them, you’ll think. They take advantage of emotionally broken, self loathing, confused young women, and they are rewarded handsomely for it. Look at their nice clothes and their nice cars. Look how they are admired and loved. Look, they treat women like trash and other women fawn all over them because of it. This must be how real men behave, you’ll think.

And you’ll be wrong. You’ll be wrong about a lot of things in life — this is what it means to be human — but never will you be more wrong than when you feel the temptation to buy the lies that pop culture sells about the nature of true masculinity. Son, there is nothing glamorous or fun about being a man of low character and no integrity. What you see on TV is a facade. It’s a sales pitch. It’s poison. You see the bright lights and the sexy women, but you don’t see what happens when the cameras are off and these pop culture gods return to their lives as mere mortals. You don’t see them in their big, empty, lonely houses. You don’t see the emptiness in the pit of their souls. You don’t see all the alcohol and drugs they have to use to dull the pain of living a life devoid of real, committed relationships. You don’t see the hatred they have for themselves and for humanity. You don’t see the jealousy they have towards normal, decent men.

Your dad is no celebrity. He’s just an average, boring guy. But he’s got something that every famous and non-famous womanizer envies: He’s got the love and commitment of ONE beautiful, smart, faithful woman. He’s got your mom, and he’ll only have your mom until the day he dies. He ought to be waking up every day shouting praises to the Lord because of that.

Listen, son, don’t let the world tell you how to be a man. They don’t know anything about the subject.

Men are loyal. Men are honest. Men respect and honor women. A man goes out and finds one woman, and he vows to protect and love her for the rest of his life. A man would never betray that vow. Even the weakest and most cowardly man — if he is a man at all — would die for the woman he loves. Your dad is no hero, but let someone try to hurt your mom and watch him suddenly turn into Superman (or Batman, whichever you prefer).

See, son, you don’t have to be big and strong to be a man, although I think you will be one day. You don’t have to be “cool” or athletic. You don’t have to play guitar or fix cars. These are all fine things, but they don’t define a man. A man is defined by how he treats women, by how he keeps his promises, and by how he protects and serves the ones he loves. That’s what makes a man a man. My dad taught me that, he taught it by example. I pray I can do the same for you.

Oh, and by the way, if I ever catch you disrespecting women, I will sit you down and talk to you about it. But first I’ll kick your butt up and down the street. That’s a promise.

Love,

Your old man

Written by DCL

August 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Confessions of a Welfare Worker

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A recent report by Bret Baire of FOX News followed a California beach bum through his typical day, driving a nice black pickup truck, hanging out on the beach drinking beers with friends and flashing his SNAP card.

SNAP is an acronym for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps…

How does a guy living the life on a California beach do it?  The same way many Americans do it.  Gaming the system, finding its flaws and loopholes, which are many, and taking advantage.

The following is a post by a person only identified as a Welfare Worker.  As I followed previous and subsequent posts it became clear he or she was indeed what they said they were or perhaps even higher in the welfare food chain.

Regardless, what they had to say should be cause for every tax payer to be hammering their elected representatives to clean up and fix a corrupt and broken system that seems to foster dependency and discourage self-sufficiency.

Welfare Worker

Management discourages us from looking into fraud, for all but the worst cases.

I once discovered fraud from a bank statement, the bank statement were not required, but the transactions showed unreported income. I got called into my supervisor’s office and asked “Why did you request a bank statement? You know it is not needed.” I had to apologize, and tell her I did not request it, they just sent it in with the rest of the paperwork. If I would have actually requested it, I would have been in real trouble, but there wasn’t much she could no.

Most of what people think is fraud, is actually just gaming the system – shaping the circumstances so maximum benefits are received.

People can quit jobs to increase welfare benefits for ANY reason.

No work requirements for food stamps in 46 states, mostly done under Bush.
ABAWD regulations suspended for 12 month periods, year after year.
http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/memo/…
http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/memo/…

Many states have no resource requirements. In our county one family got $600,000 in a settlement, quit their jobs and went on food stamps and Medicaid, no problem. This type of think is common nationwide.

People spend more for cell phones and cable TV than for heat, cooling, electric, and welfare programs pay those bills, no fraud.

Many people live off social services, and will not apply for cash assistance (TANF) because they do not want to work or file for child support, no fraud.

It is known that for adults with SSI (welfare) children, half of their income is the SSI – pays the bills not covered by welfare.

(Per the SSA reference below – SSI and children – “On average, SSI payments accounted for nearly 48 percent of the family income of SSI children,”) For all families with SSI children, SSI is nearly half of ALL income. SSI and children.
http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v66n2…

Myth: Most welfare recipients are on benefits a short time.

Let me make that clearer.

At any one time 80% of any given caseload is chronic, repeat for one or more lifetimes.
80% of the money being spent at any one moment in time, is for the chronic, constantly needy, needy by choice, more than circumstances. The other 20% comes and goes on a regular basis, in one door, out the other, never to be seen again.

At any moment in time, only 20% of the total, but over a long stretch (say five years), most of the ones helped were short timers, came and went, just like the myth says, most of the recipients on a short time,but they only use 20% of the total funds available.

80% of the financial help available, goes to those ‘few bad apples.’ That does not sound like a good taxpayer investment to me. It seems to me the lion share of the money should be spent on the temporarily poor, the poor by circumstances, more than choice.
http://www.urban.org/publications/900288…

~ ~ ~
Cash Welfare Caseload. In December 2010, the number of families receiving TANF cash welfare was 1.9 million families, consisting of 4.7 million recipients, of which 3.5 million were children. The cash welfare caseload is very heterogeneous. The type of family historically thought of as the “typical” cash welfare family—one with an unemployed adult recipient—accounted for less than half of all families on the rolls in FY2008. Additionally, 15% of cash welfare families had an employed adult, while almost half of all families had no adult recipient. Child-only families include those with disabled adults receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), adults who are non-parents (e.g., grandparents, aunts, uncles) caring for children, and families consisting of citizen children and ineligible noncitizen parents.
http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/asset…

~ ~

Today’s antipoverty safety net is dramatically different from the one in place two decades ago when welfare reform was enacted. Rather than a safety net primarily dependent on cash assistance programs, as is the common perception, the current system is highly reliant on social service programs funded by government and delivered through community-based nonprofits. Annual public and private expenditures for social service programs today exceed total federal outlays for cash assistance programs like welfare, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

https://ed.stanford.edu/events/…

 

Telling the Emperor He’s Naked OR Saying What Others are Afraid to.

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Sometimes when Bill O’Reilly speaks I find myself shaking my head in disbelief and disagreement.  Other times my nodding is profuse and fervent in the positive.

Regardless of what you personally think of Bill O’Reilly, the man isn’t afraid to say what he thinks and more often than not what others are likely thinking but are too afraid to say themselves.

So it is with his Talking Points segment on the O’Reilly Factor Monday night following President Obama’s second speech on the Trayvon Martin case and race in America.

Personally, I felt the President injected himself into the Zimmerman case haphazardly and recklessly when he made his first statement prior to the trial or any presentation of evidence in the case.  I felt he unnecessarily created more angst and bitterness with his unbalanced remarks which made it appear the president had taken sides and with no thought toward the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a court of law with regard to George Zimmerman.

This second speech was more tempered and calculated than the first but still failed, in my opinion, to root out the main cause for the tensions and problems that exist with regard to race in America today and failed to acknowledge the core reasons for the problems that plague the African American community.  He ignored them, played the blame game, and did little to ease the tensions of which he spoke.

I’ve long held the belief that the disintegration of the family has led to more problems in society than any other failure and that includes the black community.  I still hold that belief and apparently Bill O’Reilly sees it that way too.  Fix that problem and many many other problems go away.  It’s not a panacea but it is a huge part of the cure.

Of course in the days following this monologue the excuse makers and placaters have come out in droves.

The Royal Court is not pleased at having its leader’s bareness outed.

Written by DCL

July 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Red Skelton With a Message for Our Day

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Red Skelton was the funny man of my childhood.  I remember seeing him often on TV programs like Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and of course his own TV show, The Red Skelton Hour.

But on the occasion represented by this video, Mr. Skelton took a moment to teach a valuable lesson on what it means to be an American citizen and the solemn words of our pledge of allegiance.

This is a message for our day perhaps more so than in 1969 when it was recorded.  It is a great reminder of who we were as a nation and people not so long ago and where we must return if our nation is to remain whole and strong.

Written by DCL

June 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm