The Commerce News
August 2, 2000
Of Computer Technology
I gave up when, during a re-booting
of my computer Monday, the following message appeared: "You
may want to correct your computer's date. The correct date is
Jan. 2, 1904."
It had not been a good day, computerwise, anyway, and anytime
the computers don't work on Monday makes for disaster.
My home computer was at the computer doctor's office already.
It locked up during a futile attempt to upgrade Windows 95 to
Windows 98. After paying $96 for the program and following its
instructions, I got an error message from which there was no
I thought I'd call Microsoft and get things straightened out.
Bill Gates wasn't in, but Jason politely took my name and assigned
me a case number, then put me on hold. Seven minutes later, I
hung up, re-called, gave my case number and was informed that
I had not been forgotten. Rather, I had been put in the queue
where, apparently, one 13-year-old technician was handling all
Microsoft complaints nationwide. I was reinstalled in the queue,
where I was subjected to easy listening music for 20 minutes
(timed), before I slammed down the phone. It wasn't even a toll-free
I borrowed my son's laptop to dash off an ugly email praising
the breakup of Microsoft and describing the shameful customer
service in simple, four-letter words that even a Microsoft weenie
At work, things were not quite so desperate, but I had to reboot
several times when, for no apparent reason, the computer just
quit working. Such behavior I understand with our employees,
but it is frustrating when the equipment adopts the characteristics
Even the diagnostic program did not work, which is personally
insulting. The man in the Norton Utilities icon looks a lot like
me, except he's good looking and better dressed, and I've renamed
the program "Dr. Mark's Computer Clinic" in my honor.
The computer crashed when I attempted to effect treatment with
Then Commerce Micro calls to tell me that, sorry, all of the
data on my home computer is lost. Before I could summon the appropriate
lineup of curse words, I realized that I have no data on my hard
drive. I'm too cheap to pay for dirty pictures, what little I
write goes on a disk, so there was little to lose, other than
the address book for my email, of which I have a copy, the "favorites"
from the Internet and a bit of software downloaded from the Internet.
Actually, Commerce Micro is very polite. They don't even laugh
when they see me carrying in a CPU for its weekly treatment.
The work computer finally rebooted and, to my surprise, none
of the files are dated 1904, which was a relief. For in that
instant when I was told of the "correct date," I assumed
that Y2K had finally manifested itself and all the horrible events
predicted for Jan. 1 would finally take place.
I've learned not to take an operating computer for example. As
I type this, I type each letter respectfully, as if it might
be the last one. The events of the day have shown me that anything
can happen, including the termination of service in the middle
The Jackson Herald
August 2, 2000
responsible for education
Who should be responsible for the
education of your child? Traditionally, most of us would have
said that our local schools shoulder that responsibility. After
all, we pay a lot of local and state tax money to support those
institutions. If our children fall short, shouldn't we hold our
Well, yes and no. Certainly, we should hold schools accountable
for how they operate, the programs they offer and the general
quality of instruction offered. Increasing accountability has
been a key part of education reform efforts during recent years.
But the dynamics of public education are in the midst of a huge
shift. A combination of federal rules, court rulings and overzealous
educrats have muddled classrooms such that many students' needs
We think the answer to many of these problems is for parents
to become more interested and involved in their children's education.
That's true no matter what the academic level of the child -
all children, regardless of their unique academic abilities,
have a need for parents to play a key role in their education.
In other words, don't just drop your kids off at the front door
of the school each day and assume their academic needs will be
Now, that doesn't mean you have to home-school your child to
make sure he or she achieves. While we applaud those parents
who do choose the option of home-schooling, that is an impossible
choice for many.
But there are things all parents can do to help their children
· Forge a relationship with your child's teacher and let
him or her know that you're interested.
· Find out what's expected of your child academically
during the year. Make sure the course content is appropriate
and challenging for your child.
· Find ways to supplement public education efforts with
private programs through local libraries and other institutions.
If there isn't a program in an area you need, get together with
other parents to start one.
· Read with and to your child. Reading is critical to
· If your child is struggling in an area, find a tutor
to supplement public education efforts. Do the same thing if
your child needs challenging in an area.
· Support teacher and administrative efforts to enforce
discipline, both with your child and with other children.
· Don't have unrealistic expectations for non-academic
programs. Schools aren't social service agencies. Treat schools
as places to learn and use other community resources to address
your child's social and medical needs.
· Get involved in parent programs at your school. Talk
with other parents, compare experiences and attempt to discern
both the strengths and weaknesses of your child's school.
· Focus on achievement, both at home and with school officials.
Never let the process of education be confused with the goal
of mastering knowledge. Let your child know that education is
important in your home and enforce standards of behavior and
conduct to support that.
· Reverse your view of the education process. Rather than
viewing your efforts as supplementing public schools, view public
schools as supplementing your efforts as a parent.
· Demand accountability of your child's school, but more
importantly, demand accountability of yourself as a parent.
You are your child's teacher.
Jackson County Opinion Index
The Jackson Herald
August 2, 2000
don't drive editors
It's a given that polling results drive some campaigns today.
Even at the local level, polls play an increasing role in how
some candidates shape their messages. Politics is all about image,
But I must admit, I was somewhat surprised this week to discover
that a political polling firm was asking people about me and
this newspaper. "What do you think about Mike Buffington?"
was one of the questions, as was "What do you think about
The Jackson Herald?"
I'm a little puzzled that I rated a question in this poll, which
was apparently being done by Republican interests, since two
of the questions also asked about state House of Representatives
candidate Scott Tolbert and state Senate candidate Mike Beatty,
both local Republicans.
I'm not a candidate for anything. As a journalist, I am a sideline
observer in the game of politics. I don't get to call the play,
run the ball or tackle the other team. I'm just the guy who keeps
the stats and tries to figure out which team got the most yards.
If a politician trips over his own feet, I write it down. If
he throws a touchdown pass, that gets inked as well.
Although the questions in this poll have a hint of Nixonesque
motives, I am flattered that Republican campaign handlers thought
enough of me to rate my own question.
But unlike politicians, my job doesn't depend on the level of
my popularity. In fact, if my poll results are too favorable,
I'm probably not doing my job right.
That just goes with the journalistic territory and is a fact
accepted by everyone who stays around this business for a while.
If you are a good newspaper editor, you're probably not going
to be very popular. If you prod and probe and ask the right questions,
it's likely that a lot of people won't like it. I've always told
young journalists that if they want to be popular, find another
career. If they stay in the newspaper business, they'll never
be on the social "A" list.
Every week, for example, we have dozens of names of local citizens
on our crime and court pages. I doubt that those folks like it
very much that their legal problems show up in print. I've never
met anyone who thanked me for running their DUI arrest, although
I've had a few people threaten to whip-up on me.
Public officials also have a few choice words for newspaper editors.
They often don't like our sitting in at their controversial meetings,
or asking them uncomfortable questions. I can't say that I blame
them for feeling that way - it is difficult to make important
decisions while someone with a pencil (nowadays, a laptop) takes
down your every word. One of the best comments I've ever heard
was a local politician who once complained about a meeting we
covered: "Yes, I know I said that, but d--, you didn't have
to print it!"
What really seems to stir the ire of politicians, however, are
the opinion pieces that appear on this page. I've never really
understood that - after all, everyone has opinions. The only
difference is that newspaper editors write theirs down. Instead
of being embarrassed in private, we're willing to embarrass ourselves
Now I know it would be easier to write fluff on these pages than
to really say what I think. I could write about how cute my children
are, or about springtime flowers, or about any one of a dozen
other happy-face subjects.
But I'm not sure I could look myself in the mirror each morning
if I ignored the important issues that face our community. I
realize that I can't solve those problems, but perhaps I can
write about them and maybe, just maybe, spark someone in a position
of power to act accordingly.
The truth is, editors don't get any pleasure writing critically
about political leaders. I don't enjoy writing critical comments
about politicians that I know and grew up with, candidates like
Tolbert and Beatty, both of whom I've known for longer than I
can remember. (Or, for that matter, House candidate Pat Bell
who, like Tolbert and Beatty, has on occasion been the subject
of critical comments on these pages.)
And yet, that is part of my role as an editor. To focus only
on the good and ignore the controversial would not serve the
larger interest of our community.
So although I'm amused by these polling questions, I'm not sure
why anyone really cares about my standing in their poll. I'm
not running for state representative or the senate. I'm an editor,
not a politician.
The only poll that really matters to me is the one done every
week by those of you who buy a copy of this newspaper. Whether
you agree with my opinions or not, if you come away stimulated
to think about important community issues, then I've done my
That won't win me any points in the polls, but I've never expected
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
August 2, 2000
Choice For Commission Chair
Voters on Tuesday will select the
man who, in all likelihood, will serve as chairman of the Jackson
County Board of Commissioners for the next four years. This is
an important election, considering that the county is changing
its form of government and facing the most rapid growth in its
Three weeks ago, The News endorsed Harold Fletcher in the primary.
The endorsement continues for next Tuesday as well, for the same
reasons outlined three weeks ago. Fletcher brings more assets
to the table. He has worked in industry and has built a successful
private business. He was instrumental in keeping Jackson County
government in the black when he served as county commissioner,
living up to the commitment he made when running for office to
be fiscally conservative. His lifestyle and demeanor are testimony
to his personal stability, and he is active in church and community.
He has served well in both elected and appointed positions and
is well-regarded by the business community.
The new board of commissioners will face two major challenges
the change to a county manager form of government (including
the selection of the interim and permanent county managers) and
meeting the demands of growth. To meet those challenges, the
chairman must be dependable, able to meet with ordinary Jackson
County citizens and the movers and shakers of industry and state
government alike. He should be mature, financially responsible,
tough but fair-minded and dedicated to making decisions based
on what is best for Jackson County as a whole.
Fletcher meets those criteria. He is not the best campaigner
and is definitely not a slick politician. But Harold Fletcher
is a the best choice voters will have Tuesday when they vote
for the man who will lead Jackson County during its crucial transformation.