Archive for November, 2009

COGENT ITEMS IN TODAY’S NEWS: 11/25/09, LA TIMES

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

News quotes and Comments

“The Obama administration has decided not to sign an international convention banning land mines.”

Stupid is as stupid does: Forrest Gump

“A group of South Carolina lawmakers wants sworn statements from Gov. Mark Sanford’s staff and others, detailing events leading up to his five day disappearance in June.”

Uhhh! Disappearance means no one knew where he was; leading up to disappearance means before he disappeared and if anyone was aware of where he was going, he would not have disappeared but would have been gone somewhere.

“As an execution team tried to find a condemned man’s vein during an unsuccessful lethal injection attempt, prison staffers sought help from a doctor – a move generally discouraged by ethical and professional medical rules – federal court papers show.”

The doctor was asked to work out of her job description; why didn’t prison staffers asked the person being executed, since he was the only person available that had  professional experience killing people?

“Last month, Walter ‘Gator’ Pelleter, chairman of the National Turkey Federation and an executive at Butterball approached Wes Pike, his go-to bird handler, with a secret mission: Raising two well-mannered birds that wouldn’t trash a room at the Willard Hotel or go ballistic on President Obama during a pardoning ceremony in the White House Rose Garden today.”

I suggest a Congressional inquiry into the turkey’s forwarding address after the White House Pardoning Ceremony.

“The British government was aware of “drumbeats in Washington” in early 2001 calling for the toppling of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein but steered clear of such aggressive policy before the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said Tuesday as a panel launched a major inquiry on how and why the British government went to war in Iraq.”

2001? A dollar short and an hour late; it is 2009 and evidently the British panel are the only people in Britain or the entire world, who DOESN’T know why.

LEARNING ABOUT SCABS AND OTHER DETESTABLE THINGS

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Here are a few passages from my autobiography, “A Child of the Depression and Other Great Catastrophes”.

In 1922, before I was born, my father and his father were both working for the Wabash Railroad, at the time of the big Railroad Strike of that year; the strike was broken, they both lost their jobs to scabs (men who take union workers jobs when union workers are on strike), and it was a hard time for the family until they were employed again. My father did go back to work for the Wabash, but in a different capacity; he never forgot the Railroad Strike of 1922, therefore I have never forgotten it even though it was eight years before I was born; my father educated me.

So, I learned about “scabs” and labor history early in life. It is amazing how much you learn as a young child, even before you get to school. When I was studying American History at Millikin University, I remember reading Jack London’s description of a scab:

“After God had finished the rattlesnakes, the toad, and the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made the SCAB. A SCAB is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a waterlogged brain and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts he carries a tumor of rotten principles. . . . A STRIKEBREAKER IS A TRAITOR TO HIS GOD, HIS COUNTRY, HIS FAMILY, AND HIS CLASS.”

After reading it, I remember nodding affirmatively because my father had taught me about scabs, even before I went to First Grade and I thought to myself, damned if Jack London isn’t just as good at words, as my dad is.

From the time that I was a child, I knew where I stood in the scheme of things in life; I knew my class and where I fit into society in Decatur Illinois. I learned that on the East Side of Town, where I lived, there were people like me and on the West Side of Town were the other kind of people. Most important though, I was thoroughly comfortable knowing that I was never inferior to anyone, just different.

COGENT ITEMS IN TODAY’S NEWS: 11/23/09, LA TIMES

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

News quotes and Comments

“When it comes to political, social, or health causes, elder abuse has not had the star power of some other movements focusing on the rights of vulnerable people.”

Advocates of elder rights suffer from a greater turnover and a higher death rate than advocates of children’s rights.

“The first U.S. trials of a spray-on anesthetic for the penis showed that it increased the time to ejaculation nearly fivefold, providing the first good solution for premature ejaculation, researchers reported Thursday.”

The announcement, today, of a new spray-on anesthesia has provided a brand new topic for the BBC Saturday night sit-com series, “Waiting for God”.

“As one of the few senators undecided on healthcare reform, Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln faces a huge headache.”

“Arkansas Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln needs to see a doctor about her headaches.”

“The city attorney and L.A. County district attorney vigorously oppose the sale of medicinal marijuana at dispensaries, saying it violates the law, and have asked the council to ban it.”

The Los Angeles City Council believes that the city attorney and the L.A. County district Attorney are in need of a medicinal marijuana “hit”!

“About one in ten women are thought to suffer from sufficient lack of sexual desire for it to be distressing for them.”

About nine in ten men are thought to suffer from insufficient sexual fulfillment; about one in ten men feel sexually fulfilled and are gay.

COGENT ITEMS IN TODAY’S NEWS: 11/21/09, LA TIMES

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

News quotes and commenta

“Michael Plank, 40, was detained by US Customs agents after they discovered 15 live lizards stuffed into his money belt.”

Now I know why I never wanted to be a Customs agent!

“The most sweeping federal anti-discrimination law in 20 years takes effect today, prohibiting employers from hiring, firing, or determining promotions based on genetic makeup.”

Good, now employees cannot be fired because of their father’s jeans?

“The FBI has dispatched investigators to Arkansas to look into a police officer’s use of a stun gun on a 10-year-old girl who refused to take a shower.”

Was it a case of critical BO, of did the police officer just not want to take a shower alone?

“An art collector has found a tooth, thumb, and finger of Galileo, Florence’s History of Science Museum announced on Friday.”

Galileo must be overjoyed!

“The European Organization for Nuclear Research hopes to begin new scientific experiments in January, giving insights into dark matter and what gives mass to other particles, and to show what matter was in the microseconds of rapid cooling after the Big Bang.”

Personally, I can hardly wait to find out but what effect will it have on American unemployment?

A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE 2001

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Let it be noted historically and put in perspective that the American democratic Republic was attacked in 2001 by Osama bin Laden, a political and religious extremist, at a time that America was governed by George W. Bush, a political and religious extremist, who was NOT elected by a democratic majority of American voters but chosen by a Supreme Court majority who refused to allow the popular vote to be counted.

FIRST GRADE SURVIVAL

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

by Richard Blankenburg

This is basically a wonderful true story of my daughter’s experience, fictionalized, about a teacher, Mrs. Reddick, and 25 impressionable first graders. In today’s accountability craze, Mrs. Reddick would not fare well, evaluated under Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama’s measure of teaching excellence because Mrs. Reddick’s students will probably not score well on Standardized Achievement Tests, which is the Federal Government’s standard of teaching excellence. Students of Mrs. Reddick disagree; they obviously judge Mrs. Reddick to be the greatest! Read the story then make your own decision. This story can be reprinted, without compensation, the author approves.

Along with Christmas and other holidays each year, Mrs. Reddick, first grade teacher at Cumberland Elementary School number 119, always looks forward to the first day of school. Exhausted at the end of the previous school year, she is revitalized over the summer months and each year anxiously awaits the arrival of her twenty-five brand new first-graders.

On this first day of school, September 2, 1997, they enter the classroom door one by one. It is the usual variety. There is Alice the sage, Diedre the lost, Cheyenne the orator, Anthony the aggressor, Barry the challenger, Victor the nervous, and so on. Mrs. Reddick greets and introduces herself to each one individually as they enter, taking their name.

Every possible color and ethnic culture is represented. Sitting quiet and glassy eyed today, each is wondering how in the world they ever managed to get incarcerated in this room full of other six-year-olds, condemned to first grade. Each one stares into the eyes of Mrs. Reddick, ready to jump and run at the first false move.

“Good morning,” she begins, “I am Mrs. Reddick, your first grade teacher. Let’s talk about what we are going to do here today and the rest of the school year.”

“Among other things we are going to have fun,” she assures them, “and learn to read and write and a lot of other good things.”

They do not look convinced but the warmth of Mrs. Reddick’s voice and her sincerity takes a little of the edge off of the nervousness. After an hour of engaging in some student activities and making an effort to set their mind at ease, the children began taking turns asking the same question.

“Is it time to home now, teacher?”

To them, today is the longest day of their life.

The first few days she is evaluating ‘where they are’. She sighs a lot at the end of the day but she always seems to rise on the next day to the challenge of changing the lives of these human beings entrusted to her care.

Get them to read! Get them to read! Get them to read! This thought keeps pounding in Mrs. Reddick brain from the very first day. It is an obsession with her. Her excitement is conveyed to students by every move she makes. They are caught up in it, and they are not even sure what reading means! She explains the various phonic sounds of the letter ‘a’, then ‘b’, and so on.

“Sometimes,” she explains, “the letter ‘s’ sounds like ‘ssss’, like in the word ‘say’, and sometimes it sounds like ‘zzzz’, like in the word ‘as’.

“Now class,” she questions them, “can anyone tell me what this word is?” She holds up a card with the word ‘as’ on it.

“I know that one,” Anthony blurts out, “it is ass, like ‘get your ass out of the house!’”

Mrs. Reddick, with some difficulty, manages to inform Anthony that he is close but in error.

“The correct answer is ‘as’, Alice informs the class.

Public school students are representative of the total population. Diedre represented the very lowest intellectual end of students enrolled in ordinary public school classes. Students below Diedre’s level are placed in special classes for those not able to benefit from normal classroom teaching.

Unfortunately, Diedre’s intellectual deficiency is evident even in her physical appearance. In her demeanor, her movements, and even her physical appearance, she is easily recognized as ‘different’ not only by Mrs. Reddick but by her classmates as well. To her teacher, she is just as important as her other twenty-four students.

One day in an art class, Mrs. Reddick held up two pictures of classical paintings, one by Picasso and one by Van Gough. The subject matter was the same in both paintings; a mother supported a young child learning to walk by holding the child’s hands. The students were to describe and distinguish between the two painters’ interpretation of the subject.

“The picture on the left does not look like real people,” Alice responded, exhibiting her maturity and referring to the Picasso, “No one really looks like that!”

“Diedre does,” Anthony suggests in all seriousness.

Amazed, Mrs. Reddick, who understands Anthony’s astute observation, was obligated to give Alice credit for making the distinction between the two paintings and to downplay Anthony’s cogent remark. She reminded herself she must give Diedre some attention before the day was over to help her to feel she is important and build her confidence. It is an important aspect of teaching twenty-five students at one time.

It felt good for Mrs. Reddick to see the interest that the fine arts generated in the class of six-year-olds. Culture is important in the education of children . . . and teachers too.

Very shortly after Labor Day and the start of school, the first grade class makes its annual pilgrimage to the Pumpkin Patch, a farm dedicated to growing jack-o-lanterns. Many children have never been on a farm. At the farm they will see a few animals, pet some of them, see a lot of pumpkins, and select an appropriate pumpkin to decorate the classroom for the upcoming Halloween. It’s necessary to take a bus and in this situation each child must have a partner, be responsible to their partner, hold the partner’s hand, and sit in a seat with the partner on the bus ride.

Because there is one student left without a partner, Mrs. Reddick has the privilege of being Cheyenne’s partner. He is an attractive native American boy, his mother is unable to care for him and his brother, and consequently he and his brother live with their aunt.

“Once, I rode a bus to Tucson,” Cheyenne began telling her as the bus pulled away and they were sitting there together. “We saw a lot of things like animals, cactus, and mountains,” he continued.

“My aunt, the one my brother and I live with, is going to adopt us,” he announces still talking ten minutes into the ride. “I don’t know how that’s going to be. My brother and I really miss my mom a lot. I wish we could live with her.”

Fifteen minutes later, Cheyenne is still talking and telling Mrs. Reddick, “A kid that lives in my block has this big black dog that is always fighting! My brother always fought this kid . . .”

Twenty-five minutes later and seven minutes from the Pumpkin Farm, without stopping talking, Cheyenne is ending his latest narrative about his aunt’s (his foster mother) broken leg.

“ . . . and when she finally got rid of that cast thing, my uncle had fixed the kitchen sink,” he finished.

“I think I’ll give my mouth a rest,” he sighed, turning to Mrs. Reddick.

“Thank you Cheyenne,” she said graciously. It was the first words she had uttered since the bus left the school.

The field trip is a huge success. With the exception of a skinned knee, a torn shirt, and an arm nibbled by goat, there were no real tragedies and a group of happy, laughing children found something else to like about going to school.

One day Mrs. Reddick was reading a story to the class about a pig who was on vacation and writing a letter to his mother. It was really a dumb story, the teacher thought, but the children seem to enjoy it. When she finished reading the story, the children were discussing it.

“I don’t understand the story,” Victor said. “If the pig was on vacation, why was he writing a letter to his mother. Why wasn’t his mother with him?”

“Well,” Cheyenne volunteered, “ His mother couldn’t take care of him and he had to live with his aunt and go on vacation with her.”

Cheyenne was certain he had logically answered the question for Victor and his head was nodding stoically. Mrs. Reddick eyes filled.

One day in November, Mrs. Elsinor, the principal called all kindergarten, first, second, and third grade students to the auditorium for an assembly about discipline. The teachers were not apprised of the assembly before it was called. After they had gathered in the auditorium, Mrs. Elsinor began in a very serious voice to ‘preach’ to the children about what was considered ‘bad’ behavior and it was important that students ‘not do that’.

The teachers in the audience were aghast at the tirade. Mrs. Elsinor had long been suspected of not really caring for children; some thought she had become principal to avoid having to be with them all day. She spent most of her time in her office and the secretary dealt with student contacts. She did not understand young children’s behavior, to say the least.

When she had finished her talk she turned to the children assembled there.

“Are there any questions?” she queried in the nicest voice she could muster. They had been wide-eyed during her speech, hanging on each word. Every student in the assembly raised their hand. The teachers there, inhaled deeply in unison.

“You,” she called on a kindergarten boy, “the boy in the blue shirt.”

“Don’t throw rocks!” the boy in the blue shirt offered in a deeply serious tone.

“Yes,” Mrs. Elsinor said, appearing somewhat perturbed. “That is right, but that is not a question. Does someone have a question?”

The teachers were biting their tongues and trying to think of the saddest thing that had ever happened to them to prevent them from giggling. It was difficult. Some covered their mouths like they were in deep thought.

“What question do you have?” Mrs. Elsinor continued and pointed to another kindergartner, “The little girl with the yellow jumper.”

“Don’t call other children bad names!” yellow jumper offered proudly.

“Yes,” Mrs. Elsinor told her, “but that is not a question. There was a light tinge of disapproval in the principal’s voice now. Teachers were now squirming in their place, staring at the floor, and some turned their heads around entirely to ‘check the exits’.

“Now, are there any questions?” the administrator pleaded. This time she chose Anthony of Mrs. Reddick’s first graders, perhaps because he waved his hand so energetically and appeared bursting with intelligence.

“Don’t push the other kids in line,” he contributed, “someone could fall and skin their knee!” Anthony’s contribution was given out of experience.

“That is still not a question,” Mrs. Elsinor told them in her most serious ‘I am getting upset’ voice.

“Perhaps the teachers need to teach you children what a question is,” she said obviously irritated, and not a moment too soon she announced, “You are dismissed!”

It was a race to see how fast the teachers could vacate the auditorium. By this time, the teachers’ faces were totally contorted and they were literally shooing their students ahead of them seeking refuge outside the auditorium.

Few children come to first grade already knowing how to read. Sometimes they are taught by parents because the children beg to be taught and sometimes to satisfy overzealous parents. Preschool children are sometimes taught to read by older siblings who want to show their younger brother or sister how bright they are. Very few of Mrs. Reddick’s students are ever reading before they come to her class. It comes with the territory.

At a certain time of the year, ‘the moment of truth’ arrives for Mrs. Reddick; one by one the children uncover the mystery of the written word.

“I’m reading!” Cheyenne shouted in amazement ,one day when Mrs. Reddick was working with him. These words always managed to send a chill through the teacher’s body. She had to restrain herself from jumping and shouting with Cheyenne.

Eventually, almost everyone is able to read. They have grown from their first ‘reading experience’, when they can tell you the words on the page because those are familiar words that have been memorized, to being able to make sounds like the letters and decipher words in print that are entirely new to them.

There are only a few left now, who lack the ability to put the sounds of letters together and comprehend words they represent. They are children who come from homes where there is little intellectual stimulation or children who simply lack the innate ability to comprehend much of anything.

This year’s challenge for Mrs. Reddick is Diedre. The teacher has quietly and slowly been building up Diedre’s confidence and looking into her way of thinking so that the teacher will know those things familiar to her that can be used to build new concepts in the child’s mind. These new concepts will open the door to the miracle of reading the written word.

“That’s good, Diedre. You’re doing very well,” Mrs. Reddick assures her over and over.

Diedre can learn to read. The teacher believes it and Diedre must believe. Mrs. Reddick has to work hard and try, try, try. Even more important, Diedre has to work hard and try, try, try. When a child has experienced as much failure as Diedre, teaching of reading begins with giving her self confidence and convincing her she can succeed by trying, trying hard, very hard. This is teaching.

Then the day arrives and Diedre breaks into a huge grin.

“I just read that,” she tells her teacher quietly, hardly able to believe it herself.

She has just deciphered groups of meaningless members of the alphabet to mean something comprehensible. Mrs. Reddick breaks down and cries for joy.

Something happens between school children and their teacher between September and June. They have experienced life together. It is not all good. Everyone is not always successful. But it is a unique experience for students and teacher alike. At the end of the school year it becomes only a memory.

The last day of school, like the first, is special. First graders look forward to this thing called vacation when they will be set free to do something they want to do, anything, as long as it is not something they are required to do. Summer seems like a lifetime, looking at it from the last school day. They have never experienced a last day before; they don’t realize that school will never again be like it was this year. There may be better years or worse, but there will never be another like this one.

Mrs. Reddick knows. This time of year, her mind dances with visions of students past and those experiences that she will never know again.

“I would like all of you to know that I have enjoyed being your teacher this year” Mrs. Reddick tells them. “I hope you will work just as hard for the teacher you have next year as you have for me and I hope you will be as nice to her as you have been to me. Hopefully, you will continue to learn more all the time and enjoy learning from the new teacher you will have next year in the second grade.”

“I’ll miss you Ms. Reddick,” Alice says, her eyes welling up in tears..

“Well, I will still see you sometimes in the hall or on the playground,” Mrs. Reddick told her. “You will be in a different classroom next year but you can come and see me after school. I will have a new class of first graders next year, of course.”

“Another bunch of first graders!” Anthony exclaimed.

“Yes, I’ll have new students coming to first grade for the first time, just like all of you did at the beginning of this year,” Mrs. Reddick told him.

“You mean you have to do all of this all over again!” Anthony said in disbelief.

“Yes,” she replied smiling, “I’ll have to do it all over again.”

“I couldn’t do that,” Anthony declared shaking his head, “Boy, I don’t ever want to be a teacher!”

END

AMERICAN EXIT FROM AFGHANISTAN STRATEGY; A PROFILE IN COURAGE

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Profiles in courage; there is a history.

“It is widely considered inevitable that if Obama began to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan without being able to declare some form of victory, he would be derided in the press and by Republicans as a coward and a quitter.”

There is the ‘Bay of Pigs’ strategy; accept the truth.

“the Afghan president says he believes he is doing nothing different than he has since they put him there in December 2001” He is right! The “they” that put him there was George W. Bush and America, maintained by Bush’s right hand Blackwater if my memory serves me right, paid for by all American taxpayers.  Karzai is “we”, Americans.

Whether America likes it or not, Karzai is what American troops are fighting and dying for; bin Laden has not been in Afghanistan for more than 8 years.  America is in denial and it is wake up time.  Afghanistan had nothing to do with 911, it was bin Laden, stupid!

America needs to get out of Afghanistan the same way that America exited from Viet Nam, remember?

The freaking show is OVER! It is time for Obama’s profile in courage.

THROUGH STORM, SNOW, SLEET AND RAIN; WHO CARES?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

There should be a law that every advertisement received in the US mail must include the name of the advertiser’s source, for having your address on their mailing list, for the purpose of homicide.  Today’s mail was depressing; I didn’t need it.

In one envelope, a manufacturer of electric scooters for the disabled informed me that their scooter will “improve my quality of life giving me the freedom and independence I need”.  If only I had the time to reply and tell him where I would like for him to scoot his product.

A second envelope was from a ‘green’ company advising me that they provide, “simple, earth-friendly, affordable cremation services; we help people plan ahead, leaving the planet in good shape when they depart.”  The postmark indicated the message was appropriately from Rancho Mirage.  ‘”Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give . . . !”

The third envelope was addressed to someone that I do not know; I didn’t bother to open it.

WHAT EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Why is the American health care industry so opposed to Americans having adequate and equitable health care at their own expense? The answer is that the American Health Care Industry is composed of corporate entities; corporations are not human entities and therefore are oblivious to moral ethics and capable of irresponsibility, selfishness, and other sins against humanity? Since American corporations are not a human entity, they are not capable of compassion or patriotism..

The Republican Party is opposed to universal health care and the government mandating that every American purchase health care insurance for their family; the Republican Party says that it is unconstitutional to require Americans to purchase health insurance and that it infringes on the civil rights of those Americans who do not want to buy health care insurance or don’t want to have health care. A question for Americans to ponder is, does the health of one’s neighbor have any impact on the health of others or other families? Also, is it also unconstitutional to require vaccinations of public school students to protect the health of the other students?

The Republican Party is a corporation.

“No man is an island!”

LUNATIC RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL MINORITIES DENY WOMEN RIGHTS AND ARE DESTROYING THE AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC

Monday, November 9th, 2009

As an American, I am aghast at the behavior of the Congress of the United States; the bigoted religious irrational behavior of Congress is shameful and unconstitutional! The extortion of sixty-four renegade Democrats have forced a Public Health Reform Bill to exclude legal abortions from insurance coverage violating a woman’s Constitutional rights; these Democratic members of Congress and the minority Republican Congressmen who joined them should be required to wear signs around their necks branding them as “A Member of Congress who does not respect a woman’s rights, the US Constitution, or the Constitutional Law of the Land.”

Some members of Congress are actually admitted members of the American lunatic political fringe and fundamentalist religious freaks; even though these dubious Members of Congress are elected by a majority of their particular constituency, as an elected legislator, they are Constitutionally obligated to respect and also represent the minority of their constituency and the majority of all American citizens.

It is time that all Americans, including Congress realize that Row vs. Wade is the Law of the Land in America, legalized abortion is sanctioned by the US Constitution as a Constitutional right of women, and Religions differences of opinion are covered under free speech but there is NO CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS FOR DISOBEYING THE LAW OR PASSING LEGISLATION THAT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

The US Constitution instituted America as a democratic Republic and Americans, and especially American Members of Congress, have a responsibility to respect the Constitution; Members of Congress take an oath to defend and abide by the US Constitution and it is appalling to observe so many Members of Congress showing a total disregard for the US Constitution. Though the Members of Congress who refuse to abide by the US Constitution remain a minority, they appear to have too much proportional power and command of the otherwise democratic legislative process; one can only wonder if there has been a fascist revolution in America and Americans continue to be unaware of it.  America has appeared to succumb to the fascist tyranny of the minority.