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xcurmudgeon

Username: teacherken
PersonId: 7
Created: Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 23:19:51 PM EDT
teacherken's RSS Feed
Email: kber at earthlink dot net

Bio:
teacher/blogger who is nuts about music

. . . 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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Early Saturday morning - just a few not so random thoughts

by: teacherken

Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 19:13:37 PM EDT

apologies - somehow forgot to crosspost this here on time, as you can tell by the title, but it is an appropriate followup to my last diary here

It is 4:30 in the morning. I am packing, dressing, and about to leave for my 2nd and final day of the Mission of Mercy project in Roanoke, where I will spend from 6 to 3 or so in dental triage.  As I was going to sleep last night I came to several realizations which I wish to share.

You may agree.

You may disagree.

Hell, you may chose not to keep reading.

It is what is on my mind.

So here goes

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Mission of Mercy - Roanoke: another health care diary

by: teacherken

Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 19:03:41 PM EDT

posted at Daily Kos, Blue Virginia, and Blue Commonwealth

I sit in a house of a friend, in Roanoke County, VA, having just finished the first of two days of volunteering at yet another Mission of Mercy, the free dental projects put on by the Virginia Dental Society, this at the Civic Center in the city of Roanoke.  Yes, as of this week, we have new laws revising health insurance coverage in this nation.  Yet the need for care for many remains unaddressed, and will remain unaddressed for some time to come.  After all, we still insist on separating dental health from general health.  The changes in health insurance by themselves do little to address the crisis of dental health, or the lack thereof, for many in this country.

I am neither a dental or a medical professional.  I volunteer in dental triage, helping with paperwork and patient flow so that the volunteer dentists with whom I work can devote more of their time to patient care.  I have done so in Wise VA in July, Grundy in October, and Springfield 2 weeks ago.  And I will return to Wise in July, which is why I will for the first time not be at our annual gathering, this the 5th back at the site of the 1st in Las Vegas.

I have a few thoughts to offer below the fold, which I invite you to read.

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'All politics is personal'

by: teacherken

Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 16:56:54 PM EDT

Another Speaker, Tip O'Neill once said: 'All politics is local.'  And I say to you tonight that when it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.

So said Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sunday night.  And I agree.  It is, and it should be personal.

But it should not be personal in the way we saw with the kinds of attacks and slurs that were part of the actions of Tea Party members and their supporters among Republicans in Congress.

I take these slurs and attacks personally.  So should you.

While I may be a generous and understanding person on differences of personal belief, my generosity does not extend to when you demean and attack those about whom I care.

So let me tell you why this is personal to me, the health care and the slurs.

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A Ruinous Meltdown

by: teacherken

Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 07:04:12 AM EDT

Taxes are being raised. Draconian cuts in services are being made. Public employees are being fired. The tissue-thin national economic recovery is being undermined. And in many cases, the most vulnerable populations - the sick, the elderly, the young and the poor - are getting badly hurt.

What, you say, Obama isn't raising taxes, not even on the wealthy.

Not yet.  And that is not the issue.  Because the quote, the 2nd paragraph is  Bob Herbert's column this morning, is about state governments, and local governments, and especially schools.   Believe me, I know.

I am, after all, a school teacher.  Our system is cutting over 200 teaching jobs.  Those on 12 or 11th month contract are being furloughed for 10 days, those on 10 months (most teachers including me) for 5.  

And that was announced BEFORE we found out that further cuts are forthcoming in the state funding for our districts.

But this is not about me, or other teachers.  It is about children, about the sick and the elderly, about the least well off.  And more.

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Hate has no place in the house of God.

by: teacherken

Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 14:11:51 PM EDT

That is the first line of a remarkable op ed in Friday's Washington Post.  The author is the former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa, Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, and in In Africa, a step backward on human rights he excoriates mistreatment of gays in Kenya, an he takes apart proposed legislation in countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi that are horrid in their approach towards gays.  As the Archbishop puts it,
These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.

for human rights - not gay rights, but human rights.

He is correct, which is why everyone should know what this man of God has to offer on this subject.  I also think his words are far broader than the immediate issue which is their occasion.

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Mission of Mercy - NoVa: a health care diary

by: teacherken

Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 19:17:05 PM EST

Today is a Friday.  Normally I would have just completed a day with my students.  Instead I have done something at least as important as teach.  I have just returned from a day of volunteering in dental triage at the Mission of Mercy event at the Medical College of Northern Virginia Community College in Springfield.   This is my third time, the first at a dental only event (those at Wise and Grundy were held in conjunction with Remote Area Medical).

Springfield is in Fairfax County, a wealthy jurisdiction of the DC metro area, a community very different from those of rural Appalachia in which I had previously volunteered.  

And yet, the need was just as great as in Wise and in Grundy.  

I ask that you continue reading as I share my impressions of the day.

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Reflection

by: teacherken

Sat Mar 06, 2010 at 09:34:28 AM EST

It is a Saturday morning.  By yesterday afternoon I was so exhausted I left school without some of what I need to plan, albeit only for Thursday and Friday for my AP classes.  When I got home I was too tired to sleep -  the conflict between desperately needing sleep and being unable to fall asleep.  So I began to reflect, a process that continued subconsciously when I finally slept, and during the two times I awoke during that almost ten hour before I awoke a short time ago.

Reflection can be a deliberate process, a slowing down, stepping back, examination of things about oneself, around oneself.  My training as a teacher has always included that as an essential element.  It can also be something else - a not fully rational process, something operating almost in the background while one is in the midst of doing other things, but which arises and insists on full attention when one ceases the activities which have kept in in the background.  

I find I now want my reflection to be deliberate.  For that to happen, I write.  So it is this morning.  Hence this diary.

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Krugman - forget about Bunning

by: teacherken

Fri Mar 05, 2010 at 10:46:41 AM EST

Yeah, I know his column today is labeled Senator Bunning's Universe, but consider this paragraph:  
Here's what Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, had to say when defending Mr. Bunning's position (although not joining his blockade): unemployment relief "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."

So Kyl is against the social safety net unemployment compensation provides.  And ignores the fact that one can be seeking work but unless there are jobs incentives and disincentives are irrelevant.  Which is why wee need stimuli and jobs packages.  

Oh wait, he opposes those as well?

As usual with our favorite recent Nobel economist, there is more.  I urge you to read his column.  I will explore a wee bit more, and offer a bit of commentary of my own.

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How far are we willing to let the police go?

by: teacherken

Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 06:40:23 AM EST

You are walking down the street.  You are stopped, ordered to spread, frisked by police, your identity checked, and questioned.  There was no probable cause to stop you, this is a random check.  You are found carrying no weapons or drugs, your identity does not bring up any hits on wants or warrants.

So other than the indignity - visited far more often on young Black and Hispanic men than anyone else - other than the demeaning nature of the encounter, it's over, right?

WRONG.  All of your biographical information will now be stored indefinitely by the New York City police in a data base

"used primarily by department investigators during the course of a criminal investigation"
according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

If you are not shocked by this, why not?  Whether or not you are, you should read Bob Herbert's column today, Watching Certain People, which will be the basis of this posting.

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Ravitch: The Death and Life of the Great American School System

by: teacherken

Sun Feb 28, 2010 at 08:32:00 AM EST

My support for NCLB remained strong until November 30, 2006.  I can pinpoint the date exactly because that was the day I realized that NCLB was a failure.

This is a book review.  Those words appear on p.99, which however odd a starting point is critical.  I learned about this event contemporaneously from the late Gerald Bracey, who informed some of us by email and many more in this Huffington Post blog.  At a conference at the American Enterprise Institute called to answer the question of whether No Child Left Behind was working, we learn from Bracey

Charged with summarizing the day, former assistant secretary of education for Bush I, Diane Ravitch, declared that the answer to the conference title's question was clearly, "No!"

That began an intellectual transformation that leads to the outstanding new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.  I will explore the book, the author and the implications of her transformation.

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If we are going to have national standards in education

by: teacherken

Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 06:11:42 AM EST

then something that should be included, for teachers and administrators, as well as students, are these words:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

They were written by Robert Jackson, as part of the opinion of the Court, in the 1943 (note the date) case of WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ET AL. v. BARNETTE ET AL., 319 U.S. 624.   And recent events in a school in the DC suburb makes it clear why everyone should know about this case.

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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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If CPAC is going to have the John Birch Society present

by: teacherken

Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 19:04:57 PM EST

perhaps some music from the 1960s is relevant.  Here's the Chad Mitchell Trio, with a song that was - gasp - banned from the radio (I wonder why???):

If you need explanations, go below the fold

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When stints on payroll hurt the jobless

by: teacherken

Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 07:51:48 AM EST

After nearly a year without work, Gary LaPlante was happy to take a three-week construction job. What he didn't know was that the job would cost him more than two-thirds of his benefits when he went back on unemployment.

So begins this Boston Globe story, titled as is this posting, and subtitled Temporary wages lower the calculation for unemployment benefits.  Why?  

Workers who seek to renew their benefits for a second year - not uncommon during this recession - are finding that their new benefits are based on their most recent wages, even if it was low pay for temporary or part-time work.

In this case LaPlante saw his benefits slashed from more than $600/wk to $178/week.

Which leads me to the following observation:  When a government policy discourages people from from taking responsibility for themselves, that policy needs to be reconsidered.

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... thinking of the young people . . .

by: teacherken

Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 16:33:59 PM EST

I sit in my living room on a day when I expected to see my students for the first time after a ten-day absence due to weather.  Not to be - yesterday evening we were informed that students were not coming to school today, although all staff are required to be there on a two-hour delay - in a sense this is a make-up day for last Friday, which was to be a professional day for teachers.  Yet the lateness of the decision will cause major problems in our school, because today was to be the makeup day for our science fair - originally schedule for last Wednesday - and I now wonder about our ability to get anything close to the normal compliment of outside judges our fair normally draws, an important part of the experience for a school that has within the past decade had the national winner.

I worry about my students, for the loss of continuity in their education.  And with time to reflect, I also worry on their behalf for the loss of continuity in our governance.  Only weather is less of an excuse for the Congress and Administration..  And the damage it done to the future of those students - who are the future of this nation - is potentially far greater than one school year with excessive disruptions due to weather.

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Nuclear weapons - we are still not safe

by: teacherken

Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 07:36:02 AM EST

James Carroll offers in today's Boston Globe an op ed Nuclear sites vulnerable to break-ins in which we read:
Six anti-nuclear activists climbed over an outer fence at Kleine Brogel Air Base, then cut their way through a pair of inner fences, and wandered around the "highly secure'' base for up to an hour, tracking a route through the snow of more than one kilometer, and ultimately coming within yards of the storage bunker where the nukes are held - all this before being challenged by a guard. They videotaped their unimpeded walk-through of one of the most "secure'' compounds in the world. Guards finally arrested them and confiscated their camera, but, in yet another show of ineptitude, not before the activists were able to remove its video-card. They posted their caper on YouTube.

And yet, this is a base at which similar entries have been attempted regularly for many years by an anti-nuclear group called Bombspotting

Let me offer more from Carroll, and some observations of my own, but first:

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McKibben: Washington's snowstorms, brought to you by global warming

by: teacherken

Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:04:27 AM EST

It won't matter to the likes of Sen. Inhofe, who has his grandkids build an igloo next to the Capitol and label it "Al Gore's New Home."  Bill McKibben is realistic about that.  

And for those who want to harp on emails and some errors in isolation, it probably also won't matter, although as McKibben reminds us,

The British newspaper the Guardian just concluded a huge series on the "Climategate" e-mails with the words: "The world is still warming. Humanity is still to blame. And we still, urgently, need to do something about it."

But for those who are sane, whose minds are not already closed, McKibben's Washington Post op ed, Washington's snowstorms, brought to you by global warming, is a well-written piece, chock full of the material which will reinforce the seriousness of global climate change, aka global warming, as something reinforced, not undercut, by what happened where I live in the past 9 days.

Consider the following:

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America, land of opportunity - NOT!

by: teacherken

Sat Feb 13, 2010 at 07:56:05 AM EST

originally posted at Daily Kos on 2/12

According a report on social mobility published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], the United States ranks pretty poorly among industrialized nations on intergenerational advancement-that is, the ability to transcend the socioeconomic class, income level, and educational attainment of your family. So that whole bootstraps thing? It looks like that quintessential self-made man is more at home in Norway than Our Town.
 Those words are from a piece by Michelle Chen in Racewire.  In Moving On Up and Hitting a Wall: Social Mobility in the U.S. and Europe she summarized a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on mobility or immobility across generations,  If we are concerned about the future of this nation, we should pay attention to this report: it should remind us yet again that the opportunity to move from one social/economic class to another, something that has been an important characteristic of our society, at least in theory, is rapidly diminishing.

I will explore both Chen's piece and the report to which she refers, and offer a few thoughts of my own.

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Nobody is home in the cities of the future

by: teacherken

Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 19:47:32 PM EST

LATHROP, Calif. - Drive along foreclosure alley, through new planned communities that look like tile-roofed versions of a 21st century ghost town, and you see what happens when people gamble with houses instead of casino chips.
  So begin a powerful blog post in the Opinionator page of The New York Times.  Written by Timothy Egan, it has a simple title: Slumburbia.  The next paragraph reads
Dirty flags advertise rock-bottom discounts on empty starter mansions. On the ground, foreclosure signs are tagged with gang graffiti. Empty lots are untended, cratered with mud puddles from the winter storms that have hammered California's San Joaquin Valley.
and my title is a one-line paragraph that follows immediately.

There are some lessons to be drawn from what Egan describes.  Hopefully we are all paying attention.

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