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Tim Kern, Talking Sense

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Location: Anderson, IN, United States

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Safire Can't Find the Forger -- Does Anyone Care?

Dear Mr. Safire:

You ask if anywhere there is a federal prosecutor who is interested in upholding the law (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/22/opinion/22safi.html?ex=1100840400&en=7cfe910c6a37bd0e&ei=5070&oref=regi).

The short answer is, I can’t find one. The longer answer concerns why I looked.

I looked because, during President Clinton’s “trial” in the Senate, then-recently-retired Senator Dale Bumpers lobbied his former fellows to let Clinton skate on the perjury charge.

In addition to being a modern, high-profile example of jury nullification, this charade served to point out that (at least) Senators, the President, his attorneys, and federal judges are above the law, even when the law, as written, specifically includes them.

I tried for several months to get the FBI to initiate action on this, or at least to tell me why they wouldn’t, as virtually all Senators, the President, his counsel, and Chief Justice Rehnquist blatantly disobeyed the law, setting a precedent on national television.

I cited the law. I provided direct quotes from Sen. Bumpers’s testimony, that clearly showed his intent, which was in contradiction of the law. I asked for prosecution; none was forthcoming.

I pointed out
* that Sen. Bumpers was clearly not long-enough removed from office to make this appearance.
* that his appearance, whether invited or subpoenaed, was not in keeping with the loopholes in the law (that specifically exempt the prosecution – the United States -- but not the defense)
* that his admitted purpose was to influence the official act of the Senate, and
* that all these conditions are in specific violation of the law.

Not only was Sen. Bumpers in trouble, the law’s penalties are actually more-severe regarding those who invited him (President Clinton, his legal team, and presumably the leadership of the Senate) and those who permitted the act (Chief Justice Rehnquist, Senate leadership, and the entire non-objecting Senate – in other words, all of them).

After a long and predictably fruitless battle, I met up with a sympathetic FBI agent/lawyer, who looked over what I had sent (references to the law, Sen. Bumpers’s testimony, and comments), and he agreed that I was right. He also explained that, no matter what the law says, there is a certain class of people in this country who can ignore it with impunity.

It’s not that most of the ruling class in the country deserves to be behind bars that bothers me – it’s that they know they won’t have to go.

I applaud your ‘never give up’ attitude. I, though, have given up. I’m 53, and all I want to do is die before the whole damn nation goes under, in a huge flushing of global socialism and global fiscal and moral bankruptcy. It’s not that we, as a nation, don’t deserve it; heck, we’re causing it. It’s just that, when I read the Constitution and my old civics books, I realize it’s not that hard to do so very much better.

Keep fighting – at least you can say you tried.

Tim Kern

The entire section (207 --
http://assembler.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00000207----000-.html) covers various federal officers and employees. What’s below is just a small part, directly concerning the Bumpers imbroglio.

Ref: 18 USC 207 (bold italics added)…(e) Restrictions on Members of Congress and Officers and Employees of the Legislative Branch.—
(1) Members of congress and elected officers.—
(A) Any person who is a Member of Congress or an elected officer of either House of Congress and who, within 1 year after that person leaves office, knowingly makes, with the intent to influence, any communication to or appearance before any of the persons described in subparagraph (B) or (C), on behalf of any other person (except the United States) in connection with any matter on which such former Member of Congress or elected officer seeks action by a Member, officer, or employee of either House of Congress, in his or her official capacity, shall be punished as provided in section 216 of this title.

Ben Franklin, Discovered by Dan Thomasson

Dear Mr. Thomasson:

Here’s a letter to the editor of the [name of paper inserted here -- it wasn't published], that probably won’t be published. I thought you’d like the background, however. Thanks for bringing up the subject!

Tim Kern

Dan Thomasson got it right on October 15 (“US Needs a Good Dose of Civility”
http://polkonline.com/stories/101504/opi_civility.shtml). Ben Franklin predicted it in June of 1787 [during the deliberations that spawned our late lamented Constitution].

Franklin opposed paying salaries to elected federal officials. He warned those writing the Constitution that, “…a place of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit” would attract a bad class of highly-motivated men. “And of what kind are the men that will strive for the profitable pre-eminence…?” Franklin pegged it: “It will not be the wise and moderate; the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activities in their selfish pursuits.”

Even when somebody wins, the wise man warned, the common good will take a back seat to these avaricious and power-hungry men: “For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the same motives, will perpetually be endeavouring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.”

History – or prophesy?

Tim Kern

Why Johnny Can't Read: Teachers Make Excuses

In response to one teacher's howl for even less work (http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041006/NEWS/410060311&SearchID=73190274893535),
I sent the following letter to the Polk County (FL) Lakeland Ledger (where it was published below another, similar one http://theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041020/NEWS/410200322/1037/EDIT04):

A middle school teacher recently inadvertently explained why our schools fail: Teachers won't step up to challenges. She already has her excuses in line. We had hurricanes, so we should cancel this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

School days were lost at the beginning of the year, she said. Those days will be made up. She blames stress, in the homes and in the classrooms. We should be in "full normal mode" long before the FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Achievment Test] comes around.

The FCAT isn't an end in itself; it's there to measure a general level of knowledge and ability. If she focused on education instead of teaching to a minimum-knowledge test, she wouldn't have to sweat the minimums.

It's really about her. She says teachers' morale is low because teachers "don't know if their students will be able to make the grade because of all of these outside influences." Blame the students, assume they can't -- and they won't.

Her own stress is higher too: "Will their teaching abilities be questioned?" (That shouldn't stress her out: It's nearly impossible to get rid of a merely lousy teacher, regardless how incompetent or lazy.) So, she says, solve her problem: Cancel the FCAT. Don't ask her to dig a bit deeper, to get her students through the test. She has already given up.

Her own example is to simply give up, and to teach our children to give up, every time there is a problem. When these kids grow up and face stress, what should they do -- deal with it, or collapse at its first appearance?

Winter Haven

Teachers responded with vitriol, but did not address my points:

Interestingly, I replied to the first, by sending the letter below to the editor, who obligingly forwarded it:
Mr. Marston:

Thank you for printing my letter to the Editor about excuse-making teachers who want to dump the FCAT, and also for publishing the rebuttal letter from Holly Cooper, who invited me to spend a week in the classroom.

While I don’t have an entire spare week to devote to this, I’d be pleased to attend Mrs. Shattuck’s class for two days.

If you could make the connection, perhaps she and I could set this up, and we’ll see if I do, as she asserts, owe Mrs. Shattuck (whose name I did not use in my letter, by the way) an apology.

Please note for the record, that Ms. Cooper did not refute any of my arguments; she simply stated how devoted Mrs. Shattuck is. I make no quarrel with her devotion; it is her efficacy of which I am skeptical.

Thank you.

Tim Kern
PS. I am an active substitute teacher in Polk County, and I am certified 6-12 in Social Studies, as well. I taught high school through the 1998-99 academic year, and I currently teach college. I never make excuses for my students; they make plenty of their own!

If you would like to forward this to H.D. Childree (the other letter-writer who did not address my challenges, but used my letter as a pretense for lobbying for additional baby-sitting fees), as well, it might clear up any misunderstanding on his/her part.

---...and then

Three weeks went by without even an acknowledgment of receipt of my intent to take these teachers up on their public offer, I again contacted the longsuffering Mr. Marston:

Hello, Mr. Marston.

Just between us, I deserve an apology from these nasty teachers (Cooper and Childree).

Since they viciously attacked me by name (I had the professional decency to purposely omit Mrs. Shattuck’s name from my letter, figuring she’d already embarrassed herself enough) on your pages October 25 and threw down the gauntlet to have me attend classes, I assumed they were serious. I immediately accepted their invitation, and I haven’t heard from either of them.

I guess they’re just complainers and prevaricators. Their ‘invitation’ was evidently as thin as their effectiveness.

It’s been over three weeks since I replied and accepted their offer. Now, my schedule has closed in around me, and I will not be able to take them up on their phony invitation until after Christmas time. (Oops – I mean, “the holidays.”) On second thought, why should I go? They don’t have anything to teach me.

Phonies and cowards, all, and rude. Their inaction and lack of even a reply prove my original point.

I hope (new Superintendent) Gail McKinzie addresses this excuse-making pack of problems that receive teachers’ pay and benefits. (…and I’ll bet she won’t.)

If you would like to do a real story on ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read’ (offered originally to school board member Brenda Reddout, who also ignored my offer – she didn’t even answer), I’d be pleased to offer a few insights gained from many years of teaching in effective schools, my years as a turnaround consultant, and my experience with Polk County’s system.

Thank you again, for the courage to have run my original letter, and for forwarding my acceptance to these ladies.

Tim Kern