Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another troubled teenager shatters hopes, dreams, lives

Some random thoughts (subject to change) in the immediate aftermath of the Chardon High shooting that claimed the lives of three students and left two others wounded:

–Young people who attempt to solve their problems by such violent means with a potential for massacre almost always seem to be members of dysfunctional families and are themselves victims of abuse. At this writing, we know the shooter, T.J. Lane, was a quiet loner with divorced parents and whose father was convicted of felonious assault. In the next days and weeks, we will know more about the young man’s obviously troubled life and what led him to his infamous attack on Chardon students.

–I think we’ll find out that T.J. Lane left clues – plenty of them – but no one seemed to notice or didn’t take them seriously. All of us have to do a better job identifying troubled young people. And that means parents have to be parents to their kids, not their friends.

–Our young people are our first line of defense against such tragedies. We have to get through to them to pay attention to their classmates’ postings on social media and those off-the-cuff statements that seem to carry a sinister, evil tone. For goodness sakes, they need to say something to someone in authority.

–With schools facing significant budget cuts because of the dire state of Ohio’s finances, the jobs of administrators, guidance counselors, nurses, custodians and, yes, teachers are on the line as districts tighten their belts. At the same time, our schools are being asked to assume more parental responsibility, including policing students’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, while spending enormous energy on the Ohio Graduation Tests. Chardon Superintendent Joseph Bergant said all that means little if we can’t provide a safe environment for our children. He’s right, of course.

–Our districts’ staff members immediately and unselfishly transform themselves into heroes in the face of danger. Many districts have teams of “first responders” who react in emergencies. I’m not sure about Chardon, but assistant football coach Frank Hall, who chased the gunman from the school, and teacher Joseph Ricci, who tended to a wounded student, belong on such a team. I think it’s safe to say that neither are overpaid educators.

–Having spent time as a substitute teacher in classrooms in New Philadelphia and Dover, the job of “teacher” is not an easy one. I have a renewed respect for teachers and the job they do day in and day out. And yet parents continue to criticize the teachers rather than give their kids a good swift kick in their butts when it’s needed. Don’t deny that fact. I’ve seen the angry posts on Facebook from parents who think a particular teacher has done his/her kid wrong.

–Remember the father who filmed himself pumping his daughter’s laptop computer full of bullets to teach her a lesson? Well, if there was a lesson to be learned it had something to do with not respecting a firearm and that frivolous gunplay is fairly stupid. It was the wrong message to send to young people in a number of ways. I apologize for bringing this up again. I just can’t get over that guy. I wonder if T.J. Lane saw the video.
–I do feel for the parents whose children were in Chardon High when T.J. Lane started firing his gun. I can only imagine the terror parents felt not knowing whether their child was a victim. Losing a child is every parent’s fear and it stays a lifetime. A couple of hours after the shooting, Superintendent Bergant advised parents to hug their children. I thought that was pretty good advice, although I think most parents did that without the prodding.

–Several media outlets pointed out that deaths from guns is way down in the nation’s schools since the early ’90s because of security steps taken by school districts and law enforcement. Somehow, I don’t find solace in that fact. I think three deaths – such as that of Chardon’s Daniel Parmertor, Russell King Jr. and Demetrius Hewlin who were felled by T.J. Lane bullets – are three too many.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pay attention: This company is big time!

Some things never cease to amaze me.

When the local daily newspaper posts its “30 Seconds” feature online every day, it draws an enormous number of comments from what seems to be a dozen or so folks who apparently spend most of their time commenting on online stories and opinions.

So, when the local daily newspaper posted a story about Schlumberger Limited locating a facility in Strasburg, a reasonable person might assume that it would draw at least a few comments from engaged readers.


Nearly 24 hours after the story detailing Schlumberger’s plan in Strasburg, there were absolutely zero comments. There wasn’t even one blaming or crediting President Barack Obama for the company’s decision, although I think it’s safe to say that Obama had nothing to do with it.

The story, which provided a decent overview of the company’s strategy, outlined Schlumberger’s local role in the current oil and natural gas boom in our area as a process called hydraulic fracturing – fracking – unlocks an energy treasure far beneath the surface in Utica shale.

Schlumberger will service the energy business locally by setting up and taking down oil rigs. According to The Times-Reporter, available Schlumberger jobs will include “laboratory technicians, maintenance workers, diesel mechanics, and administrative professionals (potentially positions such as clerical, accounts receivable or dispatchers.)”

The company purchased 140 acres in the Strasburg Industrial Park – located in the northeastern part of the village – for $2.89 million. Eventually, the company could employ upwards to 200 employees, although a significant number, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, will be coming here from elsewhere with no plans to stay longer than they’re needed.

Schlumberger may be the largest company you’ve never heard of. It’s a multi-national company that drills for oil in 85 countries. It employs 113,000 people.

Its principal offices are located in Houston, The Hague and Paris.

In 2011, Schlumberger had revenues $39.5 billion versus $27.4 billion in 2010. That’s a big time number, folks.
(Halliburton, another company you might not have heard of prior to our military incursions into the Middle East, had 2011 revenues of $24.8 billion. General Motors, the world’s largest automaker (again), had 2011 revenues of $150.3 billion.)

Schlumberger stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and on other global boards. A recent close was 77.74. Its 52-week range is 54.79-95.64 and was recommended by stocks guru Jim Cramer as an energy company to buy.

Schlumberger is hiring and suggests career paths of engineering, research, geosciences and petro technical. Hopefully, “Project Lead the Way” programs in our local schools will direct students toward companies such as Schlumberger in the near future.

Schlumberger’s entry into the Tuscarawas Valley’s economy certainly is significant, a fact not lost on the village of Strasburg and its local school system. Every job added means revenue for our schools, villages and townships, which must educate the children, pave the roads and provide for our security.

There will be additional opportunities as the energy boom gets under way. Hopefully, those caretakers of our economy and our local media also will provide oversight for the environment because left unchecked those who take from the earth usually scar it. Drive any number of country roads to see the damage caused when the strip miners took but didn’t put back.

Writing in the Toledo Blade, Janetta King, president of Innovation Ohio, a Columbus-based progressive think tank, urged Gov. John Kasich and the General Assembly to adopt three policy recommendations:
Development of a landowners’ bill of rights.

Enactment of a reasonable windfall-profits tax on oil and gas companies. “While Big Oil is poised to pocket billions of dollars, Ohio’s severance tax is now the second lowest in the nation less than 1 percent on gas and 10 cents a barrel for oil…”

Raising severance tax rates just to match those levied in Texas 7.5 percent on gas and 4.6 percent on oil and natural gas liquids such as butane and propane would mean new revenue over 10 years of nearly $2.5 billion from gas and $6 billion to $25 billion from oil, depending on how much is extracted in what time period. “This new revenue stream would cover the increased regulatory and infrastructure costs a full-blown shale boom would impose the ‘impact fee’ Governor Kasich seems to favor.”

I think the Innovation Ohio’s suggestions merit consideration. Perhaps you should tell your state legislator. (More on the group’s suggestions is at innovationohio.org.)

And by the way, tell your kid to study his science lessons.

To read more from Dick Farrell, visit him at www.TuscBargainHunter.com.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Things today just seem a little out of whack

Is it just me, or have there been plenty of signs the world – our world – is going a little nuts lately


–A father pumps his teenage daughter’s laptop full of bullets because she posted an anti-parent rant on Facebook and then he posted his own video, showing his gunplay with her laptop with an accompanying commentary about how screwed up his daughter was.

The really scary part was how many people applauded the father for his parental handiwork. OK, folks, raise your hands if you really, firmly believe that public humiliation of your teenager is good strategy. I’d like an update on this dysfunctional family in five years.

–The Grammys television show was well on its way of appealing to music fans across generational lines when it interrupted sanity with a performance of “Roman Holiday” by best new artist nominee Nicki Minaj.

The Internet site HitFix summed up her performance best: “It was a theatrical interpretation of hell, though viewers were indiscriminately and unknowingly cast there within the first few notes.”

I have to wonder what the producer of that piece of awfulness was thinking.

–Also from the Grammys (and thanks to friend and Illinois publisher Jim Shrader for finding this little tidbit), more than a handful of young women tweeted (a verb that identifies a post on the social media site Twitter) in the aftermath of Chris Brown’s performance that they wouldn’t mind if Brown beat them.

Brown, if you remember, was charged three years ago with assaulting his ex-girlfriend Rihanna, who also performed at “The 54th Annual Grammys Awards.” It was not immediately clear if that fact bothered either one of them.

–To appease the Catholic Church, President Barack Obama backtracked on his administration’s proposed requirement that Catholic hospitals, universities and so on provide birth control to employees of those institutions.

To solve the dilemma and hold the Catholic bishops at bay, the administration said it would require the church’s contracted insurance companies to provide the assistance – free – to any woman who wanted it.
Someone please tell the government that there are unintended consequences when it starts requiring the private sector to give away stuff for free.

–In the aftermath of the tragic deaths of two small boys whose father murdered them and set his house on fire – and who was certifiably mentally ill – at least one television network aired an hour-long special on the horrible circumstances surrounding their death, guaranteeing severe depression for anyone who watched it.
The question is why would anyone want to watch an hour-long special on that particular case especially when there did not appear to be substantial new information?

I don’t get it. Sweeps month? Come on.

–An organization called One Million Moms, which has 40,000 members (so I assume the “one million” thing is wishful thinking), called for a boycott of JC Penney stores because the retail chain’s new spokesperson is Ellen DeGeneres, who is arguably America’s most likeable lesbian, although if you have financial questions perhaps Suze Orman ranks a little higher.

I mean, really, Ellen DeGeneres?

Anyway, reports are that the boycott hasn’t worked because a number of people took offense to the narrow-minded call to boycott JC Penney and actually went and shopped there, buying all sorts of merchandise.
I could find no evidence that the Million Moms organization also is boycotting Cover Girl cosmetics for which DeGeneres also is a spokesperson. I’m not sure what that means.

Full disclosure: I have a brother-in-law who works for JC Penney and he likes his job. So, I have kind of a personal stake in the store’s success.

–Republican strategist Karl Rove said he was offended by Clint Eastwood’s “It’s Halftime, America” commercial for Chrysler because it furthered a Democratic agenda.

I mean this is really nuts.

If he was talking about the government’s bailout of Chrysler and GM, he must have missed the part about it being suggested first by the lame duck Bush administration of which he was once a part.

And, to suggest Eastwood was a Democratic shill, well… 

If I were Rove, I’d watch my back.

I can hear Eastwood now.

“You've got to ask yourself one question, Mr. Rove, ‘Do I feel lucky?’”

You know the next line.

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Perhaps Gov. Kasich could use an editor

To be fair to Gov. John Kasich, work commitments kept me from listening to his state of the state address this week while the deadline for this column was pressing me to move quickly on some kind of analysis.

So, here it goes.

Kasich’s speech was long – like 82 minutes long. Whew. Ever sit through an 82-minute speech? I won’t say I’d rather have a root canal, but a speech that long would at least get me thinking about options.

I did listen to some of the legislators’ analyses of his speech afterward on the local PBS station, and, of course, they were split along party lines. Democrats panned it; Republicans thought it was terrific.

What was missing from the speech apparently was the rumored announcement of a half-billion-dollar private sector initiative in Harrison County that is/was supposed to be connected to the oil/gas rush under way in eastern Ohio.

That’s not to say something like that won’t happen, but the best Kasich could do as far as any announcement was a $10 million broadband initiative.

The Columbus Dispatch, quoting a news release from the Ohio Board of Regents, said the state will invest approximately $10 million through a recent agreement with Cisco and Juniper to “harness new innovative technology that will, in essence, ‘open the faucet’ of Ohio’s current broadband infrastructure, over 1,800 miles of fiber.”

My guess is that little factoid means absolutely nothing to most Ohioans.

Kasich, who a year ago rammed through the partisan Senate Bill 5 – the anti-collective bargaining bill – also scolded lawmakers for being too partisan. Democrats were not impressed.

Here’s a short state of the state speech you will never hear:

“Our schools are struggling, our urban neighborhoods are decaying, our infrastructure is crumbling, and we could use a lot more jobs.

“My fellow Ohioans, we need to win the lottery.”

It appears that Mitt Romney is the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination for president. Whether he is moderate enough to defeat Barack Obama is debatable and there is a lot of time between now and the general election. A lot could happen – like a big spike in gasoline prices.

Nevertheless, I’m going to try and remain open-minded about Obama and Romney and listen to what they have to say. But what I don’t understand is why a guy who made $24.6 million in 2010 wants to be president. I have trouble wrapping my arms around that fact. How does he relate?

Australian author Bronnie Ware, who cared for the terminally ill for many years, is attracting interest with her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.” She’s also written articles on the subject, including one for AARP.

Here’s Ware’s list of regrets voiced by those on their deathbeds:

1.       I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2.       I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3.       I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4.       I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5.       I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Seems straightforward enough, although one of my younger friends thought they were a little cheesy. Perhaps he hasn’t been to the funeral home as often as I have over the last few months. Too many of the folks I grew up with, worked with or knew in some way are passing on.

And when that happens, it causes an immediate rethinking of one’s own life, hence the popularity of compiling a bucket list.

That got me thinking about Mitt Romney again. Is being president on his bucket list? It would seem so, wouldn’t it?

Keep an open mind, Dick. Open mind, open mind…

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