Thomas Jefferson was excoriated by the newspapers of his day. Still, he thought the First Amendment was so important to our democracy he said he would choose a country without government over a country without newspapers as long as everyone had access to and could read the newspapers.
Jefferson might reevaluate this premise were he alive today and be bombarded by the national television and print media, to say nothing of the flood of misinformation pervading the Internet.
Be that as it may, Jefferson’s Hobson’s Choice came to mind when I read, on the Internet, that three high schools in Texas are providing new football stadiums for a mere $180,000,000.
The first of these arenas was built five years ago in Allen, Texas at a cost of sixty million dollars. It seats 18,000 people. There are about 5,000 students. McKinney, Texas, five miles from Allen, is now building a 12,000-seat stadium for sixty-two point eight million dollars. McKinney High School has about 2,700 students. Katy High School in Houston, Texas is spending sixty-two million dollars on a 12,000-seat football stadium. Katy High School has nearly 3,000 students.
When I was an undergraduate at Indiana University, I.U. wanted to build a new basketball arena. There was such dissention between those in favor and those against that the administration named the new building “Assembly Hall” to indicate it would be available for academic events. Madison Avenue would have been proud. Can you imagine Bobby Knight’s reaction if a geology professor had wanted to pre-empt basketball practice with a lecture on global warming? Assembly Hall cost 27 million dollars. It seats about the same as the Allen High School stadium.
I grew up in Oklahoma. I know there are two religions in the Southwest: religion and football. My brothers and I played high school football. I get it. Call me reactionary but over 180 million dollars of taxpayers’ money for about 18 home football games has the feel of Through the Looking Glass to me.
I know Texans want to claim all things from stands to hands are larger in Texas. But, come on, $180,000,000 for about 18 high school football games a year means each game cost the taxpayers $10,000,000. I guess if the stadiums last a thousand years the economies of scale might justify the expense.
I pulled up the websites for all three high schools. They each have extensive facilities beyond football. To me that is not the point. The question is not do these public institutions provide scholastics along with football? The question to be considered is, how much educational return is there in the expenditure of $180,000,000 of public funds on three stadiums?
I like football. And even though I root against Texas every year in the Oklahoma vs. Texas college game, I am glad we stole Texas from Mexico. Maybe Mexico should have built a wall in 1846. Then that $180,000,000 could have been spent on soccer stadiums.
Take your iPhone or laptop and go to http://www.visitposeycounty.com. This new website was launched May 05, 2016. Mike Webster designed and developed the site with the input from a knowledgeable committee of seven community volunteers. Mike also took many of the marvelous photographs which appear throughout the site.
Mike along with Posey County businessman and owner of New Harmony Soap Company, Jim Spann, and Connie Weinzapfel who is the Director of Historic New Harmony, introduced the site at a reception held in the New Harmony Atheneum. The Red Geranium Restaurant hosted the event.
Posey County’s Board of Commissioners and County Council enacted an Innkeepers Tax in July 2014. The 5% tax has already raised over $170,000 to promote tourism in Posey County. Some of those monies were used to develop the new website.
According to Jim Spann the Committee’s goal was to promote tourism in Posey County by having readily available Internet information that shows the whole county in depth. If you pull up the site and click on any of the topics, you will find the Committee has succeeded. Take lodging for example. If tourists are looking for hotel lodging, they can click on places to stay, then hotels. The Cox family Four Seasons Motel in Mt. Vernon is one of the businesses that comes up with a full description and photographs.
Should tourists be looking for a bed and breakfast, a family could find Cook’s on Brewery Bed & Breakfast in New Harmony. Many places to stay throughout the county are easy to find. With full descriptions and many links to the businesses’ own websites there is no need for guesswork.
Even those of us who are privileged to live in Posey County will be overwhelmed with the number of places to eat and the variety of fare. Brain sandwiches at New Harmony’s Yellow Tavern or, soon, locally brewed beer at Sara’s Bistro and Wine Bar less than a block from The Yellow. Perhaps one might want a homemade ice cream creation at Bliss in Mt. Vernon or homemade pie at the Depot Diner in Griffin. Of course, Posey County’s German heritage is found from Weinzapfel’s Tavern in St. Philip to the Silver Bell in St. Wendell. One can even find Cajun cuisine at the Red Wagon in Poseyville.
There is a comprehensive, countywide events calendar and maps are provided to locate each event. It is surprising and exciting to see the numerous and diverse activities available each month of the year in Posey County.
Posey County’s unique and fascinating history is showcased throughout the website. One could easily write a report or even a newspaper column from the information only a click away.
Once upon a time females were comprehensible to males. Everyone understood the language spoken between females and that segment of the race comprised of boys under the age of twelve. It was clear to both speaker and hearer when a mother or other adult woman would say, “James Marion Redwine, stop that!” There was no need for translation or even exposition.
However, as puberty arises in boys the gods set a curse upon said boys and the entire female population over the age of menses. Use of a boy’s middle name, a completely clear indication that something some female said or was about to say ought to be heeded, was replaced by a bewildering habit of talking in sentences void of direct objects.
When boys talked with boys there was no confusion when one boy asked another boy to play baseball or fistfight or fish. If the other boy wished to do so, they would just go forward with understood purpose. Should the other boy not wish to be so engaged a simple “Nope” was sufficient.
This facile system of clear declaration carries on among males from rocking horses to rockers. No man needs to wonder what another man means whether the other man answers aloud or simply grunts. Feelings are not offended nor is there any need to ruin a perfectly good hour of silence discussing them.
On the other hand, with a boy’s first attempt to communicate with a non-family female, the lessons of misdirection, misperception and just plain misery begin. Such a conversation might go as follows:
“Hi, Peg, would you like to go to the Seventh Grade dance?”
“Why Jimmy Redwine, that would be ever so much fun. Just let me see if I have anything to wear or if I want to hold out for anybody else. But I may get back to you. Can you wait until I know what kind of car you will have in four years?”
If any females actually read this column, they may know what that meant. As for me, after fifty years I still don’t.
Then there is the excruciating non-communication between husbands and wives. No area leads to more angst for men than the attempt to decipher what spouses mean concerning daily activities. Would it be too much to ask for simple declaratory sentences constructed with a subject, verb and object? Is oblique sarcasm required by Athena or whoever the goddess of female communication may be? For example, if a man wants a beer he might say, without even having to move from the couch, “Beer”. One simple word; isn’t that clear to everybody? But the man’s wife will feel the uncontrollable urge to respond with obfuscation such as, “I suppose I could shut off the vacuum, walk ALL the way to the fridge, and get you a beer if you wouldn’t mind drinking it through a straw in case you miss it after I throw it to you.”
Now, what does that mean and is it called for? How about a simple, “Sure, Honey, I can always finish the cleaning later”.
And what does it mean when women just refer to things without giving any context or direction. Take jobs around the house for example. Men know without having to be told that there may be branches blown down or a garden to be tilled. Why do women approach such topics as if touching upon them directly will have cataclysmic consequences? Let me suggest an example.
“Jim, it’s only May and onions should have been planted weeks ago.”
When I respond, “Yeah, I know it’s May”, Peg puffs up like a blowfish and has a headache for days. See what I mean, Gentle Reader? You would think my agreement with her would have made her happy.
HIGH SCHOOL MOCK TRIAL AND COURT OF APPEALS ORAL ARGUMENT
April 29, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. in the Posey Circuit Courtroom: PUBLIC IS INVITED
The Posey County Bar Association led by its President, Attorney William Bender, will join with Posey County’s two high schools, the Indiana Court of Appeals and the public in celebrating Law Day 2016.
The Mock Trial will involve the high school students led by their teachers. Posey Superior Court Judge Brent Almon will preside and a Jury comprised of Posey County attorneys will decide if two computer companies should be forced to break into the iPhones of private citizens. The Mock Trial fact pattern was published in this column last week.
After the Mock Trial a three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals will hold oral argument on the appeal of Lockhart vs. State. Jerome Lockhart was convicted of rape and sexual misconduct with a minor. He is appealing his conviction on several grounds. He claims his constitutional right to a trial by a jury of his peers was violated when the only African American potential juror was stricken from the jury by the prosecutor.
This “Batson Challenge” is based on the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Batson vs. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). In the Batson trial there were only four African Americans on the venire, the list of potential jurors. The prosecuting attorney struck all four using peremptory challenges. Mr. Batson appealed citing the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed that to strike potential jurors merely because of their race was unconstitutional. If one side of a case wishes to strike such a juror, the attorney who exercises the strike must establish there was a “race neutral” reason for the challenge. A race neutral reason might be a criminal record or drug use or prejudice for or against one side.
On April 29, 2016 in the courtroom of the Posey Circuit Court Mr. Lockhart’s attorney, Ronald Smith, and Deputy Attorney General, Monika Prekopa Talbot, will try to convince the judges of the Indiana Court of Appeals (John Baker, Melissa May, and Mark Bailey) their legal position is correct.
This important issue should be both interesting and informative. The public is invited to observe and listen.
Mt. Vernon High School Vs. North Posey High School AKA The F.B.I. And C.I.A. Vs. Black Briar Computer Company
Venue: The Posey Circuit Court
Date: April 29, 2016 at 9:00 a.m.
Issue: Should Black Briar Computer Company and Appleby Computer Company be forced to help the F.B.I. and C.I.A. access the iPhones of two private citizens?
As part of the Posey County Indiana Bar Association’s celebration of Law Day the teachers and students of Mt. Vernon High School and North Posey High School will present a Mock Trial before a jury comprised of Posey County Attorneys. Posey Superior Court Judge Brent Almon will preside and Bar President William Bender will be the Foreperson. The case is anticipated to last about two hours.
Following the Mock Trial the Indiana Court of Appeals will conduct an actual oral argument on a pending case. The public is also welcome to observe the oral argument. Indiana Appellate Judges John Baker, Melissa May and Mark Bailey will preside.
As Plaintiff, Mt. Vernon High School will be led by teacher Tim Alcorn. Attorneys for Mt. Vernon are Adam Grabert and Luke Steinhart. Portraying the witnesses will be students: Kaleb Grabert, Ellen Denning, Jared Mader, Jordan Crabtree, Sidney Irick and Alex Goebel.
North Posey High School is the Defendant. Its teachers are Mike Kuhn, Michelle Parrish and Ashton Fuelling. The Attorneys are Maddy Pfister and Brandon Williams. Witnesses will be played by: Morgan Alvey, Brooklyn Hamman, Jared Koester, Derek Motz and Hannah Straw.
This will be the thirtieth straight year Posey County’s high schools have joined the Posey County Bar Association in the celebration of the Rule of Law over rule by military might.
Both the Mock Trial and the Appellate Oral Argument are open to the public. Please come and join the schools and the Bar in honoring Law Day.
Democracy may occasionally resemble a food fight but it is more palatable than rule by oligarchy. Or, as John Milton (1608-1674) put it in Paradise Lost, “It is better to reign in Hell than serve in heaven”.
America’s system of selecting all federal and many state judges resembles a game of inside baseball in which public money greases a machine which has little public input. The currently pending replacement of Justice Scalia is a salient example of politics in need of air and light, in other words, democracy.
My suggestion is to start by incrementally modifying our federal judicial selection process, which would most likely lead to modification of our states’ systems. I would begin by developing a pool of potential judicial candidates. This would require the United States Senate to rely on its Constitutional duty to advise and consent to the President’s nominations.
The Senate would be within its authority to formulate regulations setting forth certain criteria judicial candidates must meet before the Senate would consider them. A corollary would be if the President did nominate a qualified candidate from this pool, the Senate would have to fairly and expeditiously consider such candidate. These criteria would have to be non-discriminatory in the protected categories of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. However, they would be universal in requiring qualifications such as character and fitness, education, training and experience. America’s law schools and state Bar associations would surely conform their standards to the Senate’s criteria, if they were reasonable and non-discriminatory since they would want their students and members to have the opportunity to compete for federal judgeships. Thus, the federal system would, per force, lead to modification of our country’s entire manner of determining who would fill the Judicial Branch. This would help ensure independence and fairness while helping to lessen outside influences, such as from political parties or special interest groups.
While my preference would be for non-partisan elections of all judges for a term of years, if inclusion in the pool of potential judges was available to anyone who met proper requirements, other, perhaps better systems, could also be considered as long as the public maintained control.
The ultimate goal is an independent Judicial Branch made up of qualified individuals who have been selected by a democratic process. These judges should serve for set terms subject to non-partisan but democratic review. Most importantly, we should select our judges by a system that encourages them to decide cases only on the law and the facts.