Archive for March, 2010

WHAT APPEARS TROUBLING TO ME

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

There is something that seems to trouble me; I am troubled when I find my self wishing my family and friends to have a nice 30 caliber tea party.

It is troubling that when I tell my family and friends to enjoy their Christian Bible Study meeting and be sure you don’t forget your assault rifle and Bible.

It is troubling for me to be referred to as a heretic, by friends and family, because I do not accept as fact that the US Constitutions is one of the books of the New Testament and I do not use hollow point ammunition.

AMERICA’S GAY ARMY

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The headline that caught my eye, was “Marine Corps General James Conway: Marines would not be ‘forced’ to live with Gay Soldiers”.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/26/marine-corps-general-jame_n_515564.html?page=53&show_comment_id=43282937#comment_43282937

“The Marine Corps’ commandant said he won’t force his troops to bunk with gays on base and would give them separate rooms if Congress votes to allow openly gay service.”

My reaction is that the troops serving under General Conway are not “his”, they are “ours”, and based on my personal experience, General James Conway should be fired immediately for the welfare of all American soldiers, regardless of gender, religion, ethnic background, or sexual orientation because he is simply a bigot and a homophobic that discriminates against some members serving under his command (subordinate enlisted personnel). General Conway graduated from college in 1969 and was commissioned an officer in 1970; it is evident that he has not served as an enlisted man and is totally unaware that some of the enlisted men serving under him are actually homosexual.

When I was drafted into the Air Force February 2, 1949, the Air Force segregated whites from African-American troops despite the fact that, President Harry Truman by Executive Order 9987 on July 28, 1948, forbade segregation of military personnel; General Conway was less than a year old at that time and he would not know.

However, one day in 1949, I was informed that on the next day and from that day forward, my ethnic African comrades-in-arms, at Westover Air Base in Massachusetts, would sleep in the same barracks that I did, they would eat in the same mess hall that I ate in, and all personnel would share any and all facilities on base regardless of ethnic background. That was a historic and momentous day for me. My ethnic African friends from that time forward, shared their military life with me as comrades in arms.

But, at that same time I worked in an office that I could not leave, for security reasons, and in that building there were only restrooms for Officers and Women and none for enlisted men, which proved to be a problem for me, a Private First Class. One night when I was working alone and I thought no one else was in the building, I was caught red-handed by a commissioned officer, using the Officers Restroom instead of leaving the building to find another rest room lowly enough to accommodate the urine of a Private First Class. I caught holy hell for disobeying the order not to use a restroom reserved for commissioned officers only.

My reaction to being disciplined, at that time, was to wonder how in the hell the American military ever won the recently ended World War II.

During my short sojourn in the US Air Force, my comrades in arms and I were fully aware that some of out fellow Airmen were doubtlessly homosexual; we also realized that we were totally dependent upon them working with us if we were to accomplish our own mission. It seemed obvious to me that the US military has always had soldiers serving our country that were homosexual and other soldiers simply ignore their different sexual preference because their greater concerned was with their fellow soldier’s military qualifications and efficiency.

In 1949 when I was drafted, the easy way to avoid serving in the military would be to tell the Draft Board that you were homosexual and thereby be disqualified; the real military heroes then were homosexuals who were loyal and served the American democratic Republic and in spite of their homosexuality fought and died for their country.

It is obvious to me that Generals like General James T. Conway have no concept about what is going on in the minds of enlisted men like myself and bigoted Generals like Conway should be discharged as unfit for service; furthermore, whatever the sexual orientation is for men and women of the armed forces, it should have no bearing whatsoever on their fitness for military service.

This US Army during the George W. Bush Era was greatly politicized by the Bush Administration, based on the ideology of its officers, and President Barack Obama had better do something about that pretty damn quick. The idiotic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the American Military Establishment has proven over the years since it was implemented during the Clinton Administration, to be exceedingly detrimental to the US Armed Forces and to the defense of the American Democratic Republic. Discharges for military heroes solely because of their homosexual orientation must stop now.

It is time for the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief of the American Armed Forces, to acknowledge that sexual orientation has nothing to do with serving your country and facing enemy bullets. Just as President Truman eliminated racial discrimination in the Armed Forces, President Obama has to act against homophobic mistreatment of America’s military personnel and eliminate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the Armed Forces.

HOW TO LEARN TO LOVE PARIS

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Paris is my favorite city; I have been there a number of times and once lived there for a month in April and May. Everyone wants to know why I love Paris and it is difficult to explain that it is simply the personality of the city; it is the sights, the sounds, the smell, the feel of Paris; it is all around you.

It is difficult for me to tell another person what they should do and see in Paris because each person has different interests; my advise would be to purchase a travel book of Paris and determine your priorities of what you want to see and do before you arrive; perhaps, however, I can be of some help explaining what travel folders do not.

First of all there are time limitations; it is necessary to determine the length of the your stay and what it is possible to see and do in that time period. It is necessary to determine priorities for me because I rarely get to do all that I plan. Plans are often changed because of weather or change because of an act of God (like a railroad strike?).

The appeal of Paris to me is the art, culture, and history. I do like French cuisine; however I cook and have that at home. I like entertainment but that is usually available to me at home. I am into Paris life, Parisian culture, history, and people-watching.

Public transportation is fantastic in Paris; there is the Metro (subway) and buses. There are also taxis, but the Metro can get you anywhere in the city in minutes and the buses are like a private tour of Paris monuments.

In order to find your way and know which bus or Metro to take, you should buy a wonderful red book entitled Paris par arrondissement, available in Paris book stores and at Amazon Books on the net. (Note: an arrondissement is a subdivision of Paris) The book gives you a street map of the entire city, including Metro stations and the book includes routes of all the Metro trains and buses.

For public transportation, I would offer a word of advice. Each Metro line has locations at each end where the line ends; these locations are how you determine which direction the train is going. For example if you are going from someplace on line 13 to another place on line 13, and you find the station for line 13, there will be trains going in two directions; you must know whether your destination is toward St. Denis Universite or Chatillon Montrouge and take the 13 train labeled to go toward that place.

Americans tend to always want to rent cars; forget it, there is no place to park.

Various passes are offered for public transportation; 1 day pass, a 3 day pass, or a 1 week pass is offered. They work on Metro or bus. The passes are worth the savings if you plan to move around a lot; I do. Primarily, I walk, however.

A wonderful day in Paris for me is to take the Metro to the Rue Mouffetard Market, walk through it and then northwest past the Pantheon to Boulevard Saint Michelle and through the entrance to Jardin du Luxembourg and Palais du Luxembourg (where the French Senate convenes), spend time there, then back to Saint Michelle and go north to Place de Sorbonne (next to the Sorbonne) for dinner in a restaurant there. After dinner I would go further north on Saint Michelle to Place St. Michelle where I would find a sidewalk table, have a drink, and watch evening people for several hours. In all honesty, that would not be exciting for many people and they would not see the sites famous in Paris that are found in most tour books; however, that is simply what I do every trip to Paris. Boulevard Saint Michell and Boulevard Saint Germain are my favorite streets for walking; you can often find restaurants where Hemingway or Picasso hung out on those streets; also, the streets look like Paris should.

That said, back to main attractions. Everyone should take time to walk on the Avenue des Champs Elysees; the Arc de Triomphe on the west end and the Place de la Concorde and the Jandin des Tuileries on the east end. Depends how interested you are and if you have the time.

The Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) can be seen from many places in Paris. If you want to go to the top, it is necessary to go to the bottom first, of course; then buy a ticket and sometimes wait in line. The Tower has multiple levels and from the top you can see a lot of things, but they are very, very tiny. It takes a fair amount of time to go there and go to the top; plan accordingly (personally, I have acrophobia but I have been to the terrifying top–once). The Eiffel Tower is in the 7th Arrondissement next to the Seine River and close by is the tomb of Napoleon and the Army Museum if that is of interest.

Of course, the Louvre (Musee Louvre) is a huge attraction for art enthusiasts; it has the Da Vinci Mona Lisa painting. It is frequently crowded with lines and you can spend a lot of time there. For contemporary art, the d’Orsay Museum (Musee d’Orsay) is fantastic. There are so many art museums in Paris it would take a long time to see them all. Personally, I enjoyed the Picasso Museum and the Rodin Museum; both in former palaces and enjoyable if you care for those artists. If you like modern art, go to the National d’Art Moderne (Modern Art Museum) at the Centre G. Pompidou (Pompidou Center); the building itself is interesting.

There are two islands in the Seine River in the middle of Paris, Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis; south of the river is the “Left Bank”. (Hint; restaurants are less expensive on the left bank.) On Ile de la Cite is Notre Dame and Ste. Chappelle, if churches interest you. Notre Dame is almost a must see and it is conveniently located across the Seine from Place St. Michelle were I enjoy people-watching. Both churches are worth seeing and Paris is full of churches.

Another church that is a must see in my estimation is the Basilica Sacre Coeur in the north end of Paris on a hill, the Montmarte. The Montmarte is the mountain of the martyrs; the martyrs, according to the story, had their heads chopped off at the bottom of the hill, they picked them up and ran up the hill carrying their heads, and then dropped dead right where the Sacre Coeur was built. The Montmarte is also the artists quarter (Place du Tetre) and is right next to the Sacre Coeur; there are lots of artists there selling their paintings. Picasso and other famous artists had studios there at one time.

There is shopping everywhere, of course, but more famous at les Halles and the posh Galeries Lafayette. Check out shopping in a tour guide on Paris (AAA Travel or any book store); I’m not a shopper really but window shopping in Paris is fun.

There are a number of places just outside of Paris that might be of interest; Palaces at Versailles and Fontainebleau and Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny. It means taking trains and travel time is an all day affair.

There are two opera houses in Paris, the old one, Palais Garnier, and the new one, L’Opera de la Bastille. The old one is very old and grand and I attended Opera Garnier one evening for a (cheap) student ballet there, just to enjoy the theater (it is the opera house of the Phantom of the Opera); it is a delightful building.

There are lots of nice hotels in Paris and I have stayed in a number of them; my favorite is now called the Best Western of Paris Est and is actually in the Gare de l’Est (East Train Station) which was very convenient; it was where I arrived by train from Switzerland.

Should you be interested in old cemeteries, the Pere Lachaice cemetery is a great one; lots of famous people planted there.

My advice to anyone going to Paris would be to get a travel book about it, decide what your priorities are and plan your stay. It is not a place where you can see it all in one day, there is just too much to see. I know nothing about neither the night life nor gourmet restaurants, by choice.

Get the weather reports for your stay and plan museums for rainy days if any are expected. I have spent many rainy days in Paris and it did not affect my stay at all; I can go anywhere in the rain with an umbrella but it is more comfortable to be inside when it is raining.

So many people that I know, talk about the French mistreating them or being rude. I have not have a really bad experience in Paris. The people treated me very nice and I do not speak French at all; when I tried though, I think they appreciated it. The Parisians were very nice to me and if they spoke any English at all, they were very friendly.

It is helpful when in Paris to be able to say please, thank you, hello, goodbye, and where is the toilet, in French. By the way, some restaurants and businesses still have Turkish Toilets, which are simply holes in the floor and places to put your feet; in this case, it is somewhat of an advantage to be a man I have been told. No further comment. Hey, you are in Paris, be a Parisian.

Personally, I think it is important to ask for certain things in the native language and be polite about it. If you ask for the check in a restaurant use French, L’addition s’il vous plait”; it sounds a lot nicer and friendlier to the waiter than, “Hey, I want the bill” in English; say it in French even it that is the only French you know. It is their country; I always want them to know that I appreciate my experiences in their country. I go out to them; buy a French phrase book with phonic pronounciation and carry it with you.

Also learn their customs; French waiters will not bring your check until you ask for it. They also expect you to take your time eating and they take time between courses. They are not slow, they simply expect you to take an hour or more to have dinner; you are supposed to savor the last course before the next one and they will not try to push you out to make the table available for another guest. I found that custom enjoyable.

It is a good idea to learn French words for different kinds of food, if you can, in order to read menus. At least know beef, ham, pork, lamb, chicken, shrimp, mussels, and horse (good to know horse before you eat it, in case you would rather not); don’t expect to find French fries on the menu, you are more likely to see pomme frites.

Eating out is expensive in Paris and all of Europe. French food is good. Basically, I found the cheapest food in Paris is bread, cheese, and wine; it was paradise for me. Wine was often less expensive than mineral water; I found I could enjoy being very frugal.

Europeans, including the French, are very polite people and clerks in little shops in Paris greet you with hello and tell you goodbye when you leave; they like it when you reciprocate in French. It makes you look good. I got used to it and think it’s a good idea.

Euros are the monetary currency; in the exchange, you will find the dollar has little value today– bummer. Keep some change with you, some toilets cost to use them and if it has an attendant she expects a tip. Be careful with Euro coins; there are 1 Euro, 2 Euro, and 5 Euro coins; it ain’t small change. Most of all, enjoy yourself; you are in Paris.

A DEFINITIVE REPUBLICAN POLITICAL PARTY

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

In the American democratic Republic, no one is required to get married or have an abortion.

Is it possible that Americans can possibly tolerate or even comprehend a political entity that insists that the best government is less government and in the same breath wants government to extend its power to prevent gay marriage and make abortion illegal; Republican Party members are a confused people of contradictions?

FALLOUT FROM PASSAGE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE REFORM

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

With the Passage of Health Care Reform, yesterday, America became the last of the Western industrial nations in the world to provide a form of universal health care for its citizens. Looking to the immediate future, this legislation is bound to have a much greater affect on the American people than simply making health care available to most of the American people. Historically, the impact of any social legislation has always been much greater than its original intent.

When the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt first passed far reaching social reform legislation in 1933, President Roosevelt was berated, hated, condemned, cursed, threatened, and reviled by his Republican opponents; Franklin Roosevelt was reelected a record three times and is remembered as one of America’s greatest Presidents.

Republicans today are still cursing Franklin Roosevelt’s Social Security, regulation of the banks, the forty-hour work week for labor, and Federal Housing Authority to no avail and most often, they do it quietly in private.

It will be interesting in the present to observe how the American people are going to react to the opponents of today’s Health Care reform. Will they cast their next vote for Republican Congressmen who were so vehemently opposed the American people and their children and grandchildren, friends and neighbors finally having access to some form of medical care.

How are the American people going to react to those physicians who opposed the Health Care Reform and would have instead denied adequate health care to American’s children, grandchildren, parents, neighbors, and friends?

God bless the late American President Franklin D. Roosevelt; his memory casts a huge shadow over America and the fallout from America’s Health Care Reform today.

God bless the American democratic Republic.

YESTERDAY’S HEADLINE AND COMMENTARY

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Yesterday’s headline: “Men Produce 1500 Sperm In A Second, Scientists Discover.”

Commentary: Damn, I finally discovered something that I can do quickly. I am not totally surprised by the findings however, some ex-wives have mentioned my speed in the past but in a negative context; jealousy, I imagine. Unfortunately, now that I know I reach speeds of 1500/second, the little guys have no place to go.

QUALITY OR NOT, PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN AMERICA ARE POLITICIZED AND THAT’S BAD

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

In an opinion column in the Washington Post, George Will wrote “Why Can’t Uncle Same Learn”. Will is critical of the Federal Government’s failed attempt to improve the public schools of the fifty States; he does have just cause for concern but since he is not an educator, he fully doesn’t understand why. Will’s error is that he mistakenly believes the purpose of public education is to train labor for corporate America and he believes the public schools should be judged on “Cognitive Output”. Wills thinking is precisely one of the problem of the public schools.

In a rare moment, Will praises President Obama, saying, “Obama wisely proposes broadening the focus beyond reading and math . . .” Will fails to understand that President Obama is not an educator either; Obama’s teaching Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law school is a far cry from public school education. Both Will and Obama are wrong is assuming “Cognitive Output” is a proper outcome of Public Education. Cognitive Learning is a minor part of public education and Affective Learning and Motor Learning is far more important. The real evaluation of the schools should be measured by the graduates’ ability to cope with the social and economic challenges of the Twenty-First Century, instead of regurgitating facts committed to memory without any concept of the value of those facts for surviving life’s challenges.

The concept that public education is preparing students to labor in a capitalistic competitive economy or prepare for professional studies is ridiculous; of course, public education is very beneficial to employers but the purpose of public education should be for the benefit of students and not an education to be “used” by employers in the market place. The purpose of public schools is exceedingly important for the purpose of evaluating their success.

Another of today’s great problems of public schools is the very basis of Will’s opinion article; Federal interest in and support for the public schools, over the last forty years, has been responsible for much meddling in public schools by politicians. Like Will, the politicians are not educators and as a consequence tend to perpetuate the very ills affecting the schools rather than eliminating them. Before the 1960s, it was deemed proper to keep politics out of the public schools; those were better days.

President Obama’s appointment of Arne Duncan to be Secretary of Education was a tragic error of judgment. Arne Duncan was a professional athlete who, like the President, never has had to assume the responsibility for the education a class of thirty five students in a public school situation; Duncan changed careers going from professional athlete to Superintendent of Schools in Chicago. His only qualification for his appointment to Secretary of Education was that the scores of Chicago students on tests of Cognitive Learning increased while he was Superintendent; as peviously indicated, Cognitive Learning is actually a minor aspect of public education but something politicians can observe in terms of comparative numbers and that gives them the feeling that they actually know something about quality education.

However, measuring the success of public education based on student cognitive achievement tests is not a valid judge of the schools or the teachers. Therefore, as a professional educator, I could never endorse the policy of President Obama, Secretary Duncan, or George Will.

As a life long career educator in public education, I believe that I am aware of the problems and benefit of the public schools. Though there are many wonderful public schools and many dedicated teachers in America, I would be the first to say that I have known of some really terrible schools and some really terrible teachers. Unfortunately, the basic problem in education is that the teachers, parents, citizens, and politicians do not agree of what a good or a bad school is nor what a good or bad teacher is. The best judge of teachers and schools would be the students, however, it would be difficult for students to express their judgment in responsible quantitative terms.

Everyone wants to evaluate schools and teachers but literally no one agrees in what is excellence in public education. The only accurate evaluation of schools or teachers is whether or not students are successful and satisfied in living the rest of their life; there is considerable evidence that students of public schools are experiencing success indicating that public schools are better than the politicians have indicated. It is too bad that if the public schools were successful, then there is nothing the politicians could do to improve them and they would have no campaign issues.

Personally writing this response to George Will, created a dilemma for me; I was forced to agree to some extent with Will’s criticism and disagree to some extent with President Obama’s policy and that is very unlike me.

REPUBLICAN BIRTHERS AN ENIGMA

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Republican Birthers in America continue to badger Hawaii for copies of President Obama’s birth certificate because they still believe that their President was NOT born in the United States, even though Barack Obama presented his legal birth certificate as proof that he WAS; Sen. John McCain was NOT born in the United States, he freely admits it, and he has a birth certificate to prove it but the Birthers insist that Sen. McCain WAS born in the United States. I am betting even money that the Birthers all devoutly believe that Jesus Christ was born as a result of an immaculate conception and yet not one Birther has seen nor asked to see a copy of Jesus’ birth certificate.

The Birthers are a part of the epidemic of Republican delusion going on in the United States, today; probably, terrorists are putting some sophisticated pollutant into the Nation’s drinking water that causes only a Republican mind set to react and say no to any progress, see death panels in the dark, believe that Enron is a sanctified gift from their capitalist God, and question whether or not a Democrat could actually be born. Unfortunately, there is no cure for stupidity even when it results from drinking polluted water.

SAGE ADVICE FROM THE MORAL MINORITY

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Laughter is good for your soul and for your moral fiber; it is impossible to laugh and fornicate at the same time.

ABOUT SUFFERING THE LOSS OF LIFE

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Alas, again, I will be deprived of one hour of my precious life by those higher powers that enslave me; tonight I shall be forced to spring forward my clock by 60 precious minutes to be lost forever.  Oh God, where are you when I need you most?