2006-05-19 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

Nobody asked me, but ...

... The revelation that our government is not only spying on those who are suspected of having terrorist ties, but is building a massive database of the telephone calls of ordinary people is disquieting to say the least. Somehow the picture of a man sitting in the dark logging my wife's telephone calls to her friends and to television shopping channels is comical until you realize that your discussions with your family, your stock broker and your doctors are all being taped somewhere and screened for "keywords" that will start you on the road to a federal investigation.

... The arrest and suspension of a teacher who grabbed a kid in his own defense when the kid hit him is one more example of why the school system needs to get rid of the disruptive kids and keep them away from those who want to learn. The Brooklyn teacher asked a 14-year-old tough to take his hat off. When the boy refused, the teacher took it from his head. I have done the same hundreds of times during my 33-year school career. In this case, the kid punched the teacher and the two grappled, with the kid falling and hitting his head. The teacher was arrested for assault in the third degree. The student is back in class. My guess is that teachers are going to stop asking kids to take off their hats even though wearing a hat in a school is against DOE rules.

... The Daily News ran another of its strange, anti-city editorials on Monday. The gist of the editorial is that there are far too few black and women firefighters because white candidates have the edge in taking the test. Why? Because, while black people and women don't know when the test will be given, white candidates are told about the test by their relatives, who are already on the job. Oh, yes, the white candidates also get tips on how to take the test and how to prepare for the rugged physical examination. What pure drivel. First of all, the tests are not given in secret. Anybody who wants to find out when the test will be given can read The Chief (the civil service newspaper that lists all the city tests), the daily papers, or even call 311. The information is readily available at any number of sources. As for the test-taking tips, the Vulcan Society (made up of black firefighters) gives classes to prepare candidates for taking both the written and the physical exam. Do family members give tips to candidates on what to expect? Of course they do, just as relatives in any field give tips to friends and relatives who enter their field. To blame the lack of minority and women in the FDNY on that kind of cronyism, however, is just plain ridiculous. The fire department has been going out of its way for years to recruit minorities and women, so far, rather unsuccessfully. Why? There are a variety of reasons none of them having to do with cronyism. The Daily News editorial board needs to get out more - to the schools, the precinct houses, the firehouses, to see what is really going on in this city.

... My take is that the much-ballyhooed charter schools do no better at educating kids than any other school. Several recent studies have shown that on the whole, those schools perform about the same as the traditional schools they replaced. In fact, one recent independent study of charter schools in Michigan and Ohio found that the schools actually had a negative impact on kids. That is not to say that there are no charter school successes, just like there are many traditional school successes. They are obviously not the magic bullet that many parents and educators hoped that they would be. Yet, they continue to profligate, particularly in New York City, where they are being put into existing schools at a fast clip. Far Rockaway High School will have two in September. MS 53 has one. Perhaps the city should sit back, do some studies instead of flying by the seat of their pants and take a look at what charter schools really can and can't do.

... Sheldon Silver is the Majority Leader in the State Assembly. He often stops bills that address criminal justice in their tracks and has earned the sobriquet of being easy on crime and criminals. Well, he has done it again. Silver refused to allow a bill that would develop a DNA database that would include the material from every convicted criminal in the state. The theory is that it would make it much easier to solve future crimes if you have a database of DNA from everybody who did crimes in the past. Sounds fundamental? Not to Silver, who refused to allow the Assembly to even vote on the bill. I sure hope that Silver or his family aren't impacted by crime personally, but that certainly would prove to him why such a database is necessary.

... A white Brooklyn firefighter slips a Ku Klux Klan hood over his head and mocks one of the city's few black firefighters, a man who works with him. The black firefighter complains and the white firefighter gets a reprimand from fire officials. Two Broad Channel Firefighters wear blackface in a Memorial Day Parade. They get fired and the court says its perfectly all right. Where is the fairness?

... A lawyer for the Virginia teens who threw paint cans from the roof of their Midtown hotel, injuring a cop, were simply expressing their art, their lawyer says. "I think that it had something to do with the fact that they're artists," the lawyer said with a straight face, "It was an expression of what they deemed to be their art." The kids were in the city on a art-class trip from their home state. A police source told the court that they had appeared to have been drinking. I guess that's part of their art as well. Hey, officer, I killed her because I wanted to see how her red blood mixed with her yellow dress. It's only art.

... Nearly 44 years ago I spent the summer at Floyd Bennett Field. It wasn't a national park then, and I wasn't in summer camp. I was undergoing Navy Boot Camp in preparation for going with the fleet the following January. This weekend, Mah 19 and 20, Floyd Bennett Field is celebrating its 75th Anniversary with special events both Friday night and Saturday. The main event is the NYPD-FDNY football game, which always promising to be hard-hitting and exciting. More than 6,000 people are expected to come out for the game, which is being played for the first time on a newly-build field at the budding sports complex that will open formally in September.

... The recent stories about how easy it is to buy a gun in another state and then transport that gun back to the streets of Rockaway are frightening. We have been writing about the problem for years and the only way that kind of gun smuggling will end is if those states want to end it. The feds, propped up by the gun lobby, however, do not want that to happen.

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