Walter Patterson Herald ColumnistI ran into a long-time friend last week, and the first thing he said to me was, “I see you have been using the term ‘Low Information Voter’ in some of your columns. What exactly does that mean?”
“Low Information Voter (LIV) refers to anyone who does not pay attention to politics until it’s time to vote. They usually vote with their emotions rather than with facts, and they can be anyone from a college professor to a high school drop-out. The LIV can be rich or poor, old or young, male or female. They just don’t have enough information about politics to make an informed decision,” I replied.
“Can you give me some examples?” he asked.
“LIV’s elected Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City. LIV’s elected Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. You can throw Dick Durbin and Jay Rockefeller into the mix.”
“What about the President?”
“He is a great politician, but his policies are wrecking the country. We can’t remain a strong, vibrant country with opportunities for all of our citizens unless he changes his policies. Nowhere in history has socialism worked. Nowhere! Look at the old Soviet Union or present day Europe. Their economies are in shambles and we’re headed there fast.”
“How can I tell if I am a LIV?”
“How about a little test?” I suggested.
“Let’s do it,” he said an eager look on his face.
Answer these questions true or false:
TF 1. The Senate and the House of Representatives are required by law to pass a federal budget each year.
TF 2. The term “balanced budget” means the same as “national debt.”
TF 3. U. S. currency is backed up by the gold we have stored at Fort Knox.
TF 4. The federal government has the right to print money. The more money it prints, the more valuable the dollar becomes.
TF 5. The term “inflation” means that we can purchase more goods with our dollars.
TF 6. Nancy Pelosi has stated publically that “food stamps” are an economic stimulus. Is she correct?
TF 7. Man-made global warming (or climate change) is a scientific fact.
TF 8. The U. S. Government is the source of all prosperity.
TF 9. Government regulations insure that every citizen is treated equally and that economic downturns never occur.
TF 10. The U. S. does not have a debt crisis.
TF 11. There will never be an economic collapse in the U. S. because our government can print money.
TF 12. Same-sex marriage should be approved by the Supreme Court because these individuals have no protections under the Constitution.
TF 13. Many lawmakers and economists think that our entitlement programs must be changed if the U. S. is to avoid an economic disaster.
TF 14. The Democrat Party has failed to produce a federal budget for over 4 years.
TF 15. Our children and grandchildren will have no problem paying off the national debt because our economy is sure to grow and they will make more money than their parents.
“Well, I missed 6 of your questions. Did I pass?”
“Sorry, if you missed 3 or more, you are a LIV. You need to study what is going on in our government and apply logic to what you see. Otherwise, this country is in trouble.”
“Give me the correct answers to the test,” he requested, his eyes growing narrow and his voice rising.
“Numbers 1, 13, and 14 are true. The others are false. Let me encourage you to pay attention to what is happening in Washington. Know what your elected representatives are doing, and ask questions. Only the people can stop this mad dash to economic collapse, and once you know the facts, being a LIV will just be a distant memory. Good luck.”
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorThe Patterson home has entered new territory. It is a place that is hard to recognize. We are confused and unsure of how we got to this point. But the only thing we can do is buckle up and hang on for the ride.
We have entered the “terrible two” stage with our daughter Elsie. Despite all what we heard before from parents who knew better, her “stage” seems more dramatic than it was with our son James.
Our son James was a fireball from birth. He always did things his own little way. He was a difficult sleeper, a picky eater and constantly full of energy.
That was just who he was.
I hate to admit this now, but when James entered into his own terrible two stage, it was really no different than before. The tantrums may have lasted a little longer and would begin a little sooner. But for the most part, my husband Jason and I were pretty well adjusted to James’ mood swings by then.
But Elsie’s transformation came out of left field.
She came into this world with a smile on her face and a calm, pleasant attitude. She rarely cried and went to sleep instantly in her own crib when we brought her home.
She was never a picky eater and always had a wonderful appetite. She played well with others. She never really threw a tantrum. And for the most part, could be calmed down easily with a kiss and hug.
But as we come around this new bend, things have gone insane. Jason and I are more baffled than ever, scratching our heads as to what has happened with our sweet little girl.
When Elsie enters the room, she struts. Yes, she makes a grand entrance. With her little hands on her hips, she arrives with an air of confidence that she is in charge.
And this little firecracker demands respect. When things don’t quite go her way, she will even cross her arms and turn her nose up in the air.
I never thought she would do it, but she has even resorted to falling flat on her stomach in the middle of a tantrum. With all four limbs extended, she shoves her little nose into the ground as she makes her case.
When James pushes her buttons, Elsie will point her finger at him and mumble an incoherent language that only babies understand. I am not sure what she is saying to him, but it can’t be good.
And let’s not forget “the dead weight” drop. It never fails. A tantrum always seems to begin while we are in the middle of the grocery store. Elsie will go from being excited about the strawberries I put into the cart to being furious because I wouldn’t let her knock cereal boxes off the shelves.
And then she falls to her knees. As I grab her arm to try to regain control, she puts all her weight into this massive drop to the floor.
People probably feel sorry for us as I try to throw the Kool-Aid packs in the cart while dragging a screaming child down the aisle.
In reality though, the terrible two stage isn’t that bad. As a parent, I think you gain more patience with each child. When James did the “dead weight” drop as an infant, I would leave our shopping cart and run to the car, shielding my face.
But with the second child, I keep on shopping with a child hanging onto my leg with tears of anguish running down her face.
I have even been known to carry on a conversation with another mother as both of our children cried over grabbing a box of Little Debbie snacks.
Elsie is going through a major change in her life, and tantrums and other dramatic episodes can be expected. She is after all a girl...a girl who knows what she wants.
Even at 31 years old, I find myself crossing my arms, stomping a foot and leaving a room with my nose in the air from time to time.
Jason and James are getting used to the antics of a female. And like most men, they stay in their recliners with a remote in hand and a confused look on their faces.
Whether it be a two year old mad because she can’t get extra cupcakes or a grown woman upset because those shoes didn’t come in her size...Jason and James know how to handle any situation.
Even at five years old, James has already learned from his father to just nod his head and remain quiet.
This too shall pass.
Jason Patterson Editor & PublisherMuch of the blame for the failure of our city’s public schools has been placed on irresponsible parents.
That’s certainly a major factor in the sad state of affairs that currently exists, but last week’s report from the State Commission on School Accreditation suggests that there are numerous problems with the local educational structure as well.
The district’s accreditation status will be placed on probation following numerous problems discovered by state education officials during an unannounced visit, something students might recognize as a “pop quiz.”
Like a student who had been snoozing through class, our district didn’t fare so well on this surprise examination. That didn’t come as any surprise to observers who have seen the district hire a superintendent and then release him before his contract expired, witnessed violence in our schools or seen the recent reports that as many as 80 seniors were in danger of not graduating after failing required tests.
A common response to our reporting on this subject is to shoot the messenger. This newspaper is frequently accused of dwelling on negative subjects while ignoring positive news when it comes to Yazoo City Public Schools. I strongly disagree with that statement. There is
some good news, and we enthusiastically report it. Our Profile edition comes out Saturday, and Yazoo City High senior Stephen Diew may be the most successful student we interviewed.
We’d prefer to tell good news all the time, but this is probably the most significant issue facing our community. We wouldn’t be much of a newspaper if we avoided the issue just because it might upset some of our friends and neighbors.
We’ve never suggested that there aren’t good people working in the district, but the indisputable fact is that the system is broken. We’re constantly assured that progress is being made. There have been some notable successes, but the district as a whole is sinking.
The problems are complex, and that means the solution won’t be simple. There are some simple steps to take in the right direction, however:
1. Enforce the rules consistently. One of the report’s most troubling items is the district’s failure to follow its expulsion policy for a student bringing a weapon on campus. We’ve been given countless other examples from frustrated teachers.
One example is a student being sent to the office for talking on a cell phone during class and returning to class with the cell phone and continuing the conversation with no consequences. Another teacher reported that he was asked to refer to a group of students causing
fights as a “club” rather than a gang so that the trouble makers wouldn’t have to be expelled.
2. Don’t let disruptive students ruin things for those trying to learn.
The district has an alternative school for a reason. It’s understandable that school officials aren’t eager to remove problem students from the traditional learning environment, but they shouldn’t be allowed to hinder the efforts of those who are actually trying to take advantage of the opportunities being provided.
Our actions have consequences. That’s a lesson some of our youth need to learn.
3. Hire the most qualified
Former Superintendent Shannon Sudbury once told us that he was sometimes unable to replace an ineffective employee because they were connected to a school board official or other local politician. That’s not hard to believe. I’ve seen it at all levels of our city government.
Our aldermen will create a job for a political supporter in a heartbeat.
One of the most telling quotes from the report is “...it is the perception that appointments are not made on the basis of individual qualifications, but rather appointments are made based on an individual’s long-term involvement in and connections with local politics.”
This issue has been raised many times by frustrated educators. The response is often, “That’s just politics.” A more accurate description would be, “That’s just stupid.”
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorI felt so ridiculous with that gigantic blue bow on top of my head.
It was picture day at my elementary school, and my mother had dressed me that morning. Needless to say, I wasn’t really excited about her outfit selection.
I had on an itchy, wool white sweater with a pastel blue trim. The look was completed with some tan slacks and the largest, neon blue bow this side of the Mississippi.
And Momma didn’t put the bow toward the back of my head. She didn’t even try to blend it in within my brown locks.
No, she put it smack-dab on top of my head. It gave me an additional six inches in height.
I wasn’t the only one made to suffer that day. When I walked into my classroom, all my friends were subjected to Sunday-best attire.
Chris had a button-up shirt that was too tight for his husky frame. The top button had about three extension things, and his clip-on tie was digging into his skin. When he talked to you, he had to turn his body completely around because he couldn’t move his neck.
Stephanie’s mother made her bring an actual bouquet of flowers that she was to hold up to her face when it came time to snap her photo. She had a long brown dress with a miniature bouquet, complete with ribbons.
Paul’s daddy put a giant Woodmen of the World pin on his breast pocket because he said he dropped jelly on it during the morning car ride.
Ricky had a multi-color sweater vest that he kept informing the teacher he had to swap with his older brother in the third grade. Apparently, they were both going to utilize the sweater.
And then there was me. The only kid with a giant, blue ribbon on top of my head. The bow craze hadn’t hit yet, so I was alone...with my giant bow.
“Move your head,” Chris whispered to me as the teacher put our vocabulary words on the board. “I can’t see nothing because of that silly bow.”
“Hush up,” I snapped back. “You can’t even turn your head cause your button will pop off.”
I gloated to myself as Chris eased back into his seat. I had won that battle. I noticed he kept adjusting his tie after I said that remark.
For some unknown reason, the school photographer wasn’t going to arrive until right before lunch. The younger kids, including my class, were to go first so that we wouldn’t get any food on our clothes before the picture.
That worked well for Tom. You can only put so many Woodmen of the World pins on a six-year-old kid.
But the bright idea really came when we were allowed to have morning recess. Looking back, I never understood why they let a class full of first graders head off into a recess filled with dirt, grass and other mess right before pictures.
But they did.
I forgot all about picture day. I hit the swings, slide and monkey bars all within 60 seconds. A great game of hide and seek was held with the girls. No one found me underneath the giant pirate ship.
I was clotheslined during a rough game of Red Rover.
And I managed to break the school record of jumping out of my swing and landing almost to the slide.
By the time my class returned to their classroom, we looked like returning soliders from a battle. The teacher’s assistant thought we had already taken our pictures and let us run wild.
When Mrs. Coleman saw us, she immediately went into panic mode. Grabbing wet washcloths and a hairbrush, she went to work, trying to save picture day.
That top button on Chris’ shirt finally popped. But Mrs. Coleman fixed it with a safety pin and covered it up with the clip-on tie.
“But it’s digging into my skin,” he moaned.
“Let him go first before he passes out,” Mrs. Coleman ordered to the photographer.
Stephanie’s bouquet needed a little “fluffing.”
Tom got an additional pin for his shirt. A silver cross covered up a dirt stain.
Ricky’s multi-colored sweater looked more like a brown blob from all the dust. He was taken outside and shaken like a rag doll until hints of red, blue and green began to shine through the muck.
And my bow had moved from the top of my head to the side. My white sweater had a giant grass stain from the Red Rover game.
Grabbing an extra sweater from the “spare clothes” closet, Mrs. Coleman yanked a pretty pink sweater over my head. She took the blue bow out and replaced it with a light pink ribbon, and she brushed my hair out.
To be honest, I felt better in my replacement outfit.
When Momma picked me up from school that day, she had a confused look on her face.
“I didn’t send you to school in that,” she said.
Mrs. Coleman explained to her what had happened and apologized for the teacher assistant letting us go crazy on the playground. She assured Momma that the picture was perfect.
A few weeks later, Momma got the picture package. She was actually very happy with the picture. The pink sweater looked good against the background, and my hair looked fine with the pink ribbon.
“Pretty in pink,” she even said.
I am just glad she didn’t notice the piece of grass sticking out from behind my ear.
Tim Kalich Guest ColumnistDuring the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Georgetown University was joining the nation’s college basketball elite, its coach, John Thompson, had a rule.
Freshmen players were not allowed to be interviewed by the media.
Sports reporters bristled at Thompson’s gag order on freshmen at my alma mater, particularly after he landed Patrick Ewing, a highly prized recruit who ended up leading the Hoyas to three national championship games.
Thompson felt that freshmen needed time to adjust to college and the exposure that playing on a big stage would bring. He wanted them to learn from the upperclassmen how to handle themselves when a tape recorder or microphone was thrust in front of their mouth. It seems like a quaint idea now, with 18-year-old phenoms going straight to the NBA and even some high school programs getting face time on ESPN.
But Thompson wouldn’t budge. When pressed whether he was being fair to his younger players by shielding them and thus hindering their national exposure, he said, “I’m not running a democracy here.”
That memory struck me last week after our veterinarian began quizzing me about the election of the new pope.
The vet is a Methodist who, after marrying a Baptist, is now attending a Baptist church. He was curious about the papal selection process, questioning why 115 cardinals got to decide in secret who among them would be the next spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
“Why don’t all of you get a vote?” asked the vet, knowing that I am a Catholic.
“Because the Catholic Church is not a democracy,” I told him.
The election of a pope is not the only thing about the Catholic Church that throws non-Catholics for a loop here. At times in the past, our theological differences with Protestantism and our relatively small numbers in all of Mississippi except the Gulf Coast have caused Catholics to be maligned in this state. These days, anti-Catholicism has largely disappeared, or at least it seems to me it has. But there is still a lot we do that non-Catholics find strange.
We are fond of rules, for one thing. No meat on Friday during Lent. No eating anything an hour before communion. Attendance at Mass on Sunday (or Saturday evening) is obligatory.
We are restless worshippers. We stand, we sit, we kneel — all according to verbal or visual cues from the priest or other ministers that seem like a secret code to the uninitiated.
We are high on authority. If you don’t particularly care for the priest who has been assigned to your parish, tough. The congregation doesn’t get to hire him, and it doesn’t get to fire him.
As far as the new pope, I like what I have seen so far.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires appears to be a humble, godly man with a special connection to the poor. His history is one of being uncomfortable with the trappings of privilege, prefering more to follow the model of Jesus Christ as a servant rather than one being served.
It was time for the Catholic Church to break out from its European domination of the papacy. The selection of the first Latin American as pope firmly acknowledges that the population center of Catholicism has moved far away from Rome.
The former cardinal of Buenos Aires demonstrated, though, a respectful sensitivity to the transition. He picked Francis, also a first, as his papal name, in honor of the patron saint of Italy, St. Francis of Assisi. It also didn’t hurt that the Argentine is the son of Italian immigrants and is fluent in Italian.
I’m also partial to Jesuits. Francis is the first from that religious order to become a pope. The Jesuits are big on social justice and on education. They run more than 100 colleges around the world, including Georgetown. They also operate more than 50 high schools in the United States alone, one from which I also graduated.
The American press has focused on the troubles that Francis has inherited, from financial scandals at the Vatican to the continued fallout over the sexual abuse of minors by a small percentage of priests.
One of his biggest challenges, though, is the declining number of priests in the developed world. There is a reason most of those cardinals look so old. For decades now, the pipeline of new priests has been shrinking in places where wealth has been rising. Mississippi feels the shortage as acutely as any. The two Franciscan priests in Greenwood are spread thin, caring for two churches and an elementary school here, a church in Lexington and another one in Winona.
I might have preferred a younger pope. At 76 and despite being in apparent good health, Francis does not seem ideally suited to inspiring young men and women to enter the religious life.
As Catholics, though, we are asked to trust that the right choice was made. Although the cardinals cast the votes at the conclave, we believe it was the Holy Spirit who actually did the choosing.