Duck and Cover: Educational Fallout Shelters for a Sputnik Moment

I’d only been through this doorway a few hundred times in my life–and never noticed it.  There, on the top left. I certainly hadn’t noticed that there was a faded “capacity” circle.  I wonder who had to enforce that one? And who knew that the Department of Defense, while protecting us from Cold War nuclear fallout, was also eagerly pursuing copyright infringing pranksters who would try to divert the unknowing to faux-shelters? In 1958, Kimball High School became the second high school in Royal Oak.  It was the height of modern architecture, rebelling against all that was pleasant and pleasing to the eye.  It was a time of practicality; no one had time for cornices, trim or even placing the pretty side of the building outward. A year before, the unthinkable happened.  We dropped out of first. “Are you glad, mad, sad or afraid?” a psychologist once asked me.  “Because… Read More…

How To Be A Good Defendant

  Here’s the fact pattern on a case I’m currently working on. The names have been changed to protect me should anyone involved ever see this article. Albert got in his car, backed out of his slightly hilly driveway and into the road. Vickie happened to be driving past the driveway–no stop sign, no yield, such a driveway alongside a road–and Albert backed right into her car. Rear bumper to passenger side doors. As I wrote previously, I represent people being sued for personal injuries, so guess which one of these drivers is my client.  You guessed it–Vickie is my client.  This Einstein Albert backed out of his driveway, paying inadequate attention to traffic on the road, and struck Vickie,who happened to be passing his driveway, and he is suing her. What a country! I’m not here to preach tort reform, because the fact people are sue crazy is the reason… Read More…

County-Wide School Districts? Kicking the Tires in Ol’ Machiavellian Michigan

Quoting billboards is kind of a family hobby.  “Keep up the good work, Governor Snyder,” my son read on I-96 last Tuesday. “Kind of like, ‘Brownie, you’re doing a helluva job,’” he chuckled. My poor kids have, surely by osmosis while sitting at eternal dinners with me, come to expect no good news from our state’s capital for most of their lives.  And this morning’s headlines didn’t change that pattern. Growing up in the micro-town of Clawson, Michigan, I was amazed, even as a clueless junior high student, that we had our own superintendent.  Heck, most of us couldn’t believe we had our own laundromat. So here are three simple questions for the salesman before you buy the 2014 County-Wide School District being rolled out by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. The vehicle sure looks swell during the commercial and it looks even prettier in the showroom. And who’s not in… Read More…

“Loying:” Common Misperceptions About The Practice of Law.

So, you want to know what I do for a living? To those of you who have read my posts and feel I should keep my day job, remember that you’ve probably never seen me at my day job.  If you had, possibly you’d encourage me to keep writing. I am a lawyer: I spend my days loying.  Specifically, I’m a trial defense attorney handling personal injury cases. It’s typically auto accidents, but in my past, I’ve handled elevator-related injuries, construction site injuries, and sidewalk or business slip and fall injuries. Fed by a diet of television lawyers, many lawyers dream about practicing all their lives—not me.  Not to knock the profession, but I kind of fell into it. I didn’t have the work ethic (or possibly the intelligence) to be a doctor, and I wanted a decent salary with no 24 hour shifts. Friends have told me they have… Read More…

The Four Ignored Elephants of Quality in the Classroom & Teacher Retention

I was reminded of Winnie the Pooh and his hallucinogenic-trip, envisioning heffalumps and woozles, the other day… My priest was giving me an update on contract talks with his elementary teachers. “I tell them, ‘You only work 3/4 of the day and 3/4 of the year, why should you expect full-pay anyway?’” I wanted to say “Yeah, Padre, and you only work three hours on Sundays and get free clothing, room and board.” But then I’d have to escort him to the confessional right afterwards for absolution of the sin of sarcasm. *** I gave up my calling last summer and quit public school teaching after 25 years. That was never my plan; I was going to go 40 years. It wasn’t “kids today,” parental apathy or even standardized testing. Frankly, we were going broke. After my state and city imposed four years of pay-cuts–including a 9% six-month retroactive cut… Read More…

Uncle Richie Reaches Home.

This past weekend, I flew back to Philly to go to the latest of the three funerals I’ve had to attend over the past few months. My paternal grandmother was the first in the series, having passed last September; a good friend of mine “went home” just before Christmas, an event I wrote about in these pages already (My Fading Accent); and this time, it was the funeral of my Uncle Richie. Frankly, with no disrespect intended, I was not very close to him, although he was a steady presence of my life. I don’t write to cremate Richie or to praise him, but this weekend, as I nodded towards family members I now see only when someone dies, I was confronted with a fact each one of us already knows; we don’t escape our families. These people who play semi-recurring characters in our personal sitcoms are with us always…. Read More…

Kids with Guns.

In my several rewrites of this article, I’ve taken great pains to remove traces of my own emotional reaction to this issue in an effort to present an objective, fair analysis. I hope I’ve succeeded. The National Rifle Association is a soul-less, sucking black hole of misanthropy and a national disgrace. It’s without a trace of cognitive dissonance that they argue the answer to the problem of gun violence is increased gun sales. Background check for potential gun-purchasers would infringe on our rights and also cost lives, the argument goes. On the contrary, not only do we need background checks, we should insist the checks includes an IQ component. This is not to suggest that only the intelligent should have guns, but as illustrated below, too many guns are being sold to the breathtakingly stupid. And you just can’t regulate stupidity. Sure, people may defend their homes with guns, but… Read More…

We Shalt Not Kill Either!

As far back as I can remember, I have argued against the death penalty, but so often over the past decade, I found my voice weaker, my stance less certain. The events in Boston yesterday reminded us all of one basic fact that will not be ignored: people suck. We’re not necessarily wrong when we tell ourselves that most people—the overwhelming majority of people–are basically good, even if a few exceptions so often demand our attention. But those exceptions at times open fire on parents carrying infants, putting 5 bullets in an infant because of a grudge with the parent (Brunswick, Ga last month); those exceptions shoot kindergarteners with 30-round magazines while others defend the “right” to kill so effectively; those exceptions plant bombs during crowded events just to maximize the death count, maybe not coincidentally targeting a position where the parents of those kindergarteners stand. So, like an alcoholic… Read More…

The Sissy Factor: Pitino’s Duck-and-Cover & NFL in Court

There was an interesting moment during Rick Pitino’s obligatory handshake-walk at the end of Monday’s exciting NCAA championship game.  As the pyrotechnics began with a bang, Pitino did what I also did 12 hours away.  It was the instinctive “duck and cover” move that probably sent us up a tree a million years ago and kept our species alive long before we developed 30-round magazines for our rifles. Of course, the next day on talk radio, a significant percentage of calls were comparing Pitino’s Barney Fife to John Beilein’s Dirty Harry-stroll-through-the-chaos. Bill Cosby, in one of my fifteen LPs in the basement, pointed out that the first thing you do, after being scared by your friends and yelling at them, is to make sure that someone else looks just as foolish as you–as soon as possible.  No one wants to be the only one not like the others–unless all the… Read More…

The Arguments Against Gay Marriage

It took two days of Supreme Court hearings to prove that people still oppose gay marriage and are willing to go to great lengths to prevent it.  Two days. Granted, the two days were devoted to the constitutionality of two different laws: Proposition 8, a voter referendum in California declaring same sex marriages in that state invalid, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a man/woman union. To state the two positions in brief, proponents of gay marriage feel they are being denied equal protection under the law, denied access to the rights of married partners for health benefits, inheritance, etc., and that they are being singled out as a result of their status under a “separate but equal” theory. Opponents of gay marriage just hate gay people. Maybe that’s not fair. Those who oppose gay marriage have perfectly sound intellectual arguments to defend their views.  Marriage… Read More…

Harper High

For the past two weeks, “This American Life” presented stories revolving around Harper High School in Chicago. Last year, 29 kids attending Harper were shot, 8 died. 29 shot, 8 died. We all remember vividly Newtown, Ct, the Aurora theatre murders, even Columbine so many years ago. Harper represents a more gradual mass murder, and one that deserves more attention that it will likely get. Honor student Hadiyah Pendleton made news by being gunned down a few weeks after the presidential inauguration she attended. But the news died down.  I suspect no one will hear about Harper after TAL moves on to its next topic (that topic: coincidences). So many of us were horrified by these stories, Newtown in particular, but what are we doing about it? TAL presented the Harper story as a collection of reports about the various students/faculty affected by the gun violence. One of those profoundly affected… Read More…