Tag Archives: honor

Success is in the Eye of the Beholder

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about presidential campaigns, qualifications, policies, candidate biographies, et al. What matters the most in choosing a president? Personally, I believe policy positions are everything. When I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, I voted based on his policy proposals. It was exciting to me that a man of African descent was going to the White House, but that fact had nothing to do with my vote. The fact is the Republican Party has offered me nothing for more than three decades.

A lot is made of personal background and “character” in politics. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came from less than advantaged backgrounds and made something of themselves. Yet the right can’t stand them. George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are examples of white privilege run amok. I have long thought that if W weren’t named George Bush he’d be laying drunk in a gutter somewhere. But his image was sort of down home and folksy, which appealed to a certain segment of American society.

Romney on the other hand plays the high society high roller to the nth degree. The average person will have a hard time relating to him if they vote on candidate biography. But the dyed-in-the-wool Republicans love his big money story, although I’m not sure what he really did to earn it. Would he have had the opportunity if his name weren’t Romney? Mitt and W are proof that the Old Boy Network is alive and well.

I really think the Obama campaign needs to showcase his biography. He is a real American success story and people have forgotten that. Put it out there.


New Parent Evaluation System Advances to Governor’s Desk

The following is but a fantasy born of the author’s frustration with the shortsighted Washington State Legislature. It is not intended to incite hysteria among irresponsible parents residing in the state of Washington.

In an effort to make the new teacher evaluation system meaningful, Washington State legislators today approved a new parent evaluation system. To ensure that teachers are teaching students who are ready to learn, parents must agree to participate or their children’s test scores will be ineligible for use in teacher evaluations. In addition, the children of any parent whose evaluation ranks at the lowest level, unsatisfactory, for two years in a row will not have their test scores applied to teacher evaluations. Those children will then be removed from the home and placed in a boarding school until such time as the parents complete remedial parenting classes, hold a job for six consecutive months, quit smoking, receive counseling for anger management issues, and any other interventions as ordered by the courts.

Parents will be evaluated based on two twenty-four hour observations each year conducted by a qualified social worker. Evaluation criteria will include the following areas: Home Environment; Health and Safety; Enrichment Opportunities; Discipline; Nurturing; Modeling of Appropriate Behavior/Interest in Learning.

The social worker will give a minimum twenty-four hours notice of the planned observation. The social worker will be permitted to observe all family routines during a full twenty-four hour period. A second social worker will relieve the observer so that he or she may get a decent night’s sleep because nobody performs their best work when they are tired.  In addition the social worker will be permitted to interview any member of the family regarding activities not observed during the visit.

Unlike the new teacher evaluation system, parents will have the right to request a second evaluation by a neutral observer after initially being rated unsatisfactory.

The governor is expected to sign the law into effect tomorrow.


Paramilitary Policing From Seattle to Occupy Wall Street | The Nation

Good perspective from the man who was at the top of the Seattle Police Department during “The Battle in Seattle.”

Paramilitary Policing From Seattle to Occupy Wall Street | The Nation.


BP faces more citations, Halliburton dispute | Reuters

BP faces more citations, Halliburton dispute | Reuters.

Unbelievable that as we near two years since the incident, these two parties continue to point fingers everywhere but at themselves. Have some decency and take responsibility for your own actions.

According to the Supreme Court, you are each a person. Let’s call you Chet Halliburton and BP Smith. Chet, go to bed without dinner! BP, no video games until you admit you were wrong!


Patriots?

Twenty-two years ago the United States was in the middle of a debate over flag burning. Congress had approved the Flag Protection Act of 1989. Literally the minute it took effect on October 28, 1989, opponents challenged it by publically burning flags.

People were arrested and charged, but ultimately charges were dropped because the law had been declared unconstitutional. In the ensuing years, more public acts of flag desecration were carried out. Organizations such as the American Legion protested some of these acts, including an art exhibit called What is the Proper Way to Display the U.S. Flag? at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Some people reacted violently to these acts. A number of states even tried to pass laws making the penalty for assault negligible if the victim was in the act of flag desecration. These were referred to as “beat up a flag burner laws.”

At the same time this was happening, crews were cleaning up spilled petroleum in Prince William Sound. Countless animals had died as a result of the Exxon Valdez being introduced to Bligh Reef by its captain. Among them were at least 250 Bald Eagles, America’s other symbol of national pride.

Yet there was no patriotic outrage about this desecration. The people who showed the greatest concern for the deaths of these living symbols were not those screaming bloody murder about flag burners. Nobody introduced laws making assault of careless ship captains worry-free.

Maybe it’s because we all know we are guilty of causing the devastation in Prince William Sound. Our consumption of petroleum continues to be insatiable. Although there is new-found interest in alternative forms of energy, those entrenched in the oil business have motivation to keep it on top, and will doubtless do all they can to keep it that way.

I consider myself a patriot. As an Army brat and former Boy Scout, I learned about flag ettiquette and practice it to this day. We display our flag on national holidays, but not in the rain or at night. We don’t allow the flag to touch the ground. When our flag becomes too soiled and tattered to display, we will send it to an organization which will destroy the flag in a dignified manner.

I am also a lover of wildlife, particularly birds. The images of dead and dying wildlife, particularly Bald Eagles, in Prince William Sound brought tears to my eyes. I still cannot understand how this tragedy did not motivate patriots to do something big about our thirst for petroleum.

There’s no time like the present, Americans.


All our veterans deserve to be honored this Memorial Day

The following was originally published in the Puyallup Herald

With the approach of Memorial Day I begin to think of all who have served in the military, especially friends and family. Technically, Memorial Day was established to honor and remember those who died in service to our nation, but I know of no family member or close family friend who I can so memorialize.

My father, grandfather, brother, father-in-law, and a number of uncles all served honorably in the military.

My maternal grandfather, Edward Bertram, was commanding officer at Vancouver Barracks when my parents met. It was 1941, and Dad was the new officer on base. He quickly charmed his way into Mom’s heart. Hal Brown and Kitty Bertram married after a short engagement.

A year later Grandfather Bertram was dead from heart disease and America was at war in the Pacific and Europe. Dad would return home in 1945 after serving in New Guinea and The Philippines, suffering from a combination of malaria and dysentery. He spent months in a hospital recovering.

Dad's 1944 Christmas Card to Mom

By this time he was also a dedicated smoker. There is some uncertainty as to when he picked up the tobacco habit. My sister thinks it was prior to his admission to West Point. I’m having a hard time reconciling that with the fact that he ran cross-country and was the number two miler on the track team.

What I do know is that many of our military men who served in World War II picked up the habit due to cigarettes included with their C-rations, or those distributed by certain non-governmental organizations.

In 1946 Dad was sent by the Army to the University of Chicago to study nuclear science. He received a Master’s Degree in 1948. During his time there, he was hospitalized when a canister of chlorine gas was accidentally breached in a lab while he was working in another part of the building. His lungs were blistered, leaving them scarred.

After finishing his degree, Dad spent the next several years building bombs in New Mexico. I don’t know much about the safety precautions taken around radioactive materials in those days, but I would hazard a guess that he was exposed to considerably more radiation than the average Joe working in a factory.

We can never know how many of our veterans died prematurely from service related injuries. Dad spent the final years of his life struggling to breathe, a nebulizer always at hand. No doubt the cigarettes he smoked for most of his life were to blame, but the chlorine gas cannot be dismissed.

So on Memorial Day I will be honoring those who died bravely in combat, but I will also be thinking of those whose fates are not easy to connect to patriotic duties: Those who returned from World War II addicted to tobacco; the veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals in uniform; those with mental illness due to post-traumatic stress who died alone on the street.

All deserve to be honored.

 


Bootstraps

Many people have succeeded in life by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, as the saying goes. These people are to be admired for their determination and grit. We often use the same phrase as a suggestion to those who are struggling. “You just need to get up off your duff and pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” some have been heard to say. The problem is that not everyone has bootstraps, or boots for that matter.

Seventy years ago this June 11 my Dad, Harold Clifton Brown, graduated first in his class from West Point. Born the first son of an electrical engineer and a Norwegian immigrant who had briefly written for silent films, things looked pretty bright for his future from the start. He soon had two brothers to play with and his parents were doing pretty well providing for the boys. His dad, Harold senior, worked for Pennsylvania Power and Light. He was called “Brownie” by Grandma Brown, and she took care of the boys and the home. When Dad was about six, Brownie died of a sudden illness, leaving Grandma to provide and care for three young boys. It was 1924.

Through the worst of the Great Depression Grandma Brown worked hard and raised the boys. Dad did pretty well in school, except in the area of conduct.

Third column from the left is Conduct, preceded by attendance numbers. According to the scale it was his worst area.
Yep, Dad was a bad boy with potential. This was recognized by U.S.Senator Fred Brown (No relation. And no relation to the former Seattle SuperSonic.) of New Hampshire who appointed Dad to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Dad continued to work hard once at West Point and in the end was incredibly successful. He served in World War II with the Corps of Engineers, earned a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Science at the University of Chicago after the war, and eventually retired as a Colonel. He went on to work fifteen years as an analyst for Boeing.

Funniest caption ever.

So dad had a bit of a rough start, but his life by most standards was successful. He certainly pulled himself up by his bootstraps, wouldn’t you say?

In no way do I consider myself the success Dad was. I went to college, reluctantly. My record as an undergrad was undistinguished. I flailed around at a variety of jobs for six years afterwards. Something finally clicked and I got my teaching credentials with a 3.74 GPA. Since then I’ve been gainfully employed as an elementary school teacher. But I didn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps. Couldn’t find them. So how did I get where I am? I’m white, male, grew up in an upper middle-class community, and I’m the son of a very successful father and saintly mother. Had but one of those puzzle pieces been missing I might be missing too (See Depression).

So when I hear or read about people using examples of others overcoming long odds to “make something out of themselves” to justify criticism of those who fail at same, I get agitated. Sometimes I even get hot under the collar. On rare occasions it gets my back and my dander up. Way, way up. If someone opines that you should stay out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, well, better make yourself scarce, because that’s one too many cliches.

Sometimes people need help to simply lead a normal life. We all are products of our families, communities, nations, and genetics. Fortune determines the variety and quantity of each. Genetics can impact ambition, health, and talent. Our families impact our self-image, values, and attitudes. Community and nation provide opportunity, resources, and security. If fortune is kind we find it easier to make our way in the world. If fortune shorts us in one or more areas we struggle a bit more. If too much is missing, ambition can find little room to grow.

So, when I see the alcololic homeless man vomiting by the side of the road I try not to judge him. I don’t call him “loser.” I see the me that might have been had my circumstances been slightly different.


Could you be a communist and not realize it?

We’ve been hearing a lot about the “socialist agenda” of President Obama. Forcing people to buy health insurance? Socialism! Bailing out the failing banks? Socialism! Saving GM? Socialism! Friendly to organized labor? Socialism!

I once had a conversation with a relative regarding a large corporation which had recently moved its headquarters from its historic home to a new city half a continent away. I saw this as a sign that the corporation did not care about the community which had been part of its growth and success. In addition, I believed this was a move designed to put distance between executives and the unions representing the bulk of its employees. It was clear my relative dislikes unions, and he suggested that giving too much power to organized labor is just a step away from communism.

His comment really upset me. I am very liberal politically, but I am absolutely anti-communist. The reason is the atrocious human rights records of communist nations, including China. In fact, I am strongly opposed to any government which curtails the basic rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dictators, authoritarian regimes, military juntas, or any form of government which uses intimidation, torture, incarceration, terror, or other methods to cow its citizens into passive compliance deserves no respect from people who value justice, equality, dignity, life, speech, art, or other features of a free society.

So, to those of you who think that our president is a closet commie, take a look in the mirror. Then take a look around you. That new flat-screen TV you treasure may have been made by communists. Those inexpensive toys your children are playing with? They are likely touched by the skilled hands of commie labor. Okay, I know some of them may have been made in non-communist places like Mexico or Singapore, but they have their own issues of repression to resolve.

I think the U.S. Senate needs to start an investigation into this subversive group of activists. Are they hiding their true nature by accusing the president of being the very thing they are? Could they be… communists?