Letter to my alienated daughter #4


My loving faithful daughter while in elementary school…

Dear Sakshi,

Today at the gym I ran into an old friend after a long time who asked me “How is Sakshi?”.

For a moment I thought of answering “truthfully”, “I have not seen her in almost 2 years.  She says she has no relationship with me. So I have no idea”.

Instead I chose to respond “She is doing great. She is in NYU and she is already the Editor-in-Chief of her college newspaper.  I am very proud of her”.

Lesson to you as a soon-to-be journalist – so-called “truth” can be used as a weapon by selectively revealing some information but not disclosing other relevant information.

Hope you will keep that in mind while talking or writing about me and our “relationship” (or lack thereof, according to you).

Best wishes.

Venky Venkatraman

B.Tech, MBA, JD

Tags: , , , , ,

Letter to my alienated daughter #3

About 5 years ago, my loving faithful daughter wanted to go to Tisch school at NYU and be an actress!

Dear Sakshi,

I got an alert about an online post where you were criticized and later admitted your error.  See:

“WSN Editor-in-Chief Sakshi Venkatraman admitted the piece “was written with a clear bias” and “was sensationalist and wrong.” Venkatraman also acknowledged that the comparison to McInnes and Yiannopoulos “was clearly a reach—and disrespectful.”” From:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/03/13/sars-m13.html

I really wish you would bring that kind of clear thinking to your relationship with your own father to whom you might owe an apology as well!

I am also impressed by your response to this controversy – shows your maturity.  See:

As someone with far more experience, I would like to be on your side and advise you when someone attacks you online or elsewhere and you feel beleaguered – for that you need to reach out to me.

Best wishes.

Venky Venkatraman

B.Tech, MBA, JD

Tags: , , , , ,

Letter to my alienated daughter #2

Note from my loving, faithful daughter from eons ago

Hello Sakshi,

Very impressed with this statement (presumably) made by you in https://nyunews.com/2019/02/19/statement-from-washington-square-news/ and I agree 100% with it.

But when I saw the line “We publicly acknowledge when we make errors and welcome letters to the editor from anyone disagreeing with how we do our jobs.” I had to say to myself “Really?” since you have failed to publish in your paper the constructive criticism I have provided on many of your writings.

I hope you are able to see the dichotomy here – if not, I am hoping some more seasoned journalist will be able to point it out to you one day.

Further, you state “If some activists choose not to provide comment for our coverage, then we’re left to report on what is said in public forums and meetings. “. Based on that I think you would agree that if you do not provide any responses to communications sent directly to you, then I am left with only the choice of responding to you in a public forum.

Hope you will give that some thought.

Best wishes.

Venky Venkatraman

B.Tech, MBA, JD

Tags: , , , ,

Letter to my alienated daughter #1

From my loving, faithful daughter (YLFD) from eons ago ….

Hello Sakshi,

Given that you are now telling people that you have “no relationship” with me, I was wondering how you feel when you introduce yourself to people as:

Sakshi – the name I picked for you when you were born (which means someone who always sees/speaks the truth) 

Saroja – your loving grandmother’s first name (someone who you missed seeing on her deathbed due to your own actions – you know what I mean)

Venkatraman – my name, my father’s name, my grandfather’s name (you effectively reject my side of the family when you reject me)

So till you change your name to something like Sarah Susan Venturella you will always have a “relationship” to me, if not with me!

Best wishes.

Venky Venkatraman

B.Tech, MBA, JD

Tags: , , , , ,

Ron Hansen gets it ….

Tags: , , ,

WHY I WILL NOT VOTE FOR MY OLD “FRIEND” TRACY FISHER – over $250,000 of our kids’ money wasted ….

Recycle Tracy Fisher

President Harry S. Truman once said, “The Buck Stops Here”.  The phrase refers to the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.

Based on this, for what I am about to tell you, the buck stops with Board of Trustees President Tracy Fisher.

In a nutshell, Coppell ISD interfered in my child custody matter.  Coppell ISD did so by getting its attorneys to file a Petition in Intervention in my child custody case.  According to an Administrative Law Judge based in Austin, he had never seen this type of action by a school district, interfering in a custody matter, in his 25 years on the bench.  And that too regarding a trivial dispute over how many emails I should be allowed to send (then) Assistant Superintendent, Brad Hunt (see link at the bottom for details).

Thus far, Coppell ISD has spent more than $250,000 in legal fees in this matter (based on information obtained via Open Records and estimated to date).  This figure will continue to grow as the legal matter is still ongoing and could reach the half a million dollar mark before the legal matter concludes.  This is money that should be spent educating our children.

To put this amount in perspective, $250,000 could have paid the salaries of 5 Coppell ISD teachers for a year

Why is “Coppell ISD” taking money that should be spent on our teachers and our children and handing it over to a law firm?

We all know “Coppell ISD” is not a real person.  So, who made the decision to give Coppell ISD’s lawyers a blank check to spend unlimited amounts of money to interfere in this private matter? Who made the decision to divert sacred public education funds to a private law firm?

There are only 2 suspects – the Administration (headed by Brad Hunt) and the Board of Trustees (headed by Tracy Fisher).

I have known both Brad Hunt and Tracy Fisher for almost a decade and have had excellent relations with both of them.  I even regard Tracy Fisher as a friend! 

I have repeatedly tried to reason with them to stop this madness, reach a settlement (non-monetary, involving just resolving some communication issues between me and Coppell ISD personnel) and end the bleeding (of dollars) from Coppell ISD – and from Coppell families and taxpayers.

Amazingly, both of them, in addition to contending that they are not responsible for making these type of legal decisions, also act blithely unconcerned that massive amounts of public funds intended for our children are being wasted

So, from the look of it, the lawyers are now in charge of Coppell ISD and essentially have a free rein to bill at their own discretion with little to no oversight from district management or the Board of Trustees.

Then what can be done to stop this continuing bleeding of taxpayer dollars which should be spent on education, not litigation?

For the solution, once again I go back to Harry S. Truman’s saying, “the buck stops with the President”.  In this case, whether she will accept responsibility or not, the buck stops with Coppell ISD Board of Trustees President Tracy Fisher.  And since she seemingly has no clue how to stop this hemorrhaging, she has to go and make room for someone else who can take charge of the situation and stop this obscene waste of our tax dollars, money that has been diverted from our children’s education.

That is why I am dumping my old friend Tracy Fisher and will not be voting for her in this coming election.

Post Script:  If those of who have read this far and are curious as to what in world happened between me and the powers that be at Coppell ISD that led to this situation, this link should give you an idea: http://venkyvenkatraman.com/2017/04/my-secretary-brad/

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Called in during KERA program THINK on “Inside The World Of Competitive Spelling”

For the past two decades, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has been dominated by Indian-American competitors. Vauhini Vara was once a champion speller herself. She joins us to talk about why these youngsters make such formidable competitors – and about the role the contest plays in their assimilation into American culture. Her story “Bee-Brained” appears in the new issue of Harper’s.

I called in and asked a question of the guest Vauhini Vara.  You can find my question and her response starting at the 39th minute in the audio file above.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

My secretary, Brad ….

How did a grievance complaint against a Coppell Independent School District (“CISD”) tennis coach end up making CISD’s School Superintendent my de-facto secretary resulting in a lawsuit by CISD against me?  Here is the unbelievable tale …

Many years ago, a tennis coach in a Coppell Middle School sent me some rude text messages and I complained to the school Principal.  When she declined to take any action against him, I decided to file a grievance with CISD, confident that the controversy would get resolved pretty expeditiously since it appeared such a black and white case.

CISD has a grievance procedure which can be found in http://www.coppellisd.com/Page/13790 .  I utilized this process to file my grievance.  What followed was an eye opener.  There are 3 levels to the procedure, the final level being a hearing with the CISD Board.  At every level I got what appeared to be prima facie a fair hearing.  However, each time the result was the same, a terse “DENIED” with no explanation as to the rationale for the denial.  This was pretty frustrating for me since even in court one can ask the judge to explain his/her ruling by filing an appropriate Motion.

I used the grievance procedure a few more times on other matters over the years with pretty much identical results.  Eventually, CISD took a step that from my standpoint was a clear retaliation.  The new Superintendent Mike Waldrip had just taken office and within a month or so he ordered that all future communication between CISD and me had to go through the Assistant Superintendent, Brad Hunt.  I know for a fact that was his personal instruction since I got a copy of the email (via an Open Records request) he sent to that effect.

That meant that even if I had the simplest of question of any teacher or coach regarding anything to do with my daughters, the Assistant Superintendent had to be the middle man.  To his credit, Brad Hunt was very cooperative and responsive.  Clearly this was not his decision and many times it appeared that he might be OK with revising the arrangement but then he would come back saying nothing could be changed.  Mike Waldrip obviously was the one who was calling the shots.

The result was hundreds of emails between me and Brad Hunt over a period of several years – that would not seem a whole lot if sent to a bunch different teachers, coaches, administrators, etc, but a substantial work load if it one person was going to be the middleman and receive/respond to all emails. In effect, Mike Waldrip turned Brad Hunt into my personal secretary!  And while expressing my frustration with this convoluted arrangement about a week or so ago, I referred to Brad Hunt as my secretary while sending a “prohibited” email to a teacher.  When Brad Hunt acted terribly offended to my referring to him as my secretary (as if an Assistant Superintendent was an upper caste person and the secretary was a lower caste!), I sent an email to him stating “Based on the role you are playing vis-à-vis my communication with the school, whether you like it or not, you have de-facto become my secretary” and asked how much was he getting paid compared to his secretary.

Apparently that incensed the powers-that-be so much that CISD suddenly suspended a scheduled Level 2 grievance hearing and filed a “Petition in Intervention” with the court on March 31, essentially intervening in my personal child custody matter and asking the court “to place reasonable limitations on Respondent’s communications with Coppell ISD through Brad Hunt”.

Bottom line – being a third year law student, I know how to respond effectively to this lawsuit without incurring any costs but CISD will be paying its lawyers thousands of (our) tax payer dollars, presumably to teach me a lesson (which I am confident that they will not succeed in doing) – a total waste of money – and not at all befitting of CISD’s supposed slogan “We are all one team” implying students, parents, teachers and administrators all work together for the larger good of the school system.

To conclude, unless Mike Waldrip has gone rogue and got CISD’s lawyers to file a lawsuit against me without informing the Board, our elected officials are (most likely) involved in this matter – in which case, clearly some fresh blood with some common sense is needed on the Board and hopefully that will come about in next month’s Board elections.

Postscript: while researching for this article I found out that Mike Waldrip is paid a salary of $254,616.00, Brad Hunt is paid $153,591.00 and his secretary (whom he shares with two other big wigs at CISD) is paid just $43,862.08.  I would say making someone who is paid $153,591.00 perform secretarial functions is a sheer waste of CISD’s resources and the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of Mike Waldrip. The question is who will take him to task and bell the cat to end this abuse of personnel and resources?

Tags: , , ,

Excerpt from my Criminal Law Final Exam

Realizing that it has been quite awhile since I blogged about anything, I figured an easy way to kick start my writing was to reproduce my answer (with some minor edits and inclusion of a picture) to a question posed in my Criminal Law final exam from my previous semester at law school (where, surprisingly, an ultra liberal professor gave me a good grade for this response!).

Select at least one area of concern or weakness in the American criminal justice system that was discussed during the course of the semester. After you identify the problem, propose potential solutions to this problem, drawing from cases, readings, and class discussions as well as your own life experience.

For this question, I am picking an issue currently in the news, that is the death of black men in encounters with the police.

Firstly, let me speak from own life experience.  I came to this country some 30 years ago from a country where the police was generally reviled as corrupt and and inept.  They were poorly paid and trained and hence easily susceptible to being bribed.  People who had no “connections” could easily be subjected to all kinds of atrocities during encounters with the police and while in police custody.

So when I first landed in NY city and the very police officer I encountered addressed me as “Sir”, I was quite amazed. The respectful manner that the police officers in the US behave towards law abiding citizens still surprises me everyday. And, I am yet to have a negative encounter with a police officer in any of the states in which I have lived in the past 30 years.

So I  have to admit that l am prejudiced in favor of the police in America (especially the one below)!

Officer Josh Jackson

And so the current piling on the police in America, depicting them as out of control, racists, is somewhat hard for me to swallow.

Let’s take some of the cases that have been recently in the news.

First the Michael Brown case.  This “kid” had just assaulted a store owner and stole from the store.  Then he walks out and minutes later he is shot and killed by a police officer.  The initial account that he had his hands up and was trying to surrender to the police officer turn out to be false and it appears that he may have charged the police officer who showed some signs of injury from the encounter.  The policeman was not indicted and walked free.

Next the the Eric Garner case.  Here this person was apparently selling contraband cigarettes for which the police attempted to arrest him and he resisted arrest. While trying to subdue him, he was apparently put on a choke hold (an incident that was videotaped by a member of the public) and subsequently died. A grand jury would not indict the police officer.

Finally, the current case of Freddie Gray.  This was a person with a long criminal history who suffered fatal injuries after being arrested and while being transported in a police van.  After days of rioting, six police officers have been charged with various crimes.  Of the six, three are black, three are white – and one is a woman (black).  If remains to be seen whether they will be proven guilty as charged or whether they will walk free.

The common factor that I see in all of the above cases is that none of the individuals who had encounters with the police were exactly choir boys. But when the media gets into a frenzy, they make each of them look like they were fantastic, blameless, paragons of virtue!

Having made the above points, I will admit that there is an occasional bad apple in every profession – and the police cannot be an exception because they are also human beings like you and me.

But overall, they are doing a thankless job.  Trying to keep the peace in high crime neighborhoods where the perpetrators and the victims are both black.  They have no control over the social dynamics that produces such a dysfunctional society but they are left to deal with the consequences.

Clearly we do not want to demoralize the police force to a point where they stop vigorously policing areas which have maximum crime and where is the greatest need for their services but where there is also the greatest probability of having fatal encounters with black men.

The solution, according to me, has to be technology driven.

Body cameras on every police officer (which cannot be turned off by the police officer) will ensure that every single thing that a police officer does while on duty will be on record.  So there will no longer be a he-said, she-said, they- said after any fatal encounter between the police and the public.

And after fatal encounter, the video information should be made public within 24 hours.  If it appears from the video that prima facie the officer might have done something inappropriate,  he should be immediately transferred to desk duty till an impartial investigation is conducted by an outside agency after which the police officer should be given due process and punished if guilty or exonerated if found innocent.

The whole process should be completely transparent so that police officers can continue to do their job effectively while also being aware that there will be definite consequences for any inappropriate behavior.

And if these solutions are implemented, hopefully, next time the there is a police shooting of a black man, the public will trust the process rather than going out into the street and rioting for “justice”.

Tags: , ,

Land of the free and the home of the brave?

FreenBrave

Growing up in India when we had one radio station (All India Radio) and one TV station (Doordarshan) both of which mostly served up government propaganda, we used to listen to the BBC to get the “real” news (and I must confess I tried to model my English on some of those great newsreaders!).

During those days we marveled at the freedom that Americans seemed to have to say whatever they pleased without any fear or favor.  We saw them even toppling a president (Nixon) whose Watergate cover-up was worse than the crime.  Truly the land of the free and the home of the brave, we thought.

A couple of recent incidents made me wonder whether America today was that much different from India of the past when it came to freedom of speech and expression (guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution).  And following are those episodes.

My multi-talented daughter, Sakshi, even when only 12 years old, combined her skill using technology and her flair for drama to make and post on YouTube several short, entertaining videos on various topics – you can see one of them at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkUMpvzEwB0 ).

Then in December 2012 she made a fateful video that brought her video producing “career” to an abrupt end.  Below is the video she posted on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-wbwR209Pk&feature=youtu.be

But oops – there is no video – because it got “censored”.  And why did that happen?  In that video (posted in a Youtube account controlled by her mother), Sakshi had depicted one of her elementary school teachers (without naming either school or teachers) as crazy enough to have mood swings and verbally abuse the children and another teacher putting her feet on the children and twisting their arms during PE class.

When the video was first posted, I was in India along with my mother and she and I had a good laugh at the video which we thought was clearly a parody (like a Saturday Night Live skit).  But what followed was unbelievable.  An EMail from the principal, Pam Mitchell, asking that the video be immediately removed and hinting at dire consequences if that was not done.  And in the course of arguing that the school could not demand removal of a video that did not mention the name of the school nor the teachers and was not made during school hours nor using school equipment, I filed an Open Records Request and found a whole army of school officials (including Assistant Superintendent, Brad Hunt), seemingly alarmed by the video, were writing conspiratorial EMails to each other about how to deal with the “situation”.  Clearly this video was not being treated as a childish parody – which suggested to me that something more serious was going on.  Or possibly the cover-up was just worse than the crime – shades of Watergate!

Cutting to the chase, Sakshi caved in to the pressure (despite my total support, telling her to stand her ground) and wrote a letter of apology to all and sundry and the video was taken down.  And, as I feared, Sakshi did not make another video in this series – and her budding video “career” came to an abrupt end.

Fast forward to several years later.  Sakshi, now several years older, is in Newspaper class where she is a “reporter” writing articles online on various topics.  One of them is titled “Kids in Asian families forced on to unwanted career paths” which as the title suggests is not flattering towards “Asian parents” in general and me (as her father) in particular.  In her bid to make a point and add some drama, she had crossed over from reporting/opining  on facts to writing fiction – and here is the link to that article posted on the school’s website:

http://www.coppellstudentmedia.com/2014/09/12/kids-in-asian-families-forced-on-to-unwanted-career-paths/comment-page-1/#comment-3274

But oops again – there is nothing there!  So what happened this time?

This is the sequence of events.  I posted a comment disagreeing with Sakshi’s contentions.  Sakshi promptly deleted my comment.  I took this up with her teacher suggesting that if any of his student “reporters” wrote and posted online anything controversial, then readers should be given an opportunity to respond on the same page and disagree.  However, rather than allowing that, the teacher promptly had the article itself deleted.  And that, in my opinion, was a pity because what could have been teaching moment was lost and Sakshi suffered the ignominy of one more her products (resulting from some hard and dedicated work) being “censored”.

And the irony of all this is when I brought this article to the attention to Brad Hunt (the Assistant Superintendent, who behind the scenes was doing his best to get Sakshi’s video deleted because “it would upset the teachers who are sensitive people”), his comment surprisingly was “Sakshi is a strong writer.  I think given that this article is in the “opinions” section that it should be treated as such, her opinion.  “.

Apparently what is not good for the geese is good for the gander!

And the unfortunate lesson Sakshi probably learnt from all this is that she lives in the land of the (not so) free and the home of the (not that) brave!!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline