County Goverment Day

Today was another “day” at Gering High School, most specifically today was County Government Day.  This day was a little different from Senior Service Day last week as it did not involve the entire school. In fact, it involved just 26 juniors and myself.

Every year, Scottsbluff County organizes their County Government Day. Most of the school districts within Scottsbluff and Banner Counties send either junior or senior students to this event. The number of students that can go is limited to 26 so we pick which students get to go.

This year, I got to organize this event, which was pretty straight forward. I just had to decide who was going to go, what County Government departments  they were going to represent, and I insisted that students dress appropriately for the event. We then walked down to the County Government Building (its only about a 5-10 minute walk from the school) and the students went into a room upstairs to be introduced to the day’s events. After that, students were broken up into groups to learn about the areas of county government to which they had been assigned, such as District Attorney, Sheriff, County Commissioners, and so on.

While the students were in their groups, we teachers got to go to McDonald’s to chat and drink coffee, which was not a bad way to spend my morning. I got to meet Social Studies teachers from around the area and we had some interesting conversations.

At lunch time, we got to have lunch in a local church. We heard a few speeches and got to see how to properly fold an American flag. After lunch, students got to see some demonstrations by local law enforcement and then a  mock trial was held. The students were asked their opinions on the trial and whether a conviction based on what they had observed would have stood up in court. I was pleased to see that most students thought the case in question would be thrown out because it was based on an illegal search.

Once the day was over, we walked back to school, but I let the students have some time play on the swings, at the park. We got back to school just in time for the bell to ring. Overall, it was a pretty good day. I got to get out of the classroom and spend part of my day with other teachers. I do hope I get the chance to do this again next year. I am pretty sure that I will.

Senior Service Day

Today was Senior Service Day at the high school. I always like this day. While the sophomores spend most of their day testing and juniors both test and have to sit through a presentation, the seniors get to go out around the Gering/Scottsbluff area to do some community service for various organizations around town.

This year was actually my first year with the seniors. The last two years I had to spend at the Freshmen Academy with the 9th graders who have to take their Terra Nova tests on Senior Service Day. This year, I was picked to supervise a group of seniors as they spent part of their day helping out at the Panhandle Humane Society.  In total I had about a dozen seniors who were divided up into groups once the got to the Humane Society. Each group spent a little time doing different tasks, such as working with the cats, cleaning parts of the building, and working and playing with the dogs.

Although we were only there a few hours, it provided some insight into what the Humane Society does and just how much work is involved running a community organization. For me, the big plus was that, while I was there, I got to see Cinders. She is doing pretty good, but the healing is very slow. I think it may be after the end of the school year before we are allowed to take her home. I think she appreciated the fact that she got a lot of attention today.

After senior service was completed, the seniors returned to the high school for their senior picnic and then there were games where the students won prizes. It was organized so that everyone won at least one prize and some of the prizes were pretty good, such as flat screen televisions, ipods, and even a microwave oven.

At least for the seniors, it was a day away from the academic grind and for them a chance to hang out with people who they might not see again after they graduate next month. Unfortunately, there is some talk of not having senior service in the future, which would be sad as I think the students actually get something worthwhile out of this day.

British General Election Set for May 6th

As expected, the hopeless British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, called a General Election for Thursday  May 7th. My prediction is that the opposition Conservative Party will either win a small majority in Parliament or just fall short of an overall majority.

I will be glad if/when the Labour Party lose the election. They have totally run the country into the ground in the last 13 years, but, to be fair, they only continued the work that was started by the dreadful Margret Thatcher back in 1979. For the last 31 years, Britain’s political leaders have done their best to ruin what was once a great country.

So what do I expect from a Conservative government? More of the same. I see the UK continuing to decline economically, socially, and politically and none of the so-called politicians today have what it takes to stop the rot. I expect a low turnout (by British standards) on election day because millions of people think that the political parties are pretty much the same and are not worth the time or effort to to receive their vote or support.

Since I have lived outside the UK for the last fifteen years, I am no longer eligible to vote in UK elections. Even if I could vote I would not bother. None of the politicians have the best interests of the country at heart and, as the expenses scandal clearly showed last year, most of these politicians are nothing more than lying, cheating bastards.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Last week, the big health care bill that has been working its way through Congress for the better part of a year was finally signed into law by President Obama. In my humble opinion, he should not have bothered signing this into law as it is a terrible piece of legislation.

When I voted back in November 2008, I voted for Obama in part because he promised to reform health care in America. The problem with health care in this country is not so much the care itself, which tends to be excellent, but rather the cost of medical procedures and the cost of medical insurance. Every year, my health insurance premiums seem to go up 5-10% while my annual pay rise is anything from 3-5%. As you can see, over time, the annual increases in health insurance premiums erode the value of my salary.

Obama had promised to do something about this, which was a reason for voting for him. Instead, what we get is a law that does nothing to address the spiraling costs of health care in this country. The U.S. is the only western country where a person can go bankrupt because of health care costs. This is simply unacceptable. I think the thing that shocks me the most is the opposition to single payer health care, which would be of benefit to everyone in this country. Most of the opposition was led by Republicans who used all kinds of scare tactics to either defeat the new law or have it radically modified.

What was really appalling was the use of the British health care system as an example of a system that does not work. Having been born in the UK and having the used the British National Health Service or NHS for 25 years, I do have to say that, despite having faults, the NHS is generally pretty good at delivering health care. This is borne out in data that shows that health care outcomes in the UK tend, on average, to be much better than here in the U.S. The U.S. is the country with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the western world, one of the lowest life expectancies and the fact that thousands of people die every year in the U.S. because they do not have access to heath care because they do not have health insurance.

This new law does not address the fundamental issues that affect health care in this country. If insurance premiums and health-care costs keep rising at the rate of 5%-10% every year, then heath-care will bankrupt this country. Health care already consumes about 16% of GDP in the USA while, in just about every other country, the heath care consumes only about 8%-10% of GDP. If projected health care accounts for 20%-25% in future years, many people will no longer be able to afford health care and the country will go bankrupt.

Another Cat

Yesterday, while I was recuperating from my accident at home, I got a phone call from the Panhandle Humane Society. The lady said they had a cat that they thought would be great for us and asked if we would be interested in adopting her. I told her that we now had two cats and that having a third would be a little too much for us.

After the conversation ended, I started think about this kitty at the Humane Society. During the phone call, I was told that she was a Blue Point Siamese between 2 and 5 years old. This cat has no hind paws and when she came to the Humane Society she had burns and sores on her backside. After thinking about it, I felt pretty bad for the kitty so, when Irene came home from the junior high, I told her about the kitty and we drove over to the Humane Society to see the cat.

She is a very friendly cat considering that she has been through a lot and we have decided that, when she has healed up a little, we will take her home. She has been named Cinders by the Humane Society although we may change her name when we take her home.

Until we can take her home, we plan on visiting her a few times every week to spend time with her and see how she is doing. Judging by her injuries, it may be awhile before we can take her home. I do find it shocking that anyone could treat an animal they way Cinders has been treated. At least she is now on the road to recover and we can giver her a good home.