Illiteracy and Crime

Austin, Texas, Police Chief, Art Acevedo, discusses the link he sees between illiteracy and crime in this short video clip.

What he states in the video is very true.

There have been an ample number of studies over the past couple of decades supporting what he has observed first-hand in his 24 years of law enforcement.

However, students in Main Street USA schools continue to struggle with not only reading but also basic math.

What is missing in education today is an emphasis on the basics — reading, writing and arithmetic — and ensuring that students have mastered these skills.

A review of reports generated by the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that this issue remains a problem needing to be properly addressed.

Some have proposed longer school days, or shortening summer vacation, however these do not address the real crisis being faced. Learning to read. Learning to perform basic math functions.

Until those in charge are able to wrap their wits around the most fundamental steps involved in educating youth, America will continue to spend untold billions of dollars in both public (i.e., taxpayer) and private funds in remediation activities and the outcome of an illiterate society (i.e., crime, violence, lost job production, etc., etc.).

Wake Up America!

Over For Now.

Main Street One

Spying and Laundering Money

As reported by the Associated Press, ten people were charged with “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general.”

The typical word for this is acting as a spy.

Most people probably understand that many, if not all, governments utilize spies in an attempt to gather various pieces of what they consider valuable information that might allow them to have an upper hand.

As a sidenote, corporate America also participates in industrial espionage, again in an attempt to be on top.

The AP article goes on to say that the maximum sentence, if convicted of said conspiracy, is five years in prison.

A message to two of the accused spies, allegedly from the Russion government, states their marching orders are to collect information in a variety of potentially damaging areas, “including nuclear weapons, U.S. arms control positions, Iran, White House rumors, CIA leadership turnover, the last presidential election, Congress and the political parties.”

The accused people have evidently been acting covertly for years, as some of the evidence presented against them at arraignment goes back to at least the year 2000.

It does seem odd that if proven true that these people were spies and had been doing so for a decade that they would spend less time in prison than they did gathering information.

Further, nine of the ten were also “charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.”

That sentence carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Excuse this citizen for asking, but how is it that a spy who, hypothetically, gathered intel such as information on Amercia’s nuclear weapons and arms control positions that could possibly allow a foreign power access to highly classified secrets and potentially cause damage to U.S. national security be less of a threat and carry less of a penalty than laundering money?

Over For Now.

Main Street One

And What Else Don’t We Know? Unknown Webcams At Home

This taxpayer is not particularly a subscriber to the conspiracy theories that abound.

However, when one reads a news article such as the below from the Associated Press, it really makes one pause.

“PHILADELPHIA – A federal lawsuit accuses a suburban Philadelphia school district of spying on students at home through school-issued laptop webcams.

“The suit says Lower Merion School District officials can activate the webcams remotely without students’ knowledge. The lawsuit alleges the cameras captured images of Harriton High School students and their families as they undressed and in other compromising situations.

“Families learned of the alleged webcam images when an assistant principal spoke to a student about inappropriate behavior at home.

“The school district says it has deactivated a security feature intended to track lost or stolen laptops.

“The district says the tracking feature would not be reactivated without ‘written notification to all students and families’.”

Wait one minute. No, two minutes.
Supposedly there was a security feature in the laptop designed to track it.
How is it that this “security feature” was a webcam? It would seem as if a device, more like LoJack (which is made for laptops), would “track” a lost or stolen laptop to a location.
Perhaps it was someone’s bright idea that installing the webcam would then also provide the identity of the thief.
 More importantly, why would an assistant principal even be involved with what he/she considered inappropriate behavior by a student – in the student’s home?
That certainly oversteps any and all authority that school district personnel have with students. (What does the U.S. Department of Education have to say about this district’s antics?)
This action tramples all over our Bill of Rights.
Thankfully, for all the families in Lower Merion, the assistant principal acted inappropriately and confronted the student and that the student had the presence of mind to report such a gross invasion of privacy. 
Just as astonishing, the school district says that the tracking feature “would not be reactivated without ‘written notification to all students and families’.”
Written notification?
What gives the school district the right to have a webcam in a taxpayer’s home? There is no issue with something like LoJack, but this citizen has grave concerns about a school district even having the idea that it is okay to place a webcam in someone’s home.
From there, the leap begins.
Are the urban legends true that the webcam in my laptop is monitored by someone, somewhere without my knowledge, let alone consent? That the reason cable/FIOS boxes are bigger (when almost all electronic equipment has become smaller) is that they are hiding cameras that capture my every move? 
When something as atrocious as this story is real, it does make one wonder.
Over For Now.
Main Street One

State Pension Plan Fallout

As reported by the Associated Press, the Pew Center on the States released a report citing that there is at least a ONE TRILLION DOLLAR deficit in state pension plans.

The article by AP begins by stating, “States may be forced to reduce benefits, raise taxes or slash government services…” due to the billion dollar gap.

More than likely, it will be a combination of all three.

The study, unfortunately, does not include any county, city or municipal pension programs.

The most troublesome news about the study, however, is that AP says the report does not necessarily include pension plan losses from the 2008 economic downfall.

Thus, the trillion dollar gap is, in all reality, much much more.

According to the AP article, “The report said policy makers have exacerbated the problem by expanding benefits, relying on overly optimistic assumptions about investment returns and failing to sufficiently fund the programs.”

That phrase “relying on overly optimistic assumptions about investment returns” is scary.

This sort of financial mis-management, regardless of the 2008 financial market crash (as the Pew study does not take ramifications of that into account), heightens concern for Main Street USA that the public sector (i.e., the federal government) should take over healthcare or any other services they may be considering, for that matter.

The phrase “expanding benefits” is also worrisome. Why is it that public sector executives feel that they have the right to expand benefits if money is not there to cover the obligation?

Does the thought process during public sector budget meetings run along the lines of, “Oh, not to worry, we can always raise taxes, or charge new fees for services to make up for that gap.”

And then to top it off, “failing to sufficiently fund the programs” simply means that, come budget time, those in charge decided that certain budget items would be covered with money that is currently available while leaving the pension plan with less money than called for, thus widening the deficit even more.

That sort of “planning” is simply policy-makers not taking any responsibility for actions taken, but, rather, pushing the problem off to the next generation.

That is corrupt and criminal.

As more and more services are performed by the public sector, which seems to have no rules against operating with massive debt obligations or not meeting financial projections, the burden will ultimately fall on the US taxpayer.

And, while the White House Administration and Congress continue to implement, or strongly suggest the need for, more government oversight in and on the private sector, who is it that is running oversight on their own financial misdeeds?

Food for thought.

Over For Now.

Main Street One