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My Word

April 18, 2007

If Only Kids Could Vote

By Sharon Bass

I've heard those pleas from children, their parents and their teachers many times before last night, when the school budget had its public hearing. Geography makes no difference. No matter where I go, certain elected town officials and folks who don't have children in the system (anymore) seem to have inbred anger and mistrust of their local school department. I think that's because the superintendent is always the highest-paid public worker in town; education budgets typically outweigh the total of all other municipal departments; and under state statute school districts are given a lot of confidential space, which naturally arouses suspicions of clandestine deals and foul play.

Here, in Hamden, we recently got some unsettling news from our auditors. They informed us of improper school spending procedures that violated local law and the Town Charter. There have also been some questionable purchases. Though there has been no indication of malfeasance.

I do believe our school system is top heavy. I would hope that when certain administrators and directors retire or take new jobs, the Board of Ed will carefully -- and non-politically -- consider attrition and roll that dough into more teaching positions.

More than anyone else it is the teacher who helps parents sculpt their children. Administrators, fancy programs and high-tech gizmos will never replace the teacher. The person who can either draw a child into the magical, exciting world of learning, or who can turn off a student from learning forever. From my experiences as both a journalist who's interviewed countless teachers and as a mother of two, I have found most teachers to be both dedicated and talented. Thank God.

In my ideal school world, teachers would have a max of 10 students. Imagine the individualized instruction that could take place? Imagine how much more support each child would get, whether it's an academic, social or family problem? Imagine how much children would blossom? Imagine how much happier teachers would be? That's what I call true quality education. And it wouldn't be a pipe dream or a dream at all, if we didn't put billions and billions of tax dollars into illegal wars and to pay scandalous war profiteers such as Haliburton. That is a really sad fact.

Children with a solid foundation usually fare so much better than those who are just pushed along grade to grade or constantly suspended and expelled for being “bad.” This country does not operate on prevention, though. We're reactionary, especially when it comes to human welfare.

Education is the most important institution there is. Without it, what would we know? How would we pass on valuable lessons and inspire young minds to go beyond what they're taught -- to challenge and push the boundaries -- without a healthy educational system made just for kids?

I know the town is in a bit of a fiscal pickle, but I don't think we should gamble with our children's future. More money is needed. Not to go to administrators or overpaid consultants for central office, but to teachers and classrooms. There's not a child in this world who is not deserving of the best start in life.

Don't cut the school budget. Play it safe for the kids.

October 2, 2006

Why Dick and Not Amy?

By Sharon Bass

Why does Vice President Dick Cheney deserve the finest round-the-clock medical care while Hamden’s Amy O’Neill struggled and sacrificed for years to get what she needed to stay alive? She couldn’t afford a bed so she slept on a mattress on the floor on skin so fragile you can nearly see through it. Virtually every day, she had to make those agonizing choices many Americans do: Food or medicine? The electric bill or the doctor bill?

O’Neill has recessive epidermolysis bullosa. She has outlived possibly everyone who was born with this condition. She’s determined to preserve herself because she appreciates life so much. On the other hand, some feel Cheney, a warmonger and war profiteer, belongs in prison.

So why Dick and not Amy?

The answer is obvious, of course. Cheney has money, power. Amy is simply a good woman who is grateful for everything and brings sheer joy into others’ lives (like mine).

Amy is the poster face for universal health care -- a concept that seems to scare the bejesus out of the Bush clan and Republicans in Congress. Imagine, equal health care for everyone. No one would have to skip meals or live in substandard conditions in order to go to a doctor or buy life-saving drugs.

It’s not socialism. It’s the right thing to do. Period. But HMO and pharmaceutical lobbyists line the wallets of Washington Republicans -- who control this country -- to keep the U.S. medical system for profit and off limits to many. Reportedly, roughly 80 percent of those “death” dollars go to the GOP. And there are millions of them. According to a study in pubmed.gov , “ … pharmaceutical and health product companies spent the most [lobby dollars] (96 million dollars), followed by physicians and other health professionals (46 million dollars).”

And according to the well-established, liberal political blog, TPM Café, just one of the five congressional members who reap the most campaign health care dollars is a Democrat -- aka the Connecticut for Lieberman Senate candidate. And one of the four Republicans is our own Nancy Johnson. The others are U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). (If anyone has information that counters this, please let me know.)

Civilians like Amy O'Neill aren’t the only victims of this corporate/political greed. As frequent HDN letter writer Tom Alegi often points out, the Bush Administration has cut record amounts of money from the VA health system -- at a time of war! -- while dishing out billions upon billions to continue this illegal invasion and metastasize it.

We need more elected reps in D.C. who will fight for health care for all. Real health care. Health care delivered with dignity and fairness. That’s democracy.

For related reading, click here and here and here.

September 6, 2006

To the Knife-Wielding Individual Who Slashed My Tire Last Night

Three good guys: Paul Catenza (left), Mark Bojarski and Rick Daughtery in front of Skip's. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Sharon Bass

FY, buddy (and that don’t stand for Fiscal Year). Really nice. I walked out of Memorial Town Hall at around 11 last night -- after a four-plus-hour Legislative Council meeting -- to discover the tire on the driver’s side of my car flat as a pancake. So I drove down Dixwell to find a gas station but they were all closed.

Then I saw the light. A couple of pickups were idling at Skip’s Gulf at 2420 Dixwell Ave. I pulled in. Paul Catenza, Mark Bojarski and Rick Daughtery, all attendants at Skip’s, had just closed shop for the night but stayed on to help me.

And I was reminded that not everyone is an overgrown juvenile delinquent like you, tire slasher.

The three guys concurred that my tire was put out of commission by a knife, based on the fresh and fatal stab wound and the otherwise good health of the tire. “You’ve got a lot of tread on that,” Bojarski told me.

I called the police on Bojarski’s cell phone to report the stabbing. A little while later, Officer Ed Stoor showed up. He looked at the tire, ran my license (I’m clean) and filed a report. He was also super nice and listened patiently to my kvetching over the ordeal. Thanks, Ed, Paul, Mark and Rick.

FY, knife wielder. If you can find some reason in your warped little brain to pay for the damage, it would be much appreciated. My address is under “Please Support Us.” No questions asked.

August 21, 2006

Fool Me Once

By Sharon Bass

I feel compelled to comment on the plagiarism recently discovered in Sarah Morrill’s now-defunct “Right On!” columns. (I tried to delete them but am having trouble. Seems there are old files hanging around in e-space.) Since publishing Ricky Baltimore’s findings last Friday, I have received phone calls and e-mails from readers. Many have been supportive. A few asked why I didn’t catch Morrill in the act.

The answer is, in my 25 years as a journalist -- including being the editor of five newspapers and dealing with scores of columnists -- I have never dealt with plagiarism, and as a consequence don’t look closely for it. I felt there were problems with Morrill's execution and writing, which I expressed to her, but never suspected that "her" words were actually someone else’s.

I will be more vigilant now.

Here’s a definition of plagiarism. It’s stealing a writer’s words and publishing them under your byline. It’s a serious offense, and as Baltimore pointed out in his piece, the proof is in black and white. It’s not debatable. Some of “Morrill’s” “Right On!” paragraphs read word for word, comma for comma to the online publications Baltimore compared them to.

I do want to note I feel very comfortable with my other columnists. Both Councilmen Curt Leng (D-6) and Ron Gambardella (R-at large) write exclusively about current local issues and have no place to plagiarize from. Besides, they write exactly as they talk. I hear them twice a month inside Council Chambers and times in between meetings. I know their voices.

Same with Steve Kalb. He is one of the most above-board pros in the business. To the contrary, he strives for uniqueness by oftentimes delivering a different take on current affairs than what has already been reported on and opined.

And former Democratic Mayor John Carusone? C’mon. Do I even have to say it? If that ain’t Johnny C. coming through to you each week …

Thanks for the words of support and, again, I’m sorry if some readers feel I let them down.

July 7, 2006

The Handshake

By Sharon Bass

I started to walk away from my TV last night the second the Lamont/Lieberman debate ended. And then I thought I might miss something good as the credits rolled. Like Lieberman purposely tripping Lamont as they left their podiums. Or Lieberman "accidentally" stabbing his U.S. Senate primary opponent with a knife.

I didn't see any acts of physical violence but what I did see I thought beautifully summed up the one-hour back-and-forth between an angry, bitter and scared older man and a soft, nervous, middle-aged man.

Joe Lieberman stepped away from his podium (which was to the TV audience's right of Ned Lamont's) and almost got past his challenger when Lamont extended his hand for a gentleman's shake. The senator gave him a quick one -- with eyes darted down -- and hurriedly moved on. A few seconds later, Lieberman was heartily shaking another man's hand and then hugged him. There was no Bush kiss, just a nice big bear hug.

No. I do not care for Lieberman. I do not care for Lieberman so much that after years as an independent, I recently registered Democrat just to vote against the opportunist.

He doesn't seem to care that Democrats -- who got him where he is today -- are royally pissed at him for covering his Republican-like butt by taking out insurance petitions for November. He wants to keep his Big D.C. Seat no matter what dirty tricks he has to play. I'd rather have an unknown entity representing me than this.

Interestingly, it was the incumbent doing the trashing last night on TV. Lieberman turned every question he was asked -- about how he'd do this or that -- into a diatribe on how Lamont is a flip-flopper. How the multi-millionaire is really a Republican. He voted "80 percent of the time with the Republicans" when he sat on the Greenwich School Board, stormed Lieberman. The attack pickin's were slim, and the three-term senator recycled them to death.

He also angrily interrupted Lamont a number of times, and even when asked to stop, Lieberman kept going. Meanwhile, his whipping boy was on his best behavior.

Joe was all Rove last night. Since he's being attacked by party loyalists for straying from the party and speaking in tongues, he repeatedly assaulted Lamont for changing his mind five times (later on in the "Lieberman Hates Lamont Hour," Bush's favorite "Democrat" said he caught Lamont flip-flopping a sixth time; oh, my!) on how and when to withdraw troops from Iraq. 100 percent of what the senator said was completely predictable, and 90 percent bull. With the brilliance of the evil Karl Rove in his corner, you'd think there would have been some fresh fightin' material.

Unfortunately, Lamont did not use much ammunition. He seemed uncomfortable, which was no surprise being he's a newcomer to the scene. I felt like giving him a neck and shoulder rub so he'd look less robotic. When Lieberman accused Lamont of being rich (he really did, in case you missed the show) it was Lamont's perfect opportunity to list all the GOP operatives and corporations that have donated millions to Lieberman's campaign. Lamont should have had that lengthy list with him and used it.

However, there was an up side to Lamont's mild manner. He came off as the nice guy; someone who wouldn't hit below the belt. At the same time, we want tough in Washington.

Lieberman's hits were all below the belt. The man's hubris and lack of sincerity are scary and immeasurable. Lamont is the only choice.


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