Mike Kueber's Blog

October 31, 2011

My Christmas present to David Brooks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 7:40 pm
Tags: , ,

In a recent column, David Brooks said what he wanted from his readers for Christmas:

  • “If you are over 70, I’d like to ask for a gift. I’d like you to write a brief report on your life so far, an evaluation of what you did well, of what you did not so well and what you learned along the way. You can write this as a brief essay or divide your life into categories — career, family, faith, community, and self-knowledge — and give yourself a grade in each area.”

Brooks went on to say that in November he would write a few columns about the so-called “Life Reports,” and he would post many more online.  He was hopeful that the Reports would benefit not only old people, who rarely have such a formal opportunity for self-appraisal, but also those young people who are interested in thinking about “how a life develops, how careers and families evolve, what are the common mistakes and the common blessings of modern adulthood.”

In elaborating on the concept of Life Reports, Brooks mentioned that he had recently stumbled across some short autobiographies written by some oldsters for their 50-year college reunion.  The following is one of his observations about the autobiographies:

  • The most common lament in this collection is from people who worked at the same company all their lives and now realize how boring they must seem. These people passively let their lives happen to them. One man described his long, uneventful career at an insurance company and concluded, ‘Wish my self-profile was more exciting, but it’s a little late now.’”

Because of my career in insurance, including the last 22 years at the same company, that observation stuck me like a 2×4 across the forehead.  Even though I am too young for the demographic that Brooks is interested in, I am going to do a Life Report for me.

What did I do well?

My number-one objective in life has been to father a large family of good kids.  So far, so good.  Although the kids are still maturing (the oldest is 29, but the youngest is only 18), they show every sign of being exceptionally good kids.  Using my modified Golden Rule, suffice it to say that if all of the kids in the world were like my kids, this would be one helluva great world.  Grade A.

I am pleased with my career of work.  Because I was raised with a farmer’s work ethic, I have always shown up for work and then worked hard to do a good job.  Although I was blessed with energy and thinking skills that could have taken me higher up the ladder of success, I never saw anything higher up the ladder that would have been worth the sacrifice.  Perhaps I am still affected by the mindset of the 60s regarding too much ambition, ego, and materialism.  Grade A-.

I have always placed a high value on my relationships with friends, and that is consistent with one of my ex’s favorite sayings – the grass is greener where you water it.  Because I valued my relationships, I devoted time and energy to maintaining them.  In fact, I used to resent friends who shared their time with me only if they didn’t have anything to do with their family.  While family should have the highest priority, it shouldn’t be your exclusive priority.  Grade A.

What did I do not so well?

I didn’t do well at marriage.  I was brought up to think that a marriage was forever, but mine lasted only 26 years.  Grade C-.

I also didn’t do well with my community.  They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but that couldn’t be more untrue if applied to my dad and me.  Dad lived for his community and was involved in everything.  By contrast, I had my family, my job, and my friends, in that order.  My dad and his four brothers served in the military.  By contrast, I was in Army ROTC in college during Vietnam, but then obtained a conscientious-objector discharge.  A few years later, I applied for the Peace Corps, but was rejected for medical reasons.  After changing my conscientious-objector views during law school, I tried to enlist in the National Guard, but was too old.  And finally, last year I ran for the U.S. Congress and lost in the Republican Primary.  Using my modified Golden Rule, my community and my country would be piss-poor if everyone acted like me.  Grade D.

What did I learn along the way?

You must be comfortable in your own skin.  I don’t know who coined that expression, and it certainly might be easier said than done, but there is no quicker, more instructive shorthand for how to live a good life.  Unfortunately, many Americans are afflicted with too much ego and insecurity.

Raising good kids is easier than having a good marriage.  As a recent convert to evolutionary biology, I might conjecture that raising good kids comes naturally, especially if you are comfortable in your own skins; having a good marriage takes hard work and discipline.

After years of drifting between atheism and agnosticism, I have recently settled into Deism.  Having been brought up by Christians (my dad was a devout Catholic), I have always felt guilty for not believing in Christianity.  My friend Mike Callen gave me some comfort by saying that I was more spiritual than most Christians that he knew, and further reflection in recent years has caused me to buy into the Deism of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin.  So I am in good company.

For many years, I believed that my relationships with friends were highly important to me, but I have begun to question that.  Since I have retired, I have not maintained many personal relationships and instead have drifted toward a life of personal life of reading and writing.  Yet I feel content.  Perhaps this is merely a phase, and the next couple of years will reveal whether I miss those personal relationships.

Having a good attitude is critical to enjoying life, and I have discovered a zillion techniques for maintaining good attitude – such as being tolerant of (disagreeable) people who disagree with you, and being nonjudgmental about people who have a different perspective than you.

Merry Christmas, David

Saturday Night at the Movies #10 – Something the Lord Made

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 3:41 pm
Tags: , , , ,

A few nights ago, while scrolling through the list of movies on HBO on Demand, I stumbled across “Something the Lord Made.”  The description read:

  • Fact-based story of a white surgeon and a black lab technician who revolutionized heart surgery amidst the racial injustice of the 1940s.”

In hindsight, I don’t know why I decided to give the movie a try.  But I did give it a try, and fortunately for me, the movie started quickly, was immediately engrossing, and for the next hour and 49 minutes, I was caught up in the life of Vivien Thomas

The best way to describe Thomas is as a noble black man who managed to flourish at a time and place in which the American dream was not generally accessible to black men.  Racism in 1930’s Nashville, TN and later in 1940’s Baltimore, MD prevented Thomas from fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a medical doctor.  But he was able to secure employment in the field of medical research, albeit initially as a janitor, and then gradually, by virtue of his talent and his ability to contribute toward the remarkable medical research being conduct by Dr. Alfred Blalock (i.e., improving surgical techniques by practicing on dogs), Thomas achieved professional success beyond his dreams.

For most of his life, however, Thomas was never formally recognized for the invaluable contributions that he made to the Blalock team.  All the fame and glory went to Blalock and a trio of M.D.s who assisted him.  Although the team recognized Thomas’s importance, they also accepted that in pre-Civil Rights America blacks were not considered their equal.

A close analogy to Blalock-Thomas would be Sir Edmund Hillary and his colored helper Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climbing Mount Everest in 1953.  Although Norgay went every step of the way with Hillary, all of the fame and glory went to Hillary.  Over the years, however, many people have recognized the unfairness of that, and Norgay has been accorded more credit.

The same thing happened to Thomas.  Over time, the surgeons who were trained by Thomas started insisting that Thomas’s contributions be recognized, and this culminated in Johns Hopkins awarding him an honorary doctorate in 1976 and his portrait being hung in a place of honor alongside that of Blalock’s.

Incidentally, an aunt and uncle from Wichita, KS visit me yesterday.  At the very end of the day, we were having a late-night conversation and planning to go to bed any minute when I mentioned something about a movie involving experimental surgery on dogs.  My uncle immediately jumped in and started telling me and his wife about the many key points in the movie.  I was stunned that his memories were sharper than mine, even though I had seen the movie in the last 48 hours.  He explained that he had shown the movie to a large group of people (adults or kids, I don’t remember) as an inspirational device and had given it a lot of thought.

Since the movie was “on demand,” we demanded it and watched it well into Monday morning.  It was every bit as good the second time.

Something the Lord Made” was an HBO Movie in 2004, and it received several Emmy nominations.  Alan Rickman plays Dr. Blalock and rapper Mos Def plays Vivien Thomas.  I believe it is being removed from the HBO on Demand rotation as of November 1, so don’t dither.

October 29, 2011

Sunday Book Review #52 – Beyond Wealth by Alexander Green

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 10:36 pm
Tags: ,

As I mentioned in a posting earlier this week, Alexander Green is famous for writing the best-selling investing book, “The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio.”  Since the success of that book, Green shifted his focus away from material wealth and toward spiritual wealth because he concluded, ironically, that material wealth does not play a large role in helping a person achieve a rich life.

In 2008, Green started writing short essays (2-4 pages each) called, “Spiritual Wealth,” and sending them to members of his investment club.  The essays were designed to help the club’s investors to achieve some balance in their lives.   The essays were so popular that the first 65 essays were consolidated into a best-selling book, “The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters.”  His latest book, “Beyond Wealth, the road map to a rich life,” is a collection of the next 65 essays.

Part One, which consists of essays related to “Dollars and Sense,” is by far the most interesting.  Among its best insights:

  • Are the Rich Smarter than You?  Because achieving financial independence depends as much on controlling your consumption as it does on increasing your income, frugal people are often surprised at how easily they achieve financial independence.  (This theme of this essay seems to have been borrowed from “The Millionaire Next Door.”)
  • Are you Losing your Soul?  Too many people spend too much time at a job that is meaningless except for its financial rewards.  You should leave such a job as soon as you can afford to.
  • Impatient Optimism… and Radical Generosity.  Great accumulation of wealth is not necessarily a good thing, but sometimes such an accumulator’s radical generosity can improve the world in an majestic way – e.g., Bill Gate, Warren Buffett, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John Rockefeller, and W.K. Kellogg.
  • The Only Thing That Really Matters.  A 72-year-old study of 268 Harvard men has revealed that the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people – parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, neighbors, and mentors.  (This is a topic that especially interests me because my array of relationships has diminished significantly since I retired two years ago.)
  • The Principle Thing.  History and civilization have revealed that the following core values are essential to a rich life – honesty, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, perseverance, justice, humility, charity, and gratitude.  (I need to especially work on my compassion and charity.)
  • The One Thing that Changes Everything.  Trust.
  • The Trouble with Happiness.  Happiness should not be a goal or objective.  “Happiness results when our aspirations are being fulfilled and we are optimistic about the future, when we are developing our capabilities or helping others develop theirs.”
  • The Key to Personal Freedom.  This essay is an elaboration of the first essay on excess consumption.  To achieve personal freedom, an individual needs to (1) recognize that we are wired to feel dissatisfied, (2) understand the psychology of desire, (3) stop regarding life as an ongoing competition for social status, and (4) appreciate what you have.
  • Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life.  Romanticized thought about life in an earlier time is rubbish.  Life in an earlier time was likely to be relatively “brutish and short.”
  • How Your World Will at Last be Built.  This essay recommends James Allen’s timeless 19th century classic, As a Man Thinketh.”  According to Green, the book’s premise is that your underlying beliefs shape your character, your health, your circumstances, and ultimately, your destiny.  (Definitely going to the top of my reading list.)
  • The Most Important Job on Earth.  Parenting.  Too many parents complain about their kids.  “Some of them might benefit from thinking a little less about fixing their kids and a little more about fixing the way they parent.”  Or as Confucius said, “A father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who  neglects them.”
  • One of Life’s Great Miracles.  Mothers.  “Your mother is almost certainly your first memory.  Yet even before memories, her voice created your first sense of security, her touch your first experience of affection, her constant care and attention the impression that we live in an idyllic world of limitless compassion.  We don’t, of  course, but isn’t it a beautiful way to start?”  (I’m probably guilty of taking mothers for granted.)
  • The Power of Negative Visualization.  Spend some time each day imagining that you have lost the things that you value the most.  Doing this will enable you to more deeply appreciate what you have.
  • The Ruling Passion of the Noblest Minds.  Unfortunately, self-esteem seems to be replacing honor as the keystone of American values.

Part Two is titled, “Wealth Beyond Measure.”  It contains essays that relate to Green’s fundamental belief that, in addition to having money, decent health, a few close friends, and someone to love, a rich life requires a wealth of interests.  This is where the reader learns that Green is a Renaissance Man.  The first essay in this section was one of the few that interested me:

  • Are You Uncurious?  Fascinating people are invariably curious.

I found most of the Part Two essays to be boring because I am not curious about Green’s high-brow interests, such as art, the Grand Tour, classical music, women’s love of chocolate, hummingbirds, wine, eating like a Zen Master, poetry, New Orleans in general and jazz in particular, and Classic literature.  If the Part Two essays had been placed in Part One, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with this book long enough to get to Part Two.

My favorite essay, by far, in Part Two is titled, “The Lost Art of Conversation.”  In this essay, Green states his concern that Americans are losing their ability to converse.  To support this thesis, he provides an example of how well Americans could converse in the past.  The following is a letter written by a 32-year-old union soldier to his 24-year-old wife shortly before a major Civil War battle:

“The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days – perhaps tomorrow.  Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more….

“Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me
like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

“The memories of blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long.  And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood, around us.  I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me – perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed.  If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on  the battle field, it will whisper your name.  Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you.  How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been!  How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness….

“But, O Sarah!  If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights… always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.  Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again…”

Although it is highly questionable to make broad generalizations based on one writing sample, I am happy that the author created a reason to include the soldier’s love letter in this book.  btw – the soldier died one week later in the First Battle of Bull Run.

Part Three is titled, “Knowing and Believing.”  As the title implies, it contains the author’s philosophical essays relating to life’s meaning.  Because of the essays’ brevity, the treatment is necessarily superficial and is probably most useful in suggesting topics for your reading list.

Among the topics discussed in Part Three –  Tolstoy’s A Calendar of Wisdom, Tiger Woods and Buddhism, Stoicism, perennialists and “The Great Conversation,” the Tao of the Dow, humility, Quakers, Gandhi, and our debt to the ancient Greeks.

Part Four is titled, “Matters of Life and Death.”  It contains essays relating to science and everlasting life.  The first essay in this part, “Discovering a New Sense of the Sacred,” describes how civilization reacted to Galileo’s observation 400 years ago that the earth wasn’t the middle of everything.  Because this conflicted with five different  biblical passages, Galileo was charged with heresy and forced to recant.  In 2000, the Catholic Church formally apologized for its persecution of Galileo.

Another essay in Part Four is titled, “The Difference between Knowing and Believing.”

Part Four also contains essays on Emerson and Thoreau and The Big Bang theory.  To improve our appreciation of science, the author suggests (a) subscribing to Scientific American, (b) renting David Attenborough’s BBC documentaries, and (c) reading “The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science.

The author concludes Beyond Wealth by suggesting the seven components of spirituality:

  1. You recognize the eternal mystery.
  2. You have a genuine sense of awe.
  3. You appreciate the sacredness of life.
  4. You are profoundly grateful for your life.
  5. You have a well-developed ethical sense.  (Treat others as you want to be treated, and when you say you are going
    to do something, do it.)
  6. You strive for higher consciousness and wisdom.
  7. You seek a life of meaning.  “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.  RLStevenson.

Although the middle essays in Beyond Wealth were wasted by the author indulging his Renaissance proclivities, the other essays were well worth reading, and I look forward to reading his earlier compilation of essays – The Secret of Shelter Island.

Rick Perry doesn’t like flip-floppers, especially old ones

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 1:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

Earlier this week, Rick Perry was interviewed on Bill O’Reilly’s The Factor.  A major part of the interviewed consisted of Perry attacking Romney for flip-flopping.  Although Perry might have a plethora of undesirable character traits, “beating around the bush” is not one of them.  If he’s of a mind to challenge you, his first inclination is to grab a 2×4 and then smack you across your forehead.

On the O’Reilly show, Perry was certainly of a mind to challenge Romney over flip-flopping:

  • You can’t be for banning guns and then all of a sudden you’re, you know, for the Second Amendment.  You can’t be for the issue of abortion, then you’re pro-life… I mean you can’t be on both sides of these issues.”

While Perry will never be guilty of eloquence, at least we know what he means.

Because Perry is so limited in his ability to communicate ideas, he seems drawn to rhetorical excess.  For example, because Perry can’t effectively communicate his opprobrium flip-flopping – “I mean you can’t be on both sides of these issues.” – he resorts to outlandish, over-the-top falsehoods.  In the O’Reilly interview, Perry asserted that Romney said the following about his history of flip-flopping:

  • In his own words, he says, listen, you know, I need to say whatever I need to say for whatever office I’m running for.”

This is obviously false, not mere hyperbole, and the fact that O’Reilly and the media have treated it like hyperbole is revealing.  It seems that every Republican presidential candidate except Romney is being encouraged to say outrageous things without being immediately challenged.  (Which reminds me to a lawyer’s strategy with depositions – i.e., encourage the deponent to say all sorts of stupid things during the deposition and then watch him squirm later when he has to defend those statements to a judge or jury.)

The O’Reilly interview contained at least one other example of an outrageous Perryism (i.e., Perry being Perry), and that was his expressed belief that old people like Romney shouldn’t have evolving political positions.  When O’Reilly asked whether a person’s opinions might change over time, Perry responded:

  • How do you change at the age of 50 or 60 positions on life, positions on guns, positions on traditional marriage?  I mean those aren’t minor issues, Bill. So to change those at the age of 50 or 60 tells you all you need to know about that.

I hate scripted responses, but unscripted doesn’t have to mean “shoot from the hip.”  Surely, Perry must understand that the thinking of people older the 30-35 continues to evolve.  As Mitt Romney has said, “In the private sector, if you don’t change your view when the facts change, well you’ll get fired for being stubborn and stupid.”

Which are you, Rick?

The imminent repeal of Ohio’s SB 5

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 11:59 am
Tags: , , ,

Ohio voters on November 8 will decide whether to repeal Governor Kasich’s Senate Bill 5 (SB5).  SB5 is similar to Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union law in Wisconsin.  Both laws were designed to curb the power of public-employee unions.

According to Ballotpedia.com, two of the most significant provisions in SB 5 are as follows:

  • Bargaining: Allows bargaining for wages, but not regarding employee qualifications, work assignments, and staffing levels.
  • Union fees: Public employees would not have to pay union fees if they do not want to be become a union member.

The merits of these provisions are not the focus of discussions and debate.  Instead, voters are told that, if they support the provisions, then they will be weakening the long-term power of public-employee unions.  Conversely, if they oppose the provisions, they will be supporting the long-term health of public-employee unions.  The provisions, which are spreading countrywide, have become sacrosanct in conservative circles and anathema in union/liberal groups.

The partisan lines in Ohio have been clearly drawn and millions of outside dollars are pouring into both sides.

According to the latest polls, Ohio’s voters are likely to repeal Senate Bill 5.  In favor of repeal – 57%; opposing repeal – 32%.  Such a repeal would be hugely significant because Ohio is a swing state and the repeal would signify that the state is swinging away from Republican values and its governor (John Kasich) who was elected in 2010 and is swinging back toward the Democratic president it helped to elect in 2008.




October 28, 2011

Superintendent Folks responds to my letter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 3:21 pm
Tags: , ,

Yesterday, I sent a letter to NISD Superintendent John Folks complaining about the District’s executive director of communication, Pascual Gonzalez, for (a) his interception of my communication to the Northside Education Foundantion, and (b) his unprofessional, ad hominem response to me.

This morning, I received the following response from Dr. Folks:

Mr. Kueber,
I will certainly make sure that Bonnie Ellison takes note of your blog and shares it with the Chairman of the Foundation, and the selection committee. Pascual Gonzalez is a great employee of the district, and I will visit with him about the e-mail. Thank you for sharing your concerns!
Dr. Folks

Dr. Folks’ response it exactly what I had hoped for because he addressed both of my concerns.

Regarding Pascual Gonzalez, I don’t know enough about him to comment on whether he is a great employee.  (As a district spokesman on TV, he looks and sounds like a mean-spirited J. Edgar Hoover).  It is possible that Gonzalez’s response to me was out of character for him.  If, however, it reflects his general attitude toward people who disagree with him politically, he is clearly in the wrong line of work.  Defensive spokesmen like him fit in naturally with unpopular special-interest organizations, like labor unions or Wall Street banks.

An open letter to Bill O’Reilly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 2:37 pm
Tags: , , ,
For the past few days on The Factor, Bill O’Reilly has railed against a poll that shows people believe that income in America is unfairly distributed.  O’Reilly argues that income is not “distributed” by anyone; rather it is earned, given, inherited, stolen, whatever.  He also declares that he doesn’t feel guilty about all the money he makes because he has “earned it,” and therefore should be able to do whatever he wants with it.
For the fun of it, I decided to play the devil’s advocate with an email to The Factor.  O’Reilly insists that letters to his show be succinct (and the first sentence has to be catchy), so I didn’t have the luxury of developing several promising angles.
Bill, regarding unfair income distribution in America, methinks thou doth protest too much.
You say that America doesn’t “distribute” income and that you don’t feel guilty about the millions of dollars that you earn.  You are wrong on both counts.
Although the American government doesn’t distribute income, the American economy does, and many people believe it is doing a piss-poor job because the well-connected have rigged the system in their favor.
Furthermore, no one suggests that you should feel guilty about earning so much money.  Rather, they are merely suggesting that you are shirking your fair share when you insist that you should never have to pay more than 35% for federal taxes.  You should feel guilty about fighting higher taxes that could be used to enhance opportunity for poor kids to climb the socio-economic ladder in America instead of being wasted on your lavish personal spending.  The nuns who taught you would be ashamed.
For such a big man, you look awfully small alongside Warren Buffett.
Mike Kueber
San Antonio, Texas

No Child Left Behind is getting some needed tweaking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 5:05 am
Tags: ,

Most pundits believed that public-education reform was long overdue when George W. Bush pushed through No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).  Because of the widespread dissatisfaction with public education in America, there was little objection to this federal expansion into the state & local bailiwick, and the law was passed with broad bipartisan support (384-45 and 91-8).

The key provision in the NCLB required that states annually administer, as a condition of receiving future federal funding, state-wide
standardized math & reading tests.  Schools with kids who did not perform adequately would be held accountable, with the potential of a death penalty after six consecutive ineffective years (i.e., the school would be closed or replaced by a charter school.)

The major flaw with NCLB is that it required that schools be deemed a failure unless all children were proficient in math & reading by 2014.  Obviously, 100% success is not realistic, and Congress was expected to revise that requirement before it was triggered.  But, as is Congress’s wont, it never got around to making the fix, so the Department of Education came up with a unilateral fix.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan offered to provide a formal waiver of the requirement to any state that promised in return to adopt the Department’s school-improvement agenda set out in its Race to the Top program.

According to an article in the NY Times, 41 states have indicated that they plan to seek a waiver, and nothing energizes legislators more than being told that their involvement isn’t needed.  As Senator Tom Harkin said, “[the waiver] spurred us on.  It gave us a sense of urgency.”

The Obama administration is not happy with the bipartisan Harkin-Enzi bill because it doesn’t require states (a) to set any student-achievement targets in most schools, or (b) to consider student test scores when evaluating a teacher.  Not surprisingly, the educational special-interest groups (teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards) love the prospect of returning to unaccountability.

I don’t usually agree with the NY Times editorials, but I agree with their editorial today suggesting that the Harkin-Enzi bill needs to be tweaked to create tougher standards for schools and teachers.  It’s too bad that the executive branch of the federal government is throwing its weight around, but the utter failure of the Congress and state & local government left it with no choice.

October 27, 2011

An open letter to NISD Superintendent John Folk

I have been associated with the Northside Independent School District (NISD) ever since my family and I moved to San Antonio in 1987, and I have always been proud of that association.  Even though my fourth and last son graduated from Clark High School last year, I continue to feel connected to the District and plan to maintain that connection.

Because of the warm feelings that I have for the District, I am distressed by the rude, dismissive communication (attached below) that I received yesterday from Pascual Gonzalez, who is, ironically, the District’s executive director for communications.  The arrogance that he displayed is entirely inappropriate for a professional, and I suggest that his attitude needs to be adjusted.

Please allow me to provide you with the context of the communication:

  • While reading the latest issue of the “insidenorthside Lessons,” I noticed the Foundation’s announcement of the 2011 Pillars of Northside.
  • As an amateur conservative blogger who often writes against affirmative action and the burgeoning public sector in America, I was concerned that the composition of the 2011 Pillars suggested a preference toward affirmative action and, more importantly, a burgeoning public sector, and I posted an entry to my blog to that effect.
  • Because I considered my thoughts to be constructive criticism, I forwarded a weblink of this posting to the Foundation for their consideration.  Your system apparently directed my comment/submission to Bonnie Ellison.
  • A few hours later I received a response from Pascual Gonzalez (attached below).  Other than his name, he failed to say who he was or in what capacity was he responding.  Instead of responding substantively to my criticism, he dismissed me with an ad hominem – “agree, sour grapes.”
  • I believe the “sour grapes” phrase is Mr. Gonzalez’s shorthand way of saying my evaluation of the Pillars of 2011 was soured because one of them (Will Hurd) defeated me in the 23rd Congressional District Republican primary.  Of course, an ad hominem is bad enough by itself, but it certainly does not excuse someone from responding to the substantive criticism.

If someone other than Pascual Gonzalez is responsible for the Pillars program, I hope that my criticism will be forwarded to them for consideration.  The website does not allow for communications to go directly to the Foundation Leadership, like Larry Ratcliff or Merry Raba.  Instead it goes to Bonne Ellison, who apparently forwards it to Pascual Gonzalez.

Regarding Mr. Gonzalez’s conduct, I suggest that he should be advised that public servants should afford more respect to the public.


Mike Kueber

210.380.7436; mike.kueber@gmail.com

—–Original Message—–

From: Pascual Gonzalez

Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 9:07 AM

To: Mike Kueber

Subject: Re: Contact Us form submission [100370]

agree, sour grapes

>>> Mike Kueber
<mike.kueber@gmail.com> 10/26/2011 8:30 AM >>>


FYI – I recently posted a blog criticizing your Pillar program.  I am attaching a link to the posting so that you might consider the merits of the criticism.  https://mkueber001.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/whats-going-on-at-nisd/.

Mike Kueber

More horse-race reporting on the 2012 Republican presidential nomination

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

The race to become the 2012 Republican presidential nominee has been exceptionally fluid and dynamic.  The conventional explanation for this is that President Obama’s attempt to transform America has motivated millions of Americans to resist the transformation.  Although the defining act of repudiation for the motivated millions will be to show President Obama the door in 2012, a critical preliminary act will be the selection of a worthy replacement.  That is why the Republican electorate is remarkably tuned-in to the campaigns and is responsive to campaign developments.  In the end, this heightened interest will result in a battle-tested candidate taking on President Obama in November 2012.

As I previously reported, horse-race reporting generally relies on polls (and pundits).  According to the most recent polls, this is a four-person race:

  • Cain’s numbers are exploding upward,
  • Romney’s are drifting downward,
  • Perry’s are crashing downward, and
  • Gingrich’s are drifting upward.

My horse-race reporting incorporates off-track betting numbers at the world-famous Intrade.com.  As of last night:

  • Romney was at 68.9%,
  • Perry was at 12.7%,
  • Cain was at 7.5%, and
  • Gingrich was at 4.0%.

This tells me that Cain’s campaign has caught fire, but the smart money thinks that Cain’s campaign is fundamentally and can’t win the nomination.  In fact, Cain’s campaign is so weak that it will be Perry, not Cain, who gets to go head-to-head with Romney at the denouement of this process.

Personally, I would be more skeptical of Cain’s demise if the obits were coming from media pundits.  But the media pundits are not issuing any obits on Cain, probably because of their ingrained political correctness.  I have a huge amount of respect, however, for the smart-money betters, and if they think Cain’s campaign is quixotic, then he is probably fighting a losing battle.

Incidentally, Marco Rubio’s self-inflicted wound concerning his parents’ exile status from Cuba has not significantly diminished he VP prospects:

  • Marco Rubio at 30.0%,
  • Herman Cain at 6.5%,
  • Rob Portman at 6.5%, and
  • Chris Christie at 6.0%.

And the chances of a Republican replacing President Obama continue to be 50%-50%.

Next Page »