Tag Archives: Politics

Good News. Bad News.

The good news is the Cleveland Indians are going to remove “Chief Wahoo” from their uniforms. The bad new is they’re still the Cleveland Indians.

I would argue that the name Indians is less offensive than Redskins. So maybe we need to see some action in the District of Columbia next.

I’m trying to think of team mascots that are specific groups of humans. The first one that comes to mind is Vikings. This is an extinct culture from which I am descended. My college and my junior high school mascots were vikings. The mascot of Puyallup H.S., where Chris is likely to go, is Vikings. I’ve never heard any people from Norway say they were offended by this mascot. But apparently, at my undergrad alma mater there has been some discussion about whether a blonde haired, blue-eyed Norseman truly represents a highly diverse student body.

Another name that comes to mind is Trojans. Again, an extinct culture, but an homogenous people.

Mariners? Heck. Anyone can be a Mariner.

Warriors? I think that’s safe despite it’s common usage associated with male American Indians. It describes a wide variety of people trained for conflict.

49ers? If you want to be associated with gold prospectors, most of whom failed, go right ahead.

I could go on, but the point is if American Indian tribes find your choice of mascot offensive, do the decent thing and get rid of it.


Bald Eagle Recovery a Reason for Optimism

I will never forget the first time I saw a Bald Eagle. I was twelve years old and on a family camping trip to Deception Pass State Park. My Dad and I, and perhaps my sister Barb, had hiked to the top of Goose Rock. Not a long or difficult hike, Goose Rock provides territorial views of Deception Pass, the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, mountains, and more.

At the top we saw a large, brown bird soaring over the pass. My Dad identified it as a juvenile Bald Eagle. I was in awe. I watched it for what seemed like hours, as it soared near and far, in overlapping circles, not once flapping its wings.

This was a big moment for me. First Bald Eagle of my life, not for lack of looking, but because their numbers had declined so precipitously in prior decades.

DDT, a major factor in the shrinking population, was still a few years from being banned.

The good news is Bald Eagles seem almost common now. I believe that on any given day I could find one within a half hour of my home if I set out to do so. Within the past couple of years I had six circling over my house as they moved slowly from west to east. A few years back I missed by a day or two  a congregation of close to a hundred at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

This success story points out why government needs to keep a firm hand on what businesses can and cannot do. Had DDT been left on the market, we would likely see no Bald Eagles in the continental U.S. They would likely be restricted to northern Canada and Alaska. But that’s not all. Peregrine Falcons, Brown Pelicans, and Ospreys may have disappeared from the contiguous states as well. And California Condors, to this day struggling to rebuild a viable population, may have vanished from the face of the Earth.

The Bald Eagle is now a symbol of hope.

 


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.


What? Really?

In The News Tribune this morning a letter states, “Thanksgiving was created to honor the free market and private property.”

All I can say is, if this is true I now have a deeper understanding of the meaning of Black  Friday.


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.


What are the limits on a teacher’s time?

A teacher at “Education Nation” suggested that union rules regarding the teaching day limited her ability to meet the needs of her students and she just wanted to “do my job.” She wondered why she wasn’t allowed to bring students in on Saturday to do extra tutoring with those who needed it.

My simple question to her is: Where do you put limits on your time? Most teachers I know, myself included, put in time beyond the contract. Today I worked one hour forty-five minutes beyond my contractual obligation. On this past Sunday I spent three plus hours in my classroom grading papers and planning. I also scored papers at home on Saturday and Sunday. I brought home more papers to score tonight.

When I was a young teacher, I put in many more hours than I do now. Of course, I was living away from family and friends, and had no social life to speak of then. Now I’m older and have a wife and son. My energy level is not what it was. Tell me, what is a reasonable expectation of my time as a professional? Do I reach my limit when I drop dead?


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.


Anger, Part II

In the paper this morning: “blobs of tar washed up at an Alabama beach full of swimmers… the ominous arrival of the sticky substance at Dauphin Island, Ala.”

It took longer than I expected, and I didn’t expect it to be the first landing spot, but there it is. Our friends on Dauphin Island have suffered the loss of one home (totally washed out to sea by Katrina), and severe damage to a second (flooded by Ivan) in hurricanes, now this. I can’t imagine it won’t get worse.

This photo, taken in April 2005 shows Mississippi Sound, which is between the island and the mainland. Right of center is an oil drilling platform. To the left of it near the center you may be able to make out the profile of a ship, probably an oil tanker. Flying in formation in the upper right corner are a half dozen Brown Pelicans, one of the species most impacted by DDT and removed from the endangered species list just last autumn.


Anger

John SherffiusI’m angry at British Petroleum. That iconic “BP” logo that I first noticed in movies and images of motor sports events is now nothing more than a symbol of corporate greed and irresponsibility. Human beings died, now wildlife is dying and our tax dollars go to work to clean up “Big Petroleum’s” mess. We don’t even know what the scope of this disaster will be.
Five years ago I stood on a beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama watching Northern Gannets diving far offshore into Mississippi Sound. You may have seen film of them on Discovery or PBS in the past. They start the dive high above the water. As they near the surface they fold back their wings, extend their necks, and plunge dagger-like into the water in pursuit of their prey. This occurs in large flocks and is a spectacular sight to see. There was a photo in the paper the other day of a worker cleaning the oil from the feathers of a Northern Gannet. Dauphin Island is directly north of the source of the spill. Enough said.

Teaching is Not a Life Commitment

When I was a new teacher I spent an average of ten hours a day at school. That does not include weekends, when I often put in an additional half-day. I would arrive in the morning before most staff, other than the chief custodian. I would stay late and have a fast-food dinner on the way home. Not the best for my health, but I didn’t really think about it. I was thirty-one, in good health, full of energy, and single. I was also three thousand miles from home, so I had no social life. Many of my colleagues were married so I didn’t hang out with them. The single ones were not so new to teaching as I, and we really didn’t have much else in common.

After that first year, I moved home and eventually went to work for my current employer. As the years went by, I continued to put in long hours at school. I also remained single. The average length of work-day gradually decreased, but not rapidly. When I turned forty, still a single man, I thought, “I’m still not married, but no biggie. I’m a good guy, educated, have a steady job, own a house, and I like kids. Ummmm, why am I not meeting eligible women?”

To make a long story short, I’m now married. We have a healthy, energetic five year old son. Really, really energetic. We have a house with a yard, both of which need upkeep. We both have families, friends, and interests which need attention. I still arrive at work earlier than required, leave later than required, and I work on weekends, but the hours are fewer. I don’t expect to ever be recognized as a star educator. I’m no Jaime Escalante. I don’t want to be. What I want is to be recognized for what I do well. Then I want to be told, with manners and respect for my education, experience, and humanity, what I need to do better. I want to be given a chance to fix those weaknesses in a way that makes sense to me. I don’t want to feel manipulated by legislation, bureaucrats, or politicians, and most of all, I don’t want to be the target of threats, insults, or intimidation by educational leaders or parents. That’s not an unreasonable expectation, is it?