So where do we military retirees go from here?

On this first day of 2015 I thought I would like to toss around an idea.

Once upon a time (when I was naive enough to believe a government agency could actually successfully perform its primary mission), I suggested to my Congresswoman that the retired military medical (along with the associated expenses and funding) should be moved to the VA and out of the DOD. That would free up the DOD to work on killing people and breaking things (their primary mission) and no longer have the drain of our medical care.

One of the VA’s primary functions is to provide medical care to Veterans. Since that is what they are set up to do, they would then get the dollars and the people to do the job.

To me, this looked like a win – win.

Like I said, that back when I was naive enough to believe the VA actually did their job. Then came the stories of VA Phoenix where people were dying waiting for an appointment. Stories about VA employees and administrators lying on records to hide their mismanagement. AND then those people getting bonuses and promotions even after the facts came out.

Now I am at a loss as to what to suggest. We who are retired military are the bastard step children of the DOD. Our medical expenses and pensions are a direct drain on their weapons building and people building ability. We are a pain in their butt, frankly. I can understand that. We need to get out from the DOD funding umbrella if we are to keep any of what little we have left of the broken promises.

VA isn’t the answer. What is? I would hate to see a new government agency start up to do this, at the same time I don’t see outsourcing as the answer.

What are your thoughts?

If we stay where we are, what we have will continue to erode as the DOD tries to comply with force needs in a climate of smaller budgets. If we go to the VA, we may not live to tell the tale.

By he way, I have nothing but good to say about the VA in South Dakota. I don’t deal with them often (annual physicals – eye tests, hearing tests and the like), but every experience has been a painless one.

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Published in: on January 1, 2015 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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IS IT TIME WE START TALKING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED?

The news this week is all abuzz over a man jumping the White House fence, running across the lawn and getting into the East Room before being stopped.

There is a national !GASP! in the collective media. Congress is holding hearings. One Congressman suggested issuing a ‘shoot to kill on site’ order. Investigations will follow. Heads will roll! (well, actually they won’t – bureaucrats are a protected species). There will be a lot of talk about “This never happening again!”.

Is it time to answer the question, “How did we get here?”

Here’s a bit of history: In the eighteen hundreds, even into the early nineteen hundreds, people in Washington DC would hold family picnics on the lawn of what was then called The Presidential Manor. There were no gates, no fences and no gun laws. Teddy Roosevelt (one of my least favorite Republican presidents) would even walk around the grounds and talk with the folks picnicking on the lawn.

Today to even lean on the tall wrought iron  fence surrounding that building will get you, at the very least, a stern warning.

What happened? Why is this so. Are we not the same people as our great – great grandfathers and grandmothers? The DNA hasn’t changed. So the environment had to.

In the eighteen hundreds people were self reliant those who weren’t were aided by private charities. They, for the most part, went to church. They worked hard and raised families. The children of those families were taught Judeo-Christian values, manners and respect for others. Mothers and fathers were in control of their children’s upbringing and education. They were taught the American culture. Violence was minimal and literacy was significantly higher than it is today.

Today we have a new culture. A culture where government is father and mother. Government is the teacher and the disciplinarian. Government gives and takes as it see fit. Government is the new king. People in this new culture are raised by television (public or government television during the formative years) and government schools. There is no mom at home to set a standard, because mom has to work to pay the taxes this new king demands. Thanks to the Progressives in the ACLU, there is no God in school to provide any guidance or moral compass. Thanks to moral relativism there is no right or wrong. People are not restrained by this new faulty upbringing and have little to no respect for other individuals. Video games teach it is okay to kill and the schools teach that behavior is neither right or wrong.

So, no wonder we need gates, guard dogs and even “Shoot to Kill” orders to protect the current elected leader of this semi totalitarian kingdom. The king himself made it that way.

To rid ourselves of the disease in our culture we need to look back one hundred years, before the Progressive era. We need to look at what worked then and try very hard to make it work again today. It will not be easy. The Progressives have been in control of government, education and much of entertainment warping and distorting our concept of right and wrong for most of the last one hundred years. It won’t correct in a day. But it won’t correct at all if we don’t start reminding people of a once civilized culture that held family picnics on the White House lawn.

EDUCATION – A whole new approach for the twenty first century

I am going to suggest something that is far a field of what most who read this would consider. This is not to meant raise the ire of those reading. This is simply for the purposes of discussion. (And a lively discussion is what I expect).

I submit we are educating our twenty first century children with nineteen century methods.

What so I mean? In 1885 we had the Little Red Schoolhouse that had a schoolmarm teaching the three R’s. In one hundred thirty years, as man learned to drive, fly and even go into space; we still have the same thing, only bigger.

If you look at a typical classroom today you will see the teacher standing (or sitting) writing on a screen that transposes the information to a smart board. Look at the room and you will see the students with their heads down staring at their laptops, notebooks or tablets.

So, picture this,  you have fifteen to twenty five people all connected electronically with the teacher who is connected electronically to the smart board.

I pose a question. Why do we need the brick and mortar building?

Why are we putting our kids in a cage for six hours a day? Why do we force them to sit in a germ infested room all day? How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s going around the school.”?

I have “attended” several webinars. I meet with and learn from people all over the country (and the world for that matter). I interact with them in the same manner as our teacher is interacting with the students in the classroom. I didn’t need to go to a room in a building to learn. Things such as on line webinars are using twentieth century technology. It is still an interaction with a teacher. BUT it is a far and away improvement from the brick and mortar style education we use in public and most private schools today.

I have not even touched on twenty first century technology. With artificial intelligence, a computer program can learn the student’s weak and strong areas and focus on those areas that need more attention. Now the student is self paced and is not held back or dragged forward by others trying to learn the same thing. That can’t be done in a classroom.

This is the way education should be working. It isn’t. Why? I have two theories to kick around.

One – The education establishment (spelled education monopoly) does not like it. It gives the power to choose back to the parent or guardian. The national teacher’s unions don’t like it. It takes power (and dues) away from them.

Two – Today’s parents have become used to a public paid baby sitting service. Tell parents that the school will no longer house students and they will revolt. They want their “free stuff”.

One more point and I’ll let this go to conversation:

Today in the United States of America we are graduating kids who can not read their own report cards. They can not do simple math, such as make change. The public education system in these United States on average is equal with Lartvia, the Slovak Republic, and Lithuania. That is not a shock statement, look it up here: The Programme For Individual Student Assessment results for 2012. It clearly shows that we are not only failing but slipping more behind with each year.

Now before the education lobby get all over me and insists that they don’t have enough money to do it right, I would like to point out that the report from PISA clearly states money is not the issue.

“While the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this does not translate into better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic, which spends around USD 53,000 per student, performs at the same level as the United States, which spends over USD 115,000 per student.

Just over one in four U.S. students do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency a higher than OECD average proportion and one that hasn’t changed since 2003. At the opposite end of the proficiency scale, the U.S. has a below average share of top performers.”

I think it is time for our kids to get the advantages they deserve. It is time to “tear down this wall” of education malaise and unleash our kids’ full learning ability. To do that, we need to think in terms and practices of 2014, not 1885.

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Customoer Service?

I just spent the past twenty minutes on the phone with a very friendly but not very useful customer service company in India. The frustration was not their fault and it was not a communication problem. It was simply a case of “you can’t get there from here.”

HE: XYZ Corporation, How can I be of assistance today?
Me: Good morning, I would like to put the widget in the hole.
He: Yes, certainly sir, can I put you on hold to verify your widget?
Me: Yes, that will be fine.

Pause for indiscernible  music.

HE: Yes, sir, thank you for holding. I have found your widget.
ME: Great! I would like to put it in the hole.
HE: I have to check that the security code for the widget is valid. Can I put you on hold one more time?
ME: Okay.

More indiscernible music.

HE: Yes, sir, thank you for holding. May I have your account number please?
ME: The account number is B86reoePqrd89
HE: B86reoePqrd89 ?
ME: That’s correct.
HE: I’ll look that up for you.
ME: Thank You.
HE: I’m sorry, I have no record of that account.
ME: That’s odd. I’m looking at it right here on my screen. It is on your web site.
HE: Can you tell me the number again?
ME: Sure, B86reoePqrd89
HE: B86reoePqrd89 ?
ME: Correct.
HE: Yes, certainly sir, can I put you on hold to verify your account?
ME: Sure (with a sigh).

More indiscernible  music.

HE: Yes, sir, thank you for holding. Can I have the e-mail address you used when you signed up for this service.
ME: I think is was ******@yahoo.com
HE: Okay, Thank for that. Can I put you on hold one more time while I check this out?
ME: GO ahead. (at this point I am trying very hard not to be the ugly American)

This time, along with the indiscernible music, was a recording telling me my representative will be back on the line shortly and the my phone call is important.

HE: Sir, I have found your account. How can I help you today?
ME: I would like you to put the widget in the hole.
HE: Yes sir, we can certainly help with that. Which hole did you select when you signed up for this account?
ME: I don’t remember, can you tell me from the account.
HE: I’m sorry sir, I can’t access that information. Can I connect you with a supervisor?
ME: Yes please.
HE: Please hold while I get a supervisor on for you, all right?
ME: Yes

Here comes the music again.

NEW HE: Good morning my name is Phillip. How can I be of service today?
ME: Good morning Phillip, I would like to put the widget in the hole.
PHILLIP: I Understand, sir. May I have your account number please.
ME: The account number is B86reoePqrd89
PHILLIP: B86reoePqrd89 ?
ME: That’s correct.
PHILLIP: I’ll look that up for you.
ME: Thank You.

More music.

PHILLIP: I have your account on my screen. How can I help you?
ME: I want to put the widget in the hole.
PHILLIP: Yes sir, I can certainly help you with that. Which hole did you purchase with this account?
ME: I’m not sure. Can you tell me from my account which hole I purchased?
PHILLIP: I am looking at your account now and sir and it appears you did not purchase a hole.
ME: Excuse me?
PHILLIP: There is no record of you purchasing a hole, sir.
ME: Why would I buy a widget if I didn’t buy a hole to put it in?
PHILLIP: I’m sorry sir, I do not understand your question.
ME: I bought a widget to put in the hole. I would not buy a widget if I could not use it. Are you telling me that your company sold me a widget without a hole?
PHILLIP: Would you like to purchase a hole today, sir?
ME: I think I already did purchase a hole.
PHILLIP: I have no record of that. I will send you an e-mail with your account information. Is ******@yahoo.com correct?
ME: Yes it is.
PHILLIP: I will send that right away.
ME: Thank you
PHILLIP: Thank you, and thank you for calling XYZ today. If we can be of any further assistance please call again.

click

Published in: on November 8, 2012 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Great South Dakota Un-Holiday

There was a time in my life when the third Saturday in October was just another day. Of course that was before I moved here to South Dakota. Now, I realize that there are holidays and there are holidays. Each holds a special meaning and importance. We stop and take a moment each December 25th to remember the reason for the season. We kick off a new year about a week later. Many in our community (myself included) bow our heads and thank the Lord on Easter Sunday. July Forth brings out the flags, the parades and the fireworks. There are others. I won’t list them all.

 

This day – the third Saturday in October is not an official holiday (though some may think otherwise). It is a day that countless people have been planning on and working toward for months. From airport to interstate people arrive to help us celebrate our un-holiday. Some have said that the population of the rural counties actually doubles this day. Many people have friends that they invite in to share our experience. Others arrive strictly drawn to the event. The influx of celebrants is so great that we would be hard pressed to find a vacancy sign today.

 

The opening day of the Pheasant Hunting Season is special to many people but it influences every South Dakota resident in some fashion. For some it is the start of a business cycle that will run through January. For others it is their Black Friday, when the annual business budget actually goes from red to black.

 

In South Dakota the biggest revenue generator is Agri-business, the second is Tourism. To us in the Northeast quarter of the state, tourism means hunting. There are many people in my area that cater to hunters. Whether it be for fun or for profit, they have been getting ready for this day for a while. The tax revenue this event brings in is a significant portion of the South Dakota state budget. From government to business to the family farm that allows hunters to walk in, the vast majority are involved in some way. There is reason that Cabela’s chose Mitchell, South Dakota for an anchor store. It wasn’t our burgeoning population. It was this day and this season.

 

My situation is not unlike many who live outside of town. I have a small hobby farm that is surrounded by three large shelter belts. I always expect a knock at my door on this day. Men and sometimes women dressed in denim and orange looking to walk my property seeking the opportunity to shoot our state bird. This year it was no different. The official opening of the season was high noon and the first knock came eighteen minutes later.

 

I look forward to this time of year. Not because I am a hunter (I’m not), but because of the people I meet. I have made some great friends over the years because of this un-holiday.

 

So let me say what is written in orange and on signs throughout the state…

 

Welcome Hunters!

Published in: on October 21, 2012 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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New York Post… Look to your own house before throwing stones at us.

Concerning the NY post article:

The Great Wide Open – How rural America has become a vanishing way of life.
Read it here:  http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/great_wide_open_WqL54fjvoNYjfFI74GlmmL?fb_ref=m_site&fb_source=home_oneline

Hey New York, clean up your own cesspool before you look at our Prairie!  Last time I looked you have more murders in a week than we do out here in year, and out here carrying a gun is legal.

As to the population loss, I truly believe you have seen the last of it in Rural America.  The 2010 census shows the change in population over ten years.  In 2000 we didn’t have high speed internet, a cell phone in every pocket and I-pads.

The census looks at a population shift but not the dynamic.  The true paradigm shift has been outbound from the troubled, crime ridden, overtaxed and under serviced cities to smaller cities like Sioux Falls, Fargo or Cedar Rapids.  Now the shift is happening again.  From those towns to even smaller towns.  

People not from here are starting to find out that they can send their kids to public school with class sizes of about twelve.  They are finding out, through the new media, that South Dakota has no income tax.  In fact, per capita, the taxes here in South Dakota are lower than any other state in the nation.  

Businesses owners in tune with the information age find that they can conduct business in this state which encourages entrepreneurship rather than the one they are in which is trying to tax and regulate them into oblivion.

The next census will tell a different tale.  It will be a tale of two cities (or rather one city crumbling under the weight of it’s own bureaucracy and a small town with few government constraints).  Those cities could be New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Huston or even Los Angeles.  The other Doland, Eureka, Harried, in South Dakota or perhaps Brandon, Iowa or Bloomfield Nebraska.  One shrinking and one growing.

People who work from home are starting to realize that “home” can be anywhere.  They are choosing to leave the high cost and congested areas and moving where the kids can go out and play without the fear of being molested.

Watch the 2020 census…. South Dakota may just have TWO Congressmen.

By the way New York, just how many congressional seats did you loose this year?

Oh…. and one more thing…..  It’s pronounced “Harry-id”, not “Harried”.

Rick Skorupski

A proud transplant in South Dakota.

So… You want to live in South Dakota?

What I want to share are some photos and a story.

Here are three pictures taken yesterday afternoon.  For those of you who do not know, we live in a rural part of South Dakota.  Sometimes the winters can be a challenge, sometimes a blessing. 

Our house is about 3/4 miles from our mailbox.  The road to the mail box is completely clear which is great.  We can get to the mailbox.  Too bad our mailman can’t.

 The first is from the corner where our mailbox is looking west toward the main highway. 

 The second is the same spot looking east toward our nearest neighbor.

The third is me standing on a wind packed snow drift that is less than 24 hours old.  I am pointing DOWN to our mailbox.

Now the story.  No way in or out to the north.  The road to the south had a 4′ high X 300′ drift across it about half a mile to the south of our house so no way out that way either.   We were completely snowbound.

Last night around 7 we get a knock on the door.  It was our neighbor to the south, Waldo!  He had been out since 3 clearing snow.  He asked the man who rents the working part of his farm to take his tractor mounted snow blower and cut a path through the long drift between us.  Now we can get out to the south.  Why did he do that?  So we could get in and cut firewood from his shelter belt.  The one he had just spent three hours clearing. 

 The rest of the story?   Waldo is 86 years old.

I want to live in South Dakota?

You bet!

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Just a thought on Christmas Day.

You know there are times of the year for different things.  For me Christmas is a time to set some time to remember the “reason for the season”.  Now, I now this is the wrong time if year, I am fully aware that the child of the most high God was born in the fall.  I also know the date was shifted to bring it in harmony with the winter solstice and the non Christian rituals that were celebrated this time of year.  I know too that there was no snow around the manger and also that the “manger” was not some outdoor shed.  None the less it is the time of year we celebrate the birth of the savior.  We take a bit of time to remember, to be kind to a stranger, to put a buck or two in a red bucket and to perhaps perform a rendom act of kindness.  To be thankful for the One who came to save us from our own self destruction.  I am glad that (contrary to what our current President says) I live in a Christian nation.  I am thankful this year (as in years past) that we can openly celebrate the birth of the Son of God.  I am grateful to that God that He has allowed me to live in the greatest nation on the face of the Earth. 

Merry Christmas

Published in: on December 25, 2010 at 7:58 am  Comments (3)  
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On education

I sent a note to a friend of mine this morning concerning the failure of our public education system.  He lives in Arizona and is not convinced that the private sector can do a better job educating our kids than the government.  After I read it I thought it might make a good post:

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South Dakota, like Arizona is constitutionally bound to provide an education.  I don’t have a problem with that.  What I have a problem with is the institution created by government to perform this function.  It has failed and, in many places, failed miserably.

I propose taking the money from the Department of Education (or Arizona equivalent), local school taxes and all other education funding and divide it by the number of school age students in your state (or mine) and send each parent or guardian a voucher for that divided amount (less 2% for administering the program).  This would force education into the private sector and still meet the obligation of the state.  With all education in the private hands, the power to choose (spelled liberty) would fall on those most concerned with their child’s welfare.  Good schools would flourish and bad schools would go out of business.

“What about the inner city schools?”, you ask. “There is a possibility that crack moms will sell the voucher to a disreputable “school” and the child will get no education?” Good question, I’ll answer it with a question, What are they getting now?  Chicago has a 50% percent drop out rate, Baltimore is worse.  Washington DC (which has the highest cost per child/year) is worse still. What is Phoenix?  Six percent of the graduates of the Philadelphia school system (which is less than half of those who initially enrolled) can read at grade level.  What is the rate in Nogales? 

No, Jon, government schools have done no favors for these kids,  and that includes our current under thirty  generation.  We need to disestablish the education system with all the administrators and lobbies that go with it.

Get back to the roots of local control – the parents.  The inner city kids  stand a much better chance of being in jail than graduating high school with the system in place today.  Perhaps, just perhaps, with a 100% voucher system, some of the kids might actually get an education and get off the welfare / drugs treadmill.

Other than the above, I have no strong opinion on the subject.

Delaware republican leaders bent on failure?

What is happening in Delaware is is one major factor in my decision to leave New Jersey and move out here to God’s country.  Here is a part of the blog I wrote on why I left New Jersey.

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 Many people have asked me why I moved from New Jersey to South Dakota, Two reasons – money and politics. When New Jersey had the fiasco with Brett Schundler and Jim McGreavy I knew it was time to get out.  For those who don‘t know, Brett Schundler won the primary against the Republican “machine” candidate.  Brett was an “outsider” and a conservative who believed in smaller government and fiscal responsibility.  Because of that the NJ state Republican party went limp.  They did not endorse, support or help finance Brett’s campaign.  In fact the senate majority leader (the senior man in the Republican party in NJ) would not even endorse him.  That’s when I knew I had had enough.  I tell people that is was not the Democrats that drove me from New Jersey, it was the Republicans.

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The rest is not important for this note.

The Republican party leaders in Delaware are derelict in their duty to support the candidate their Republican party has chosen.  If Christine looses this race it will not be because of a stellar campaign by the Democrat machine.  It will be the fault of the republican machine failing to support their duly elected candidate.  The Republican people of Delaware need to get together now and fire their party leadership.  If that does not happen, there’s plenty of room for good conservatives out here in South Dakota…  and it’s good livin’ too.