William Marvel: Cybergummint

In her frustration at being required to attend school board meetings with the rest of the members, remote resident Michelle Capozzoli — excuse me, Michelle Capozzoli Ph.D. — has called out the troops in the Chamber of Commerce that she regards as her primary constituency. School board members who declined to allow her to continue voting in electronic absentia are now being inundated with emails from her supporters, each of whom uses suspiciously similar language to voice “disagreement” with their decision. Without the bother of going out to a meeting, and without much risk of identifying themselves or their businesses publicly, they hope (as she clearly hopes) to harass and intimidate the school board into reversing a fundamentally sound decision.
The medium in which this campaign is being waged is the medium in which such powerful factions like to operate, keeping their business out of the public eye with emails warning that further distribution might violate some vague confidentiality proscription. That’s the modus operandi of Conway’s secret government, which I’ve lately heard characterized as the Mount Washington Valley Cartel — a coalition consisting of the Chamber of Commerce and a few other nonprofit coadjutors headquartered in the Tech Village. The cartel evidently aims to control Conway’s destiny from boardrooms, using our political bodies for the public ratification of private decisions rather than as conduits for open debate. Those with enough funds to drop a sawbuck at the door are allowed to come listen to speakers chosen by the cartel for the evident purpose of promoting its agenda, but their most decisive meetings are generally considered nonpublic.
The real pressure to allow Ms. Capozzoli to “attend” school board meetings via Skype seems to come from those who think she will vote the way they want. In her broadcast email complaint she remarked, inaccurately, that there were “no compelling arguments” for denying her virtual attendance. Meanwhile, the only objective argument I’ve heard in favor of that dangerous precedent is that we have entered the 21st century, with its plethora of technological possibilities. By parroting that chronological fact, Capozzoli allies like fellow board member Joe Lentini, must hope to persuade the more traditional board members that a couple of centuries’ worth of political principles are now obsolete.
Ms. Capozzoli herself makes that myopic argument, contending that various forms of remote electronic “attendance” are customary now in professional circles; some of her supporters say the same thing in exactly the same words — thereby suggesting the source of their regurgitated opinions. The introduction of private business practices into the conduct of the public’s business is an old and insidious evil that has facilitated much corruption and created debilitating disaffection with (and mistrust of) government. Simply because something can be done doesn’t mean that it should be done.
If one member were allowed to Skype in from an undisclosed location, a la Dick Cheney, then the others would presumably enjoy that same consideration. Try to imagine the confusion to those in the audience if three or four members of a public board showed up on different screens, or appeared serially on the same screen. Then consider what would happen if the only members who could make a meeting were those communicating via Skype. At that point, the official discussion of public affairs would be disguised entirely from those without the necessary electronic equipment. Since the meeting would have no specific venue, the general public would not be able to attend. Even if the school district provided a room for remote screening of the proceedings, the public could not comment, ask questions, or participate in any meaningful way.
Accepting the Lentini-Capozzoli contention about the practicality and propriety of using Skype as a vehicle for official political discourse is not that different from admitting that our traditional educational model of classroom teaching is obsolete. Why support innumerable school buildings with legions of teachers, custodians, cooks and adjunct administrators, and maintain fleets of buses, only to either cancel everything or cut a $190,000 school day in half for two or three inches of snow. Just let the kiddies stay home every day, safe and sound. Hundreds of them could turn to their computers and absorb the wisdom of a single teacher, or follow the instructions of a software program unrepresented by a labor union.
If direct human interaction is no longer necessary or desirable in deciding questions of deep public interest, then it is certainly not necessary in the field of education. Most teachers who acquire advanced degrees now do so through online courses that are allegedly as rigorous and effective as those offered in a classroom setting. Even if that did not undermine National Education Association claims about the importance of the classroom teacher to the educational process, the pro-Skype argument of certain Conway School Board members would.

William Marvel lives in South Conway.

  • Category: Letters

Walter Davis: Today is primary election day; please get out and vote

To the editor:
Today is primary election day.
I am one of those “people” who called during dinner or “Jeopardy” to remind people to get out the vote (and hopefully for Hillary). Very often I, and my fellow callers, would be told that they would vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary but most likely vote for Sen. Clinton in the general election. Why? If you vote for Bernie in the primary, there will be no Hillary in the regular election. She will not be on the ballot.
My suggestion: Vote for Sen. Clinton and when she wins, tell her and your congresspeople what you would like to see for the next four years, even if it is Bernie’s ideas (or Cruz’s, Bush’s or even “gasp” Trump’s). This is a start for the compromising we have not been getting for the last seven years.
But, if anything, please vote.
P.S. All the Republican campaigns tell us they want to bring back America. To what? Bush’s high unemployment, multiple wars and economy crash?
Walter Davis
North Conway

  • Category: Letters

Rep. Ed Butler: Join me in supporting Hillary Clinton in the primary

To the editor:
The candidate who I am supporting in the Democratic Primary is smart, compassionate, incredibly committed to the ideal of fairness and the right for all people to have the opportunity to learn, grow and get ahead. She has been tested on the national and world stage. She understands the rigors of being the leader of the free world and is still willing to step into that role! And she is better prepared and better able than any other candidate now competing for the title of president to fill that role.
I have spent a bit of time with her on the campaign trail. I have worked with those who are as committed as she to seeing her become president. They, too, know her as decent, accessible and … powerful. Of course it’s OK for a woman to be able to lead this country forward. And Hillary will do just that: with passion; with the hard work and leadership she has shown in her past roles as lawyer, advocate for women and children, first lady, senator from New York and Secretary of State; and with the ability to effectively respond to the myriad influences at home and around the world — from day one of assuming the seat in the Oval Office.
Hillary is the best choice for my vote. Please join me in supporting her today.
Rep. Ed Butler
Carroll District 7
Hart’s Location

  • Category: Letters

Larry Day: ‘So what’ editorial comment most ridiculous of the year

To the editor:
The Conway Daily Sun is not exempt from winning and fittingly has taken the top spot now for the most asinine, ridiculous comment of the year.
The predictable endorsement of Clinton consisted of only a few routine compliments that could be said for millions of women. If you’re “tough” and a “survivor” and championed some progressive issues, then, according to the Sun, you should be the next commander in chief. Seriously, that is what this paper came up with. However, that is not why they win the absurd award. The paper, to its credit, pointed out some negatives for Clinton, such as she doesn’t really have charisma and inspire groups of people. Sounds like a few characteristics needed of a leader, but I could be wrong. No. Then of course, the paper mentions Clinton’s controversies and follows it with the uneducated, immature cry of “so what?” Really? I am supposed to disregard an FBI investigation being done to a candidate for president? I’m sure the FBI is doing this for no good reason.
How many other candidates are in involved in an ongoing FBI investigation right now? Right, none. So what if she tells a few different tales of Benghazi, so what if she doesn’t know enough to keep top secret information secure on a government account, so what if she was only Secretary of State, geez. I could go on and on with the controversies, but everyone already knows all the law-breaking, rule-bending, dishonest and deceitful stuff she’s accused of exhibiting.
So what if our leaders can’t be trusted. So what. Way to set the standard real low, Conway Daily Sun. I urge everyone to use that excuse with their very own controversies and tell me how far they get with it, because I know it didn’t work real well with my parents and teachers and friends. So what is just a 9-year-olds’ excuse for ignoring the obvious; it should not be an excuse to be the next president of the United States of America.
Larry Day
Conway

  • Category: Letters

Dennis Sullivan: Hounsell’s description of Sanders’ socialism is misleading

To the editor:
Mark Hounsell’s description of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ socialism is very misleading.
Bernie Sanders does not advocate government takeover of private industry through acquisition or over-regulation. On the contrary, Sanders is a socialist in the tradition of the social democratic parties of Western Europe. He favors sensible regulation of private enterprise.
For example, Sanders calls for increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next several years. Not only will this improve the lives of millions of full-time workers who are living in poverty, it will also save the government billions of dollars in reduced costs for food stamps, subsidized housing and Medicaid.
Most countries in Western Europe have a child poverty rate that is less than half of that in the United States. It is time we started learning from their example and enacting social policies that benefit working people. As Sanders says, “No one who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.”
Dennis Sullivan
Eaton

  • Category: Letters