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. . . for the sake of the institution . . .

by: teacherken

Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 07:03:28 AM EDT

It takes many forms:

The Blue Wall of Silence

We must protect the church

We clean up our own messes

You will weaken the Presidency/administration in a time of war/crisis/national emergency

An outsider cannot understand

You will take away the motivation to take risks

... and you can offer your own version . . .

It is the excuse not to public identify wrongdoers or to be subject to outside oversight or to allow criminal investigation and prosecution

The claim is that to do so will weaken the Police Force / Church / Military / Business / Organization

The claim is wrong.  And failure to fully investigate and expose weakens the institution, because it inevitably leads to an arrogance and the same or similar behavior continues, or happens again. . . and again . . . and again. . .

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Cohen and Robinson (and teacherken) - thoughts on health care

by: teacherken

Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 06:51:17 AM EST

All the fear-mongering talk of "nationalizing" 17 percent of the economy is nonsense. Government, through Medicare and Medicaid, is already administering almost half of American health care and doing so with less waste than the private sector. Per capita Medicare costs for common benefits grew 4.9 percent between 1998 and 2008, against 7.1 percent for private insurers. Why not offer Medicare as a choice - a choice - to everyone? Aren't Republicans about choice?

That is from Roger Cohen's NY Times column, THe Narcissus Society

If the party is going to take a political hit anyway, it might as well get the benefits -- which are considerable.

That is from Eugene Robinsons' Washington Post column, Democrats: Find your spines and pass health reform.

It seems as if editorial voices are more than ready for health care reform.

So am I.

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On this day . . . . on any day . . . .

by: teacherken

Sat Jan 30, 2010 at 08:57:38 AM EST

Regular readers of my diaries are aware that it is not unusual for me to focus on an event of the day, perhaps a birthday, a death, an important event.  Some days, such as the birth of Beethoven (Dec 16) or Mozart (Jan 27) are ingrained in my DNA as one intimately involved with music since my earliest years.  Others, such as the 1963 Civil Rights March (Aug 28) I know because I was there.  Then of course there are the personal dates -  the birthdays of my spouse (Jan 29) and me (May 23), or of our shared events (encountering one another at the Bryn Mawr train station - Sept 21;  1st date - Sept 27; wedding - Dec 29).

Each day I check on the events connected with the date, in part because as  teacher I often find teachable moments, perhaps for my students, perhaps in my writing.  I use a number of sites, among which is Scope Systems (which is sometimes a bit off, so I do crosscheck their info).

This morning I cannot focus on one event - I find myself overwhelmed with history.  

Let me explain

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This is personal

by: teacherken

Wed Dec 23, 2009 at 22:11:22 PM EST

although perhaps not in the sense that some may expect.  I cannot help that.  As I write this, 2 days before Christmas and one day before the historic vote in the Senate, I am in a somewhat reflective mood, fed in part by jotter, or rather, his daily listing of diaries.  Jotter includes top ten lists from the previous two years ago, and that led to my rereading two things I have written in the past few years.  

Two years ago today I wrote It's not the stuff of which dreams are made. in which I explored how the dream of generations of most Americans that their children would live better than they did was being - or already was - lost.   That is almost a year before the final financial meltdown of 2008.  And in rereading the diary and the comments, I encountered a reference to one of the more cogent diaries I have written, Teaching is my essential political action.  Rereading those two diaries, at the same time as I am reading David Plouffe's The Audacity to Win cause me to step back and reflect.  This diary is the product of that reflection.

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Seven Score and Six Years ago

by: teacherken

Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:01:36 AM EST

a president addressed an audience for approximately 3 minutes with words that have since become an essential part of America's understanding of itself.

It was at the dedication of a cemetery honoring the dead of both sides, at the site of a battle a little more than 4 months earlier, a battle after which Union victory was perhaps inevitable, Lee's second and final foray North - an attempt to seize Harrisburg to cut off supplies to the West, had been driven back.

Many of my generation - I am 63 - can remember being required to memorize the 268 words (in the version on the wall of a Memorial in our national Capital), some of which are regularly included as part of the words of others.

The time since is now more than twice as long as I have lived.  They are words on which complete books have been written, most notably that of Garry Wills: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America.   And they are the words - Lincoln's words, to be sure, but also ours, as Americans - on which I wish to reflect this morning.

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Race - a reflection on fear and more.

by: teacherken

Sat Oct 10, 2009 at 07:16:17 AM EDT

( - promoted by teacherken)

I believe this applies to our current president and his most vocal critics. If he is framed as the foreigner, incarnate evil and indoctrinating Nazi, many won't have to acknowledge that he may just be smart, sophisticated and a devout patriot. God forbid.

And if he is, what does that make them?

That is the conclusion of a thought=provoking piece at Alternet by Jonathan L. Walton, an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of California, Riverside.  It's title is Why Conservatives Are Really Afraid of a Black President and I think you might find it worth your while to read - and reflect upon - what Walton has to offer.

I will below the fold offer a few more snips to entice you, and a few observations from this 63-year-old white man who grew up in an upper middle class family and whose wife is in part a Mayflower descendant.  If you merely read the Walton, however, I will be more than satisfied.

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Grundy VA - another Remote Area Medical - Missions of Mercy event

by: teacherken

Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 21:34:51 PM EDT

I write this partway up the mountainside, in a small motel called the Appalachian Inn, where my room is small but comfortable.  It has a shower, but not a bath, which my aching legs could really use.  I am again volunteering at a RAM-MOM medical and dental fair in Appalachia.  

We were supposed to set up this afternoon.  In dental triage we saw well over 100 people, perhaps over 150, with many getting x-rays so that early tomorrow morning we could start treatment.

I saw some familiar faces among the dentists, met some new ones, and talked with Stan Brock, founder of RAM.

And at a time when some on the Hill still pretend to argue that we do not need major medical reform in this country, I yet again come face to face with the reality that gives the lie to that hackneyed political rhetoric.

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I should probably be asleep instead of writing this

by: teacherken

Wed Sep 30, 2009 at 18:50:11 PM EDT

( - promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

but I have been online struggling with email problems with earthlink via chat, and there are a few things rattling around my mind, and what the heck.

I think the Burns series on the National Parks is quite good, but it is a trip watching it with my wife - whom I am trying to get to post a diary - because she is an expert on much of this history, and was responsible for making some of the photos you are seeing publicly available.  I take great delight in drawing attention to the good work of others - part of the teacher in me.

That is the only good thing I can offer right now, because I am greatly troubled.  The doings in Senate Finance perhaps makes me realize why.

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... to one of the least of these...

by: teacherken

Sun Aug 30, 2009 at 05:02:43 AM EDT

I was hungry ... thirsty ... a stranger ... naked ...  sick ... in prison

The words are from the Gospel passage read at the funeral of Ted Kennedy was Matthew 25:31-45.  It is one of the most important passages in the Christian Bible.  In the Orthodox Church it is the Gospel read for the Sunday of the Last Judgment, commemorated during the lead-up to Great Lent.  It is read on the Sunday upon which after Vespers that evening one give up meat - thus it is also known as Meatfare Sunday.

And it is considered by many the standard to be used to determine if one is truly living the Christian faith.  It is the issue examined in James 14:26, which examines how we treat the one who is naked and without food,or dying of thirst, and concludes So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.

We are not a Christian nation.  For those that claim that we are, do not they acknowledge how badly we fail the test of Matthew 25?

This diary is written by one who does not consider himself a Christian, but acknowledges being shaped in part by Christian values.   It is an examination of America through the lens of Matthew 25.

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The real issues of national security

by: teacherken

Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 16:45:40 PM EDT

( - promoted by kindler)

originally posted at Daily Kos, and the links are to the versions of diaries there

The third [freedom] is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

FDR spoke those words on January 6, 1941.  It was part of his aspirations for all peoples, all over the world.  

Until we can make those words true here, at home, in the United States of America, we as a society and the governments we have elected have failed to provide the true security of this nation and its people.

a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants


Physical health. Mental Health.

Healthy food, water and air.

Economic security.

This is the moral issue I wish to explore.

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"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

by: teacherken

Thu Jul 16, 2009 at 08:08:07 AM EDT

There were no headlines announcing it, but on this day in 1945 the world changed irrevocably.  It was at Alamagordo, New Mexico.  Local time, at 5:29:45 the world's first nuclear device was exploded, the near Northern edge of what is now the White Sands Missile Range. And the world was changed forever.

Trinity was an implosion device, fueled as would be second bomb at Nagasaki with Plutonium.  It had the force of about 20 kilotons of TNT.  

The test was under the supervision of Kenneth Bainbridge of Harvard, himself overseen by George Kistiakowsky, who as an explosive experts had solved how to make the compression of the hollow sphere of plutonium work perfectly.

When the test worked, Bainbridge told Robert Oppenheimer, Now we are all sons of bitches."  Later Oppenheimer said what he thought, when they experienced the results of the test, words from the sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita:

I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
 And so the Nuclear Age began, 64 years ago today.
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Holding On to Our Humanity

by: teacherken

Sat May 30, 2009 at 06:41:37 AM EDT

( - promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

cross-posted from Daily Kos

A simple title, is it not?  Yet the implications are immense.  The demand not to turn away, or shut our eyes and ears to the suffering of others.

That is the topic of Bob Herbert's column this morning, entitled as is this diary, Holding On to Our Humanity.  You need not read any further in this diary, because I have provided the link to Herbert, and I now tell you to go read.  Not convinced?  Then try his first paragraph:

Overload is a real problem. There is a danger that even the most decent of people can grow numb to the unending reports of atrocities occurring all around the globe. Mass rape. Mass murder. Torture. The institutionalized oppression of women.

I will quote more, but not enough.  And I will offer a few words of my own.  But again, if you have read all of Herbert, you can stop.  I am satisfied.

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One Year More and I'll Be Sixty-four

by: teacherken

Sat May 23, 2009 at 13:59:47 PM EDT

originally posted at Daily Kos early this morning

So perhaps I can ask on this, my 63rd birthday

Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When i'm sixty-four

I am posting this from a hotel room just off the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville.  For this birthday we are going to a farm, the Polyface farm about which Michael Pollan writes in The Omnivore's Dilemma and tonight we will have dinner at a restaurant which buys from Polyface.  My wife will not tell me which one.

I like to take some time to reflect as each birthday comes upon me.  This year is no different, except now they seem to come more rapidly as what is left of my life scrolls by.

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War's Psychic Toll

by: teacherken

Tue May 19, 2009 at 10:24:01 AM EDT

originally posted at Daily Kos

"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it."
  So Robert E. Lee spoke looking at the slaughter of the Union troops as they failed in their assault on Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg.  But in our current wars we do not fully look at the slaughter.  For too long we hide the returning corpses.  Too few of us see the broken bodies.

And then there are the broken souls, the shattered psyches.

The psychic toll of this foolish and apparently endless war has been profound since day one. And the nation's willful denial of that toll has been just as profound.
  So writes Bob Herbert in a New York Times column offered in response to the shooting deaths at a mental health center for US military in Baghdad.  In War's Psychic Toll he reminds us of how few are bearing these burdens.  I want to extract a few more quotes and offer a few thoughts of my own.  I invite you to continue reading.
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Columbine after 10 years - a teacher reflects

by: teacherken

Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 09:19:38 AM EDT

cross-posted from Daily Kos

April 20, 1999.  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. 12 students and teacher David Sanders, who bled to death while the police secured the perimeter.  A nation shocked at another mass shooting at a school.  But not shocked enough to change the gun culture that shortly less than 8 years later saw the even larger death toll at Virginia Tech.

I am in a school system which has seen its fair share of violence. One middle school at which I taught had two gun incidents in the same year.  At the Christmas party my first year at my current school, my wife asked the two police officers with duty for the school why they had to carry their guns and in unison they both said "We have to, the kids have them" although most will leave them locked in their cars.  The attempt to ban guns at schools by Federal statute was overturned by SCOTUS in the Lopez case.  And since Virginia Tech we have seen people arguing that students on college campuses should be allowed to carry concealed, or at least the faculty.  Does that mean 18 year old students and teachers should also be carrying?

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