Friday, August 26, 2016


I just completed a CLEP test for placement out of a college-level English Composition class I took when Guttenberg was in Junior High (Steve, not Johannes.) CLEP, by the way, is an acronym for the College Level Examination Program.
CLEPomania is what ensues while preparing for one of their tests.

The CLEP study guide led me to believe there would be a small series of multiple-guess questions, as well as TWO mandatory essays to be completed—all within the space of 70-minutes. 

The good news is there was no essay writing (other than this confessional.) The bad news is that instead of writing a couple of imaginary, fictional works, there were 90 questions to tackle. In 70-minutes.

(I write for a living. I critique copy as part of my work. Do you know how utterly agonizing it is to wade through 90 examples of marginally written passages, some more flawed than others, and be asked to pick which equally marginal alternative is better?)

After 61-minutes, the time it took to complete the exam, I felt like my brains had been sucked out through my toes. The really aggravating part of the ordeal was that I scored only a 66 out of 80 possible answers. That’s an 82 in real-person grading and something of which I am not particularly proud. 

The College Composition Modular exam did not measure my ability to write complete sentences, string together coherent thoughts, or offer critical analysis in written form. There were a few “trick” questions that taunted with verb tense and singular/plural errors. It tested my ability to second-guess what the test writers were trying to say, and to ferret the least offensive answer from a limited list of possibilities.

So after literally agonizing for a week and a half over how I was going to muster two essays of unknown topicality in a limited amount of time, only to be mentally thrashed with a slew of multiple-choice questions, I am both drained and unfulfilled. I even wrote a practice essay earlier in the week based upon the study guide’s make-believe study topic. That makes me either an extreme nerd or a glutton for abuse. Or both.

The resolution of my mental anguish may be this: Instead of forking out a semester’s worth of tuition, fees, and book expenses for a course I’ve already taken, I have now laid claim to full course credit for the price of a CLEP test and administrative fees—a fraction of the cost.
I wonder if I could submit this for extra credit to get that score up?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Movement Movement

It was a most moving moment. “Mothers of the Movement” lined up across the Democratic National Convention stage in Philadephia Tuesday night, sharing their grief. The Movement? identifies them as mothers “whose children's names helped energize the Movement for Black Lives and the Black Lives Matter network.” 

According to the site, both groups were spawned out of the outrage generated by the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, charged with murder for the fatal shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Florida in 2012. In the true Democrat style of never letting a good crisis go to waste, the DNC paraded out these women as part of their build-up for the evening. It was heart-rending; it was tragic. And it was despicable.

No parent should have to bury a child; no mother should have to mourn a life needlessly taken by violence. But there they were--eight women sharing their personal agony before the nation:

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who at 17 was shot to death “in self-defense” by George Zimmerman while transiting his neighborhood;

Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of 28-year old Sandra Bland, found hanging in her Waller County jail cell after a traffic stop that escalated out of control;

Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, a 17-year old shot during an altercation about loud music in a convenience store parking lot;

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who suffocated in a chokehold during a confrontation with police over selling untaxed cigarettes on the street;

Cleopatra Pendleton, the mother of Hadiya, a 15-year old victim of Chicago’s out of control gun violence and failed gun control policies in that city; 

Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre, shot 14-times by a Milwaukee policeman after the mentally-ill man grabbed the officer’s police baton and attacked the him during a pat-down in a park.

Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, the 18-year old shot to death in Ferguson, Mo. when he rushed a police officer sitting in his car, and tried to grab the officer’s gun. 

Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant, a 22-year old who was removed from a BART train for passengers' complaints of fighting, shot while struggling with police.

Only three of the women spoke on Tuesday night’s program. They were eloquent, passionate, and pitiable. Fulton spoke of “common sense gun legislation,” and “saving the children.” In case you don’t know, those first four words are code for doing away with the Second Amendment. McBath vowed to “keep telling our children's’ stories,” hopefully so that no others have to lose a child to urban violence.  Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, gave a powerful address, speaking about her daughter's unlawful traffic stop in Waller.

That traffic stop went south when Bland got mouthy. Was her death--suicide by hanging in the Waller County Jail--tragic? Absolutely. Was it preventable? Undoubtedly. But how did Sandra Bland come to find herself in jail; just where did that traffic stop go wrong? When Bland copped an attitude with the officer.

I ache for the losses of these women but I must also question the circumstances that placed their children at odds with society that resulted in their tragic deaths.

What did these mothers teach their children about respect? Not just for parents, but for any adult or elder or person of authority?  At what point did these kids decide it was okay to defy a policeman or escalate an argument with a stranger in a parking lot? What ever happened to common, genteel decency between human beings?

Where are the fathers of these children? Why is there no Fathers of the Fallen Movement for men who’ve lost sons and daughters? Where were the fathers of these eight young Americans last night? I saw no audience-scans by the TV cameras for these women’s husbands in the audience.  Were they not a part of their children's upbringing? Not to sound like a civics quiz, but—if not, why not?

If the Democratic party wants to heal this nation and truly unite our peoples, then let it begin by enabling families to mend; let it begin by encouraging families to remain whole. Call me old-fashioned, but kids need to be raised by a father and a mother—there are two kinds of discipline at work in that dynamic, velvet and iron—and they both require equal parts in a child’s education on how to behave in polite society, or even in impolite society.

Why is the Democratic party more concerned about funding for abortions and a woman’s “freedom to choose” than in investing in the nuclear family? Instead of continuing the shameful bribery begun by Lyndon Johnson's welfare programs that rewarded unmarried women for having children out of wedlock, why are married couples penalized for staying together, IRS?

As the Party of Hope, the DNC has been full of disappointments this week. But parading the mothers around, whose motherhood was snatched from them prematurely, is a new, all-time low.

Oh, and that ‘hands-up, don’t shoot’ malarkey is a myth, based upon a lie.
Michael Brown never said it as he was lunging for the Ferguson PD’s pistol.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Week That Was July 18, 2016


“That Was the Week That Was” was a BBC television show presented by David Frost in the 1960’s which parodied the news. In true British form, it was the kind of thing you’d like, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

The TV show created its own Brexit, of sorts, as ABC ran the Americanized version from 1963-64. I wonder what David Frost and friends would make of this week that was, July 2016.

We’ve just concluded the Republican National Convention in Cleveland that culminated in the crowning of a thrice-married businessman as that party’s nominee for the presidency of the United States in his first-ever political race. Surrounded by a cast of family members, each of whom in their own right could make a fair pitch for any public office in the land, Donald J. Trump has managed to fracture and forge alliances with factions in and out of the party. It’s going to be an interesting ride to November.

The Democrats’ national convention convenes next Tuesday in Philadelphia. Former first-lady and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is expected to be anointed that party’s choice to run against Donald Trump. 

In contrast to the RNC, where the families of victims of terrorism, foreign and domestic, addressed the convention, the Democrats are proposing to allow the family members of police shooting victims to speak at their convention, including  Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown—the Ferguson, Mo. man who was shot by police when he lunged through the window of a patrol car for an officer’s gun. The “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” farce is based upon a false narrative of that encounter.

One final contrast between the tales of two conventions: For Thursday night's introduction of her father, Ivanka Trump looked stunning in a $138 dress from her own design line, available on the rack at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s…as opposed to the outfit worn by Hillary Clinton in April for her “every woman” speech at the New York primary win—reportedly a Georgio Armani jacket with a MSRP of $12,485.

The week saw the 5th Circuit Court strike down Texas’ Voter ID law, and a judge imposed a short deadline to fix it—solutions must be in place by the November general election. I will tell you that when the ruling came down, our own state senator, Paul Bettencourt was immediately on the phone barking orders to shore up the damage, and press ahead with corrections.
My solution: Purple Ink on index fingers…or a simple thumbprint.
This can’t be that hard.

The week ends with tragedy in Germany, as reports of multiple shooters at a Munich shopping mall targeted children, and were heard to shout, “Allah Akbar,” as they fired pistols into crowds in the mall and on the streets outside.  Wonder who's behind that?? At this hour, no one has been arrested, and the city is on lockdown.

The World is at War.
The enemy is radical Islamic extremist terrorism.
That was the week that was.