BEING A MENSCH

There are words in many languages that really don’t translate into English. This is also true the other way around. Somehow, in the translation, the essence of the word, or words, are lost or misplaced. I was once on a dance floor in Germany trying to impress a young lady with my command of the German language. She asked me if I could translate Elvis Presley’s Hound dog to her. I tried my best. I even got some help from some German guys, all to no avail. That word and that song meant something different to me than it meant to her.

I am sure that there are people skilled enough in idioms of various languages who are able to do such translations, but a straight word for word translation fails to capture the feeling. For years, I have heard the word Mensch. It is used casually by all sorts of people along with the raggedy Yiddish curse words that have now made their way to TV and movies. I am not sure that these people really know what the words mean. If they did, they would not use them.

Mensch is probably as high a compliment as you can give a person in Yiddish, other than the word Tzadik (hero, learned man and a few others). When you call a person a mensch, it means many things at the same time.

The simple translation is, “ A real person.” The feeling that one gets when one talks to a mensch is that you are talking to a true person, someone that you can count on to both say and do the right thing. There aren’t that many of them in the world. They seem to pop up when you need them most. It is normally a conclusionary word that tops almost anything. It comes when a really difficult situation is at hand and someone appears to solve all of the problems.

There are many times when I hoped that a mensch would appear. It is not someone who would save you from drowning or cure your incurable disease. It’s just someone who makes things turn out right. I have actually run into some of those people in my work life. It is startling to see what kind of affect they have on others.

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IF YOU KNEW THAT YOU WERE GOING TO CROAK

I have seen the movies, a la Morgan Freeman and his bucket list and D.O.A. where a detective has been poisoned and has only three days to solve his own crime death. I had never thought of any of those things because I was not going to the near beyond any time soon. Even in my dotage, I could not really conceive of casting off this mortal pale. Although I have already outlived my father by 40 years, I still have some fire in my belly for some beloved activities and no plans to settle any old scores.

However, a month ago I went to see my dermatologist. I have been going to these skin folks for about 20 years. Right, I did not wear a hat as a kid and I am paying for it. This was different. The doctor looked at a part of my head and said, “We better take that off, not freeze it.” Now I have had things removed before, some large sections of my head or throat. This was a really different set of circumstances.

The doctor had a quick pathology done in a few days and called me to tell me that she was making an appointment at Hershey Medical Center for me to have a doctor there take a look at my head and my pathology. The person at Hershey told me that I was the 47th person in the U.S. that had this kind of cancer in the past 20 years. It was called lympho epithelial like carsanoma (spelling doesn’t count). I was to come back in a week and I would have the top of my head excavated and have the bad stuff all removed. Or so I thought.

I came back and did the usual thing before and operation. I undressed, for some reason, put on one of those strange smocks and lay down on a gurney bed. Carol was with me all of the time. I was prodded and poked and made to wait six hours before the doctor was ready for me. Actually, the six hour wait was a boon to my back. I was sitting up in a position that allowed the muscles to relax. That’s called looking through rose colored glasses.

Once in the operating room, I was asked to count to five, while a mask was put over my nose and mouth. I remember nothing else. I got up about three hours later. I was feeling fine. However there was a cone on my head that had strange looking gauze attached by black thread to my head. They had also grafted some of my loose neck skin (I still have some extra) and placed it in strips on the open wound. I was then told by the doctor that I would have to wait about ten days to find out if my “stuff” had metastasized to any other part of my body. That was the zenith of my emotional eruption. How was I going to react to what might be a death sentence, or, at least, months of chemo and radiation treatment?

As the week wore on, I began to make plans for what would happen if I was given negative news. I announced to Carol that we would be jumping into our van and traveling across the U.S. for the following six months. I had also decided that I was not a good candidate for either of those treatments. As I said, I was already 40 years past my father’s age, when he passed away. I have led a full life, have great children and grandchildren and a wonderful wife. I would leave with a smile on my face and “There Goes my Baby,” in my heart.

I think Carol was aghast. “How can you say that?” Hey, it’s my choice, and I really do want to do the trip that we just missed (for only 30 days). My appointment with the doctor was last Friday. It was a quick wait to go in- the usual weigh-in, blood pressure and temperature. She came in with a smile on her face, one intern to the left and a resident to the right. She told me that I was o.k. and that nothing had spread. She excised all of the stitches and sent me and Carol on our way.

There is no conclusion here- just something to think about. I now know something about myself that I did not know before.

SCHOOL FUNDING CRISIS- THE SOLUTION HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 12 YEARS

SCHOOL FUNDING CRISIS- THE SOLUTION HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 12 YEARS

If you didn’t know Jim Rhoades, or should I see Senator Jim Rhoades, you lost a great opportunity to meet once of the nicest and sincerest guys around. He was as pro-kid as anyone that I have come across. At the end of PARSS v. Ridge in September of 1999, a bunch of us in the alphabet soup of educators met to discuss how we were going to fund schools.

About a year later, Senator Rhoades approached me and asked me to show him what was called, “The PARSS” solution. He read it with keen interest and said that he might be interested in sponsoring it. After about a year, with the help of his staff member and eventual Executive Director of the Senate Education Committee, David Broderic, the proposal was cleaned up and came out as the Rhoades Proposal.

In the Spring of 2002, the Rhoades Proposal saw the light of day in SB 1373.

It eventually had 21 co-sponsors ( 12 R’s and 9 D’s). The leadership of both parties was on the bill, as well as Senator Vince Fumo ( I presented it to him myself). It never went anywhere. I have been trying to sell it for the past 12 years with little success. However, there re now some young legislators who might be interested. There are all kinds of calls these days for changing the way we fund education and how we tax for same. I have updated most of the numbers. It is probably out of date by 2 years ( can’t get the most current numbers. Here is the memo that could go out to all of our legislators.

Fairness in Education Funding Act (FEFA)

The Purpose of FEFA

“My solution is to shift the burden of funding public education away from school districts and to the Commonwealth, away from the property tax and to the personal income tax.  My solution is to drive State money into our public schools and require school districts to reduce local taxes dollar for dollar.  My solution is to fund our public schools on a distribution formula that is stable, predictable, and fair.  And my solution is to hold down costs in public education by giving taxpayers a greater say over increases in local school spending.”

Former State Senator James Rhoades, March 26, 2002

Main Points of FEFA

  • New Basic Education State Funding Formula would Increase State Funding by $8,565,812,310 in 2012-13 thus reducing same amount in local funding through reducing local property and Act 511 taxes by 60.25% statewide.
  • Local tax reduction for specific school districts may range from -2.8% to – 99.6%. Over 90% of school districts will have their local taxes reduced by at least 50%. 189 School districts will have their local taxes reduced by at least 80% while 47 school districts will have their property taxes reduced by less than 50% and most of these receiving at least a 40-50% reduction in property taxes. Since these calculations are based on the previous year “Total Expenditures” category, they will change from year to year. There are a number of districts that have had large increases in total expenditures because of capital expenses in one year. Because of that their taxes appear to rise as a result of this new formula. That will be changed as each category is reviewed. The current printout is simply an estimate.
  • There are certain school districts ( less than five) that will see increases in taxation because of their former funding from the state.
  • State funds are provided through an increase in the State Personal income tax from 3.07% to 5.24%, an increase of 2.17%. The new state funds are placed in an Education Trust Fund for purposes of reducing local taxes.
  • Mandatory Local Tax Relief of all local taxes both real estate and Act 511 taxes. No future increase in local taxes will be able to be raised without a referendum, though there are a few exceptions that include emergencies, disasters, debt payments and extraordinary special education expenses but not for extraordinary pension expenses.
  • Establishes New State Basic Education Funding Formula that is more stable, predictable and equitable taking into account actual education expenditures, actual student counts, and poverty of school districts.

 

 

 

FEFA State Basic Education Funding Formula 2012-13

2011-2012 State Median AIE/ADM = $8,879.50

Key Terms:

AIE – Actual Instructional Expense

ADM – Average Daily Membership

PI / ADM – Personal Income per Average Daily Membership

Tier 1 State Funding : Base Supplement

$6,659.63= 75% of State Median AIE/AD) x ADM

Tier 2 Local and State Funding: Equity Supplement

Local- To qualify for state equity funding supplement a school district must provide local tax effort equal or greater than:

$2,219.88 (25% of State Median AIE/ADM) x  (1-Aid Ratio) x ADM

State -If a school district qualifies then the state provides funding equal to:

$2,219.88 (25% of State Median AIE/ADM) x Aid Ratio x ADM

Tier 3 State Funding: Personal Income Factor Supplement

Personal Income Factor x ADM

Personal Income Factor is based on Personal Income per Average Daily Membership

PI / ADM                                                              Personal Income Factor

Greater than $200,662                                                   0

$154,844 – $200,662                                                        100

$128,272 – $154,844                                                        200

$110.637 – $128,272                                                        300

$96,182 – $110,637                                                           600

$0 – $96,182                                                                        900

Tier 4 Local Funding: School Districts have the option to provide local tax revenue to maintain the previous year’s Total Expenditures.

POLIO’S CHILDREN

If you have been watching Ken Burns’ video treatise, “The Roosevelts,” then you would have seen the tragic scenes of Franklin contracting polio in 1921. It may have saddened you to see his long climb back from a deep and dark cavern of depression to his eventual election as President of the United States in 1932.

It meant a whole different thing to me. It brought back memories of a hot August of 1949 in Mountaindale, NY. As with Roosevelt, it involved swimming in a creek with family and an eventual elevation of temperature to about 104 degrees. My mother was panicked and imposed on a neighbor named Eddie (I never saw him again) to drive us down to Willard Parker Hospital in Manhattan at speeds way above the limit.

I can remember lying down in the back of the car with the windows open and hot breezes blowing over me and my mother. I can almost hear her trying to sooth me with words of love and consolation. I had never seen her in that way before or after that night. Her view of the world would have never allowed it. She was an independent soul who preached self-reliance, with a large dollop of concern. However, she was always confident that her children would pull through, no matter what the circumstance. Even today, I can see that part of her in my older sister’s demeanor, as she cares for her husband. The words, “tough cookie,” come to mind.

FDR’s travail lasted quite a bit longer than mine. Since he had resources that our family could not even dream of, he was able to create things that would help him on the way to psychological recovery. His case of poliomyelitis was certainly more severe than mine, but its affects were very similar.

Both of his legs and muscles up to his chest were withered and never really came back into use. My one leg was affected and although I was never able to run very fast, it did not stop me from playing sports.

However, there was something very similar about the effect of the disease that I never realized until last night. Although he was a gregarious fellow and comfortable with people, he could never really feel the pain of those who, not through their own actions, were disadvantaged in their lives. Roosevelt was born with the proverbial golden spoon in his mouth, a scion of the Roosevelt clan. He never had to worry about his family’s circumstances. Problems for him could be solved with the laying on of resources way beyond the means of most of the people of the U.S.

I am not sure if a comparison is fair in this instance, however my own life’s history is replete with efforts to understand people’s problems and try and help them. In some small ways, I may have been of some help to folks. Roosevelt had the power to help massive numbers of people, and he did. The narrators of the piece pointed to his change after polio. There were a number of years when he gathered people who had polio to is Warm Springs, Georgia therapy center ( which never made any money) to help them with their view of life, even if he could not really repair their broken bodies.

Two of the children who were there at the time were interviewed and told much the same thing about the confidence that Rosie (as he was called) would instill in them, while his withered legs trailed behind him in the water. To me, that was the highlight of the film so far. I can understand the pain that they went through in physical therapy and the hope that it built up. In both cases, the treatments were a placebo that gave one hope that things might yet return to normal. It really didn’t.

My trial lasted only three months in 1949, from August to October. I was released from the hospital in the early part of October to listen to the World Series. I continued some of my physical therapy on my own with limited results. Even today, I am reminded of those months when I dress for the gym. I have long ago stopped worrying about others seeing my somewhat thinner leg. I saw Roosevelt’s transition from a “cripple” to his emergence as someone who overcame tremendous barriers to achieve something that no one has ever done before or since.

I know that his hero was his cousin Theodore Roosevelt. Strange, without even thinking about it, that is my hero also. There was also an overcoming in Teddy’s early life. He also was concerned with those who were disadvantaged through no fault of their own. No, I will not go onto Ancestry.com and see a familiar relation. However, there is still something in me that looks at these people as confreres. We need more people like them at this point in our history.

As the years slip away, I look for that kind of feeling from my own family. Most of my grandchildren are too young to show some of these traits. However, there is one, whose feelings for the disadvantaged are beginning to appear. May he continue on this path and be blessed with success.

BEATING UP ON WOMEN

Whether in cartoons, movies, TV. or Alley Oop, the portrayal of the cave man holding a club hitting his partner on the head is a well-established picture in many minds. “Me Tarzan, you Jane (pretty much a nothing in his jungle addled mind). The image of conking women on the bean has been a staple in human activity for a time; longer than I have been on this earth.

So is it any wonder that a video clip from the elevator in a casino in Atlantic City of Ray Rice pulling his cold cocked girlfriend across the threshold is not anathema to many men and evidently quite a number of women. This past Thursday night a bunch of women (and men) were wearing Ray Rice numbered shirts to applaud Ray Rice for something or other. Even in interviews these women told reporters that a man has the right to punch out his girlfriend if she hits him first. Let’s see a tall thin woman with no martial arts skills versus a professional athlete with muscles on his muscles- a man who runs through 300 pound defensive linemen. This certainly sounds fair to me.

Think of it. With one shot (or maybe two) he knocked her out cold. Maybe he needs to quit football and go into boxing. I am not one who thinks that Roger Godell acted improperly. He certainly lied enough to make himself look better after his two game suspension gambit. He was protecting himself, his job, his league and his owners. By the way, many of the owners are probably in tune with Ray Rice. Donald Sterling certainly comes to mind as do some others. So, who is going to fire him?

Domestic violence has been going on for a long time. If you have a chance to check some of your local and national statistics, you will see some startling numbers. Not only are there many cases of men beating up on women, but if there is a gun in the house, some women actually die in the process. What the heck is the reason for any of these happenings?

I would not be surprised if this has been going on for a long time. Since statistics on domestic violence are pretty recent, we really can’t tell what went on, “in the day.” I can only surmise that, with so many other things, it was hidden from public view. If you want to see some modern equivalents, trundle over to the Middle East and listen to descriptions of “honor killings,” restrictions on women that defy imagination. In Africa, there are genital mutilations and treating women as chattel.

Think we have come so far, how about the guy who kept those women in his basement for ten years. These are all manifestations of something larger in society. If women are not kept in their place, the world will come to an end. There is a latent fear that once women are not subservient, the existence of society is put into jeopardy. Ever wonder why when there is a home school situation in a home where both parents are of equal education and experience, that it is the woman who stays home to educate the children. Try that one out on your friends and listen to the cries of, “That’s not the reason. “ Yeah, right.

HE IS STILL OUR PRESIDENT

Just recently, a friend of mine posted a picture of President Reagan with the words that said he was a real leader. There were many responses, mostly negative about our former president and our current president. I could not hold back my feelings about the hatred that is sometimes spewed by some people.

We are still a representative democracy. As much as you might hate the present president, or the one before, or the one before that, ad infinitum, they were and are OUR president. Sure it’s fine to criticize the president for his perceived errors, but he is still OUR president. Even when Richard Nixon was going through his tragedies, he was till OUR president.

I may not agree with OUR president on many issues, but this is still the greatest country in the world. I would have it no other way. I will never threaten to leave or not follow the law (even if I don’t agree with it). I will go to court, as I have done in the past, and spend ten years of my life fighting against a particular law with which I disagreed. I still obey that law today, even though I know it is wrong and hurts many people.

This is OUR country and I will continue to see any person who becomes president as OUR president. Hope your next post has as many reactions to it as this one did and it was really only a picture. Maybe you could post Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart on your next effort.

GOING TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (WHATEVER THAT MEANS)

I don’t wish to be known as a Pollyanna, although sometimes I am. Not only was I a history major and later a teacher of history and English, I am also a trivia nut. Luckily for me, I have a pretty long memory. It is an advantage to have lived this long and still remember pretty much most things that have been newsworthy during my sentient time.

 All this to say, what the hell is wrong with my compatriots and my age cohorts. Not only do they think that these years are the worst of times, they can hardly remember anything that has come before. Didn’t you have to stick your head between your legs and prepare for the atomic and hydrogen bomb attack? Didn’t you realize, after you saw the movies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the atomic tests, that a wooden chair would not protect you from the atomic inferno. Does that seem to be better times than these?

 Not only did you forget about World War II, and I mean World War, but you have forgotten about the Korean Was, the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Weren’t we going to be invaded by the Chinese? Didn’t it scare the shit out of you when Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table at the U.N.? Don’t you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world was about to blow apart?

 How about the fact that you are now alive at age 76 and in 1960 you would be dead by now for about 8 years? Are things so bad for you that you would trade those extra 8 years that you have gotten for a return to the McCarthy Era when my 7th grade social studies teacher was removed in front of my eyes by two FBI agents? Tell me that you liked TV better than now. Was the NFL even on TV? in those days? I can hardly remember.

Even though you hate Obamacare, would you trade the non-Medicare years for your current coverage? Let me know if you have enough dough to live on your dialysis machine, or your heart surgery, or your diabetes condition? No, you would probably have croaked by this time (I know I would have, my dad died at age 36).

 O.K. let’s talk about taxes. Go onto Google (Dogpile in my case) and see what your federal taxes would have been in say, 1950? Are you kidding me? How about the threat of Communism taking over the world with Russia and China combining to rule the world? Don’t you remember that threat?Let’s get real. You only remember the good things about those years.  If you were a person of color, what would your lot be, especially in certain parts of the U.S.? Yes, there have always been do-nothing congresses and low opinions of politicians- read Mark Twain or Will Rogers. Think that our present day pols are any less crooked than the ones of our era. If there was 24 hour news coverage, many more of them would have gone to jail.

 You know that our parents thought the same thing that we do about their earlier times. I remember clearly their view of Elvis and the hate that he spawned. So, I guess it’s a generational thing. We all like the things of our youth, even though we remember them through rose colored glasses.