He Had a Wide Stance

Bruce Springsteen canceled his North Carolina show to protest the bathroom law.

Mr. Springsteen and the E Street Band were booked in the Greensboro Coliseum yesterday. 15,000 ticket holders will all be eligible for a refund.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) signed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, HB2, last month after the North Carolina General Assembly called a special session to push the law through after the Charlotte City Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance.

“[The abominable Charlotte act] allows grown men to share bathrooms and locker facilities with girls and women,” one North Carolina Repuglican said.

Be very afraid!

The newly enacted law requires individuals to use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.

“To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress,” Mr. Springsteen said in a statement.

PayPal pulled 400 jobs from North Carolina. Braeburn Pharma is pulling out. The NBA All Star game probably won’t happen in NC. Some 100 national companies have decried the law.

“F**k Springsteen,” my friend Dino Russell said. “Wanna see what sex you identify with? Look in your underwear.”

Dino is a world traveler so I’m pretty sure he has peed and pooped in Europe. I didn’t know he much cared then if the next guy was male, female, both, or anything in between.

“I don’t give a crap for me,” he said. “My daughters and granddaughters presumably do and I do give a crap if the next guy over is, well, a guy with his cellphone on the floor looking up her snatch. Or whatever. Bad enough they have to deal with the weirdos of their own sex.”

Pfui. It’s Victorian. We need to get over the legal idea that there’s something secret or dirty about our bodies.

“You are being stupid,” he said. “This is an issue of increased potential for rape. Pull your head out of your ass.”

In case you missed it, please notice a number of bathroom references here.

I’m being stupid about yet another salvo in Conservative attempts to wrest local control away from the local voters.

Liz Arden gives us a few points that Dino and the other ostriches would do well to understand.

a) Just because someone thinks they’re female or homosexual or asexual or nonsexual does not mean they are pervs who will violate your person or your privacy.

b) There are pervs who will violate your daughters’ and granddaughters’ privacy and threaten their sense of safety and well-being. Period. They could be sitting next to you in church.

c) North Carolina and the other states don’t care a whit about pervs with cellphones in bathrooms. They care about competition in the bathrooms. Oh, yeah. And they care about catering to the emotional idiocy of people and the Sharia belief that they can impose their religious interpretation on everyone within 10 feet of them. Or within 3,000 miles.

How many rapes happen in the famed Parisian unisex public toilets?

How many by transgender folk or even cross dressers?

Weirdos are weirdos. A person who genuinely feels they are female despite having XY chromosomes and penises, well, that weirdness does not in the slightest threaten Dino, his wife, his daughters, his granddaughters, nor any other human being on the planet.

Unless they are carrying an axe like, say, Carrie Nation. Or the lawmakers who passed HB2 or HB 1523. Then be very afraid.

Dino’s daughters and granddaughters would do well to understand that. Dino would do well to understand that. There are already laws banning pervs from being in the bathroom looking up the little girls’ snatches. Or raping them.

Bryan Adams has canceled his show at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum this Thursday, because that state’s new “Religious Liberty” Act, HB 1523, discriminates against gay couples or members of the LGBT community.

We gotta get over the legal idea that there’s something secret or dirty about our bodies.

It’s tough, though.

He merely had a “wide stance.”

A (now-former) Republican senator pled guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge after his arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Former Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) had been caught flat-footed by a police detective investigating lewd behavior in an airport men’s room. His 28 ultra conservative years in Congress, years spent fighting gay rights at every turn, put him in second place in Idaho history, behind only Sen. William Borah (R-ID).

Former Sen. Craig barred extension of rights to same-sex couples. He voted “yes” on an Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. He voted against extending the federal definition of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation. And so on.

Who’s making odds on how Former Sen. Craig would have voted on HB2 or HB 1523?

For the record, I’m OK with Balian Buschbaum (formerly Yvonne Buschbaum) or Erik Schinegger (formerly Erika Schinegger), Jaiyah Saelua (formerly Johnny Saelua), Mianne Bagger (formerly Michael Bagger), or Caster Semenya (formerly Caster Semenya) sharing the restroom with me or with my great-granddaughters. Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce), though, I’m not so sure of.

“Buncha pansies who think it strikes too close to home,” Miz Arden said.

And there you have it.


Let It Snow!

City residents in Plattsburgh NY will be cited and may be fined if they don’t clear the snow off their own property.

The earliest snowstorm on record struck New York, Connecticut and other parts of New England yesterday, burying some areas in more than a foot of snow that closed roads and airports, knocked out power to more than 300,000 homes and turned russet autumn to wintry solitude.
The storm — an Oct. 4 marvel caused by a collision of cold and soggy air masses — was the earliest in the region since the Army Signal Corps began keeping weather records in 1870. It eclipsed one that blew in on Oct. 10, 1925, and it even toppled the 150-year-old unofficial record — a blizzard that almanackers say hit on Oct. 6, 1836. The National Weather Service reported snow accumulations of up to 20 inches in places. Pownal, Vermont recorded 18. It caught forecasters by surprise.
NYTimes, October 5, 1987

Blizzard of 78 in AlburghNWS Blizzard of 78 VolkswagenThat was 1987. We made it through the fourth this year and no snow will surprise us today. Not even any frost. It was 42°F on the porch with beaucoup sunshine. Mostly sunny all day with a high near 60°F. Mostly cloudy tonight so it won’t get quite as cold.

42°F is not warm, people.

Now the rest of the story. Getting rid of the snow.

Plattsburgh law requires property owners to clear sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowstorm.

“Some residents have stopped by the City Hall expressing concerns about a fine on top of the snow-removal fee. We’ve had others thinking a fine is the way to go. Many cities throughout New York state, as well as many states, do have a fine that they use,” city Counselor Dale Dowdle told WPTZ.

Say what?

So if Bobby jumps off the roof, you have to jump, too?

What if Bobby does something dangerous, like rob a bank or do a home invasion?

Plattsburgh law requires property owners to clear sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowstorm.

There are two issues here.

(1) If the sidewalk belongs to the property owner, that law is a taking that happens over and over again; or (2) If the sidewalk belongs to the city, that law places the property owner in involuntary servitude.

The Fifth Amendment’s just compensation rule applies not only to outright government seizures of private property, but also to some government regulations. “Property is taken in the constitutional sense when inroads are made upon an owner’s use of it to an extent that, as between private parties, a servitude has been acquired either by agreement or in course of time.” United States v. Dickinson, 331 U.S. 745 (1947).

Many states have passed laws that limit the mandates a state government can put on a Town government without money to pay for them. In Connecticut, state regulations on storm water runoff are in contention because they are unfunded mandates.

Imagine the outcry if the law demanded We the Overtaxed People to perform other tasks without just compensation like, say, change our septic systems to mound systems or buy health insurance.

Oh. Wait.

We already do that.

The bottom line here is simple. The Plattsburgh law is yet another example of creep. It’s a government reaching farther and farther into its citizens’ private lives. And we keep letting them do it. It’s an example of the other kind of creep, too.


Swearing In

This is the story of my second biggest contribution as a Republican Town Chair but first I have to give you some back story.

Back story 1: Fifty years ago, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, the sweeping law that assured the right to vote for all Americans by prohibiting the practices used to deny that right to racial, ethnic, and language minorities.

“Many people don’t understand that … the Voting Rights Act is under threat.” Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ said. “These voter ID laws which are being passed in many states have a disproportionate impact on poor folks.” The senator has introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act aimed at preventing voter ID requirements.

I won’t comment on voter ID except to note that voting is our most important obligation and that the other advantages we have come to expect — driving our cars or picking up a book at the library — require identification.

Back story 2: In Supporting Parents I promised to tell what Vermont’s future governor and I were joking about on stage in 1984.

My friend Jim Douglas was Vermont’s Secretary of State then.

The office of Secretary of State pre-dates Vermont statehood in 1791.

The voter’s oath, formerly known as the freemen’s oath, is a citizen’s oath required to register to vote in the state of Vermont. Until 2007, the law was administered only by notaries public and similar officials.
The Freemen’s Oath was a part of the 1777 Constitution of the Vermont Republic, the first constitution in the Western Hemisphere to grant universal suffrage to all men. Until the early twentieth century all official state commissions and certificates were headed by the words “BY THE FREEMEN OF VERMONT.”

The agency manages the State Archives so he preserved all state records and made them accessible to the rest of us. The State Archives preserve documents going back to the state’s founding as the Vermont Republic in 1777. The office licenses 39 different flavors of professionals from accountants and acupuncturists to tattooists and veterinarians. They register businesses and oversee all of Vermont’s notaries public. Most important to this story, they administer all national, state and local elections in Vermont, register voters and coordinate the Voter’s Oath, oversee campaign finance reporting, and implement Vermont’s lobbyist disclosure laws.

You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the state of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any man.

Vermont is the only U.S. state with a voter’s oath.

My second biggest contribution as a Republican Town Chair was swearing in new voters. At that time, only a Notary Public could administer the Freeman’s Oath; that’s the only reason I was a notary. I carried voter registration forms in my car pretty much everywhere because one just never knew where a potential voter might lurk.

Gov. Dick Snelling, R-VTA lot of them lurked at our local high school so Jim Douglas and I cooked up a Voter Registration assembly and civics lesson. Today pretty much anyone over the age of 18 who fogs a mirror can administer the oath, including the potential voter but back then only Notaries Public (actual or de facto) could give the oath. Town Clerks are de facto notaries so they swore in voters all the time. Other elected officials are not which means they can’t.

About 20 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we filled the school auditorium with the older kids and put a couple of Dicks on stage.

Dick Snelling was the 76th and 78th Governor of Vermont. He jumped at the chance to talk to the kids when I asked him to drive up.

I introduced him. He got the crowd worked up in a few minutes and then invited anyone who wanted to register to come up on stage with us.

Our plan was that he’d greet the kids and keep them a little amped while Jim and I did the grunt work of filling out the forms and administering the oath.

The Gov. had other ideas.

“I’m going to swear in at least the first kid,” he told us.

Dick Snelling was a lot of things, but the Secretary of State who knows these things knew he wasn’t a notary. The Secretary of State who knows these things also knew that you have to be a notary to give the oath.

Jim and I looked at each other. “You going to tell him?” he asked.

“Not I.”

I think we registered about 40 kids that day. Most of them still vote.

How do I register to vote [in Vermont]?
If you are registering to vote in Vermont for the first time by mail, you must include a photocopy of an acceptable form of ID. Acceptable forms of ID are: Valid photo ID (driver’s license or passport); current utility bill; current bank statement; another government document.

Am I required to show identification when I vote [in Vermont]?
No. In Vermont, only first time voters who have registered by mail have to show ID in order to vote. If you registered when you renewed your driver’s license, or as part of a voter registration drive, you will not be required to show ID.

What kind of identification do I need to bring to the polls [in Florida]?
When you go to the polling place to vote, you will be asked to provide a current and valid picture identification with a signature. Approved forms of picture identification are: Florida driver’s license; Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles; United States passport; debit or credit card; military identification; student identification; retirement center identification; neighborhood association identification; and public assistance identification. If the picture identification does not contain a signature, you will be asked to provide an additional identification with your signature.

Can I still vote [in Florida] if I do not bring identification?
Yes. You should not be turned away from the polls because you do not bring identification. If you do not have the proper identification, you will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot.


Supporting Parents?

Back in the 80s (that would be the 1980s for those in school now), our local high school had more than a few problems. Test scores were down. Graduation rates were down. “Post-secondary attainment” was down. Teacher salaries were down. Community involvement was down. School morale was down. We fixed it.

“A college education has spoiled many a good garbage collector.”

Our solution was to bring together a bunch of parents of middle school age kids to form what ended called the “Parent Support Group.” I always thought it sounded like a warm and fuzzy safety net encounter group but I was the first chair of this gang and got outvoted.

These were the Go-Go 80s. No, not the heady, speculative 1880s when real estate prices went berserk and steam trains rumbled west. As Tom Brokaw said, “Money was flowing out of Wall Street for Bacchanalia.”

It wasn’t flowing to Vermont.

I thought Management by Wandering Around could have. Maybe a little Theory Y. And some old-fashioned MBO. For building rapport in a team or a community, it sure beat hiding behind closed doors.

7th grader Jimmy Kominsky set a goal to do his homework every day.

Missisquoi Valley Union High School was about a decade old, then, a “new” school for the area. It had Florida architecture with circular brick pod-like turrets clustered to face out toward the invading hordes. It was a district school with three feeder towns, rather than the very local Town K-12 school with the schoolmarm living above your neighbor’s garage. The enrollment averaged about 1,050-1,100 students in the mid-80s. My memory pegs the annual budget at around $2 million then (the Inflation Calculator tells us that $2 million in 1985 dollars would be $4.4 million today).

The school board and the school administration were sequestered in this fort and the community stayed away. Educational changes were in the wind and the community stayed away. Budgets climbed and the community stayed away.

8th Grader Jenny Laroche set a goal to birth a foal.

Part of our charter as the Parent Support Group was to be a Booster Club to bring the community back in. MVUHS has a stunningly excellent theater; our arts council started there with the Franco Voyageurs, the Ketch dance troupe, McGill Jazz, Vermont Symphony performances, and more. Good arts and good sports bring people into the building and enrich the kids. They can even improve school revenues.

Part of our charter as the Parent Support Group was to give the then-new “Middle School” its own identity. Somebody had decided kids in 7th and 8th were too young to mingle with the older high school students and the idea of a “junior high” was demeaning.


Oh, I understand all the buzzwords, that middle school is student- not subject-oriented and “emphasizes affective development” and that “teachers and students work together in interdisciplinary teams” with experiential learning and teamwork and that the awful junior high was subject- and teaching-centered with nothing but traditional instruction for hours and hours per day. Junior high kids have to suffer through study halls and homerooms.


8th grader Brown Connery set a goal to skateboard in the snow.

You’d think it was impossible to do any of the neat, new wave, high tech schooling in the Junior High building. Moreover, I still wonder why kids in middle school today have lower achievement than kids in junior high did a generation ago.

Back to the story.

The school pulled the 7th and 8th graders out of gen pop and gave them a pod of their own. Teachers shuffled around so a dedicated group shepherded these kids for those couple of school years. And we parents supported all that with in- and after-school activities.

We had music and art. We had trips. We had clubs including a goal-setting club. I don’t remember if there was a fishing club but I do remember math and cooking and tutoring and shop. Come to think of it, I don’t think we had a rocket club. Missed the boat there, we did.

Jimmy Kominsky’s goal to do his homework, no matter how tired he was after school, was because he was bored. “It’s so boring to sit there wasting your time,” he told me, “but it’s better than learning to flip your eyelids inside out.”

Jenny Laroche had some trouble finding a horse to foal. This is dairy country and there were fewer horses around even in the 80s than ever before. Benoit Laroche (no relation) let her stop every day after school. Benoit milked about 100 head, a fairly large farm for the day, and had six Morgan horses he used for sugaring.

Brown Connery failed at skateboarding in the snow but he learned enough to skateboard on it. That wasn’t magic, but common sense. He and his dad cleared out some space to set up a small skateboard yard with flatbottom, a nice downslope, and hard, grindable edges. It was winter-ready because he had a really big shovel.

Jimmy is 43 this year. He never did learn to flip his eyelids but he did learn to swallow swords. I ran into him again this spring in Key West. He works the slack wire in Mallory Square most evenings. He owns a house and has two kids in the Horace O’Bryant School there.

Jenny is 44 this year. She went to UVM and then Cornell and is a large animal vet in Alaska.

Brownie never did invent the perfect skateboard but he moved halfway down the Banana Belt, that part of far western Vermont where temperatures are more clement. He drives a truck over the road and serves on the school board in Bridport, I think.

Overall, the Parent Support Group was a success.

Those early middle schoolers set goals for their own enjoyment. They saw rising test scores right through graduation. Commencement rates came back up. More than half went on to some form of higher education. Neighbors as well as parents attended the musical and sports and shows there. School morale came up.

[Years passed]

Things have changed at schools in 30 years. The 2015-16 enrollment at MVU is 930 students with a student-teacher ratio down to an amazing 10:1. The 2015-16 budget is $15,231,150. USNews reports the College Readiness Index at 23.5, the mathematics proficiency at 1.7, and the reading proficiency at 2.8. In the New England Common Assessment Program, 16% of Missisquoi Valley Union 11th graders are now Substantially Below Proficient in reading and 51% are now Substantially Below Proficient in math (that’s more than half the kids for those in that category). If you add up the bottom two categories, one-third of MVU 11th graders are now NOT Proficient in reading and 80% are NOT Proficient in math overall.

There must be a lesson in there somewhere but it’s up to you young parents to solve. See, I have a different emergency. I ran out of cookies.

Next up, what Vermont’s governor and I were joking about on stage in 1984.