The Friday Five - Memorial Day Edition By Pete Herr













As we head into a weekend of hot dogs and beers to remember our servicemen and women that paid the ultimate sacrifice, it was an interesting week in the world. A terrorist attack in London, more hearings into the faux outrages of Benghazi, the IRS and the War on the Free Press, and the President's speech on his administration moving forward. Here's 5 things that may not have made the top headlines.

1. Business Loves Tests

As the rhetoric heats up on the changing face of education and the value of high stakes standardized testing, NY State Education Commissioner John King is seeking support from the business community, as the battle for public opinion continues. King has reached out to business leaders seeking support for the program of standardized testing and for the new Common Core Standards that many states have adopted as the foundation for education. The Common Core (and the piles of tests it brings with it) are under fire from different flanks. Parents, teachers, and students alike have concerns. As a long-time teacher myself, I have my own concerns. Most importantly, the Common Core, in my opinion, and that of long-time educator Marion Brady, is a killer of innovation in the classroom. Any time we apply "standards" to anything, it has a chilling effect on innovation, because it provides the box that innovation needs to think outside of. When those standards become the metric by which we measure the teachers' effectiveness.....buh bye innovation. It is no surprise that big business (the largest enemy of real innovation) would support this. They won't get better prepared students, but they will get a way to hold those lazy, overpaid teachers accountable.

2. Tax Free at SUNY (it must be good, it rhymes)

Cuomo's approach to things baffles me at times. This is one of those cases. This week the Governor announced a plan to make tax free zones around all of the state's 64 SUNY campuses, on the heels of eliminating tax breaks that local IDAs are allowed to give. In theory, I agree with this. Perhaps some campuses will provide better returns on this than others. I, of course, worry that a program like this is ripe for abuse. The program is not nearly fleshed out enough yet, but I wonder if the retail projects that are excluded from tax breaks from IDAs will be eligible for the same tax breaks (maybe even better ones) if they just locate in proximity to a SUNY campus.

3. Strikes, Spares and Lawsuits

The crap our government spends time on never ceases to amaze me. Our own NY Senator, Patrick Gallivan, is now championing a piece of legislation called the "Bowling Shoe Law". People apparently leave bowling alleys with their really attractive bowling shoes on and slip and fall and then sue the bowling alley. I know, right? Now we need a law requiring bowling alleys to display signs warning the keglers not to leave the alley with their slippery soles on. If the alley posts the sign, they would be exempt from slip and fall suits. Why in the world would people leave the alleys with those silly looking shoes on in the first place? Bitter irony. They are headed outside for a smoke between frames because they aren't allowed to kill themselves inside the lanes anymore. In what also comes as no surprise...it's the trial lawyers that oppose the measure most vehemently. What a comical and predictable world we live in.

4. Suicide Epidemic

In what is no surprise to me, suicide has become epidemic in our high stress, money obsessive world. In the United States alone we will lose a record 40,000 people to suicide this year, and in the developed world, suicide has become the leading cause of death annually. There has also been an alarming rise in suicide deaths in our American servicemen and women and our veterans. Sad and scary stuff.

5. Tech Bubble

Is there a second dotcom bubble going on? I'm no stock broker, but when I am watching the valuations on some of these tech companies over the past few years, I can't help but wonder how all of these high value tech corporations can stay sustainable. The Facebook IPO is the most recognizable of the tech silliness. Zuckerburg becomes an almost instant billionaire on a website he designed to help him get laid. Arianna Huffington nets a cool $300 million by selling her blog to AOL. Twitter is valued at $10 billion and it doesn't really make any money yet. And recently an app that was only a month old, and not even available to the public was purchased by cloud data storage giant Dropbox for a reported $100 million. Even a financial dummy like me is suspect of prices like that.

Enjoy the nice fall weekend. See you next week.




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