Friday, October 31, 2014

Below is the picture of part of a person...
I don't know if it's the arm... or the leg... or perhaps the brain.

This is Ashford University, a for-profit university headquartered in San Diego. It is the largest of several educational holdings of Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit corporation on which the United States Supreme Court 
has bestowed personhood.

First, an apology for not editing yesterday’s BLOG post before hitting the “send” button.  The old English teacher should remember what he urged his students to do… and do it.

Now, to continue where I left off yesterday.  Some rants don’t finish easily.

I wrote yesterday about the cost to a nation of widespread ignorance in its population… and the likelihood that the America of 2024 may be a bigger pool of ignorance than exists today unless enough political leaders and citizens wake up to the need for improving the American education system from earliest childhood through post high school training.  I wrote yesterday about the emphasis several European nations are putting on education by making it affordable for absolutely every citizen without imposing deep debt on parents and on the students themselves.

In Congress a simple legislative move could be made in a program that now adds insult to injury to the plight of young Americans who have had to choose between borrowing money to pay tuition for their post high school training or not continuing education. Many thousands of young Americans finish college or other technical training with crippling debt of sometimes more than a hundred thousand dollars.  Some of them crumple under the burden of student loans added to the cost of living especially in some urban areas.  Student loan debt is not included in the list of debts that can be wiped away by bankruptcy.  All Republicans in Congress have refused to approve legislation that would include student loans in the list mainly because the rippled effect through the banking industry would cut into lending institutions’ profits. It is easier than ever for corporations and rich individuals to buy legislative votes.  Because they too are afraid of loss of big-money support for reelection, even a few Democrats in Congress have been complicit in refusing to allow some responsible proposed legislation to move forward.

Also adding more insult to injury, Congress approved in 2006 a wage garnishment increase from 10% to 15% to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.  In 2005 the Supreme Court upheld the government’s ability to collect defaulted student loans by offsetting Social Security disability and retirement benefits without a statute of limitations.  A bill was put forward by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) that would have allowed college graduates to refinance their loans with lower rates.  In September of this year Democrats attempted to pass the bill despite Republican inaction in the run-up to the November elections.  Republicans are convinced they can’t afford to offend the financial establishment that funnels money into their reelection coffers.

In the early 1800s the Supreme Court decided that the word “person” in the Fourteenth Amendment should extend to corporations so they could sue each other or sue individuals and in other ways legally contract with each other the way natural individuals may relate.  Jump forward a hundred years: In 2010 the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission explicitly gave personhood rights to corporations… Included is the right for the corporation to act in the same way that individuals can act in funding specific political campaigns. Corporate executives now have an incentive to throw the financial support of a corporation in the direction of politicians who can promise that they will be friendly to their company in legislative matters.  These corporate leaders are rich people who have an incentive to support politicians who are in favor of low taxes on the rich, especially taxes on gains from stock.  Corporate leaders are rarely committed to addressing problems of the lower and middle classes unless their attention results in increased profits for their companies. 

THIS IS A PICTURE OF TWO PERSONS.  One of them is a San Diego policeman.  
The other is a homeless person.

THIS IS A PICTURE OF ONE PERSON.  He came out of the grocery store.

THIS IS A PICTURE OF ONE PERSON.  I am ONE PERSON of several PERSONS who watched delighted as this ONE little PERSON danced to the music of a street musician while his parents, TWO PERSONS, watched with obvious pleasure and pride.  He will grow up to be ONE adult person.  No corporations were watching.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Today's pictures are compliments of a couple of eucalyptus trees that I know...


We approach Tuesday’s election day with more-than-usual brash, short-sighted, uninformed citizens whose only expressed motive is to lower the amount of money they pay in taxes to support local, state, and federal government.  To many of them government is the enemy.  One particularly ill-informed candidate for the Senate delivered an NRA scripted rant before a generally approving group of potential voters and television cameras …declaring that she would not give up her guns because she might need them to protect herself from the government.

More to the point, American, the land that I love, is in serious danger of becoming a nation of inadequately educated citizens in a global collection of countries whose citizens are being schooled to move through the Twenty-First Century adequately prepared to thrive in a global economy that favors intelligence and appropriate training.  Consider modern Germany (remember World Wars One and Two in the Twentieth Century): tuition-free universities are seen as investment in a future for all citizens, not just those at the top levels of an economic system.  In France college education, including graduate degree programs, is funded by the state.  The cost for a state university program leading to license (bachelor’s degree) is around U.S. $189 a year.  A student France can go all the way from first year college through a Master’s degree for under a thousand U.S. dollars in tuition fees. Education from preschool (age 3) through secondary school is tuition free, books and materials free.  There is no cost to parents for preschool programs in France no matter what the family’s income level.  In some places in the U.S. families with children living below the poverty level have no access a Head-Start program for their three- and four-year old children.  In America middle income families with both parents working sometimes have a difficult time making ends, so they delay early childhood education until kindergarten.  The value of preschool from age three is without doubt critical to the future school success of some children.  Obviously, not all human beings are the same; and some children are gifted to an extent that even living in poverty they manage to hook in and catch up when they get into a good kindergarten program, but the children with learning disabilities often never catch up if their needs aren’t addressed well before age five.

So, America, what do you want for a future… an ignorant, gun-toting citizenry easily persuaded by misleading political advertising to vote against their own interests; or do you want what the framers of Constitution had in mind for United States citizens?  Getting it right is taking a long time.  As incredible as it seems even to say it or to write it, the 19th Amendment to the U.S Constitution granting American women the right to vote wasn’t ratified until August of 1920… that was only five years after my Mother was born and only fifteen years before I was born. The last anti-miscegenation laws were struck down in 1967 by the Supreme Court ruling in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case.  The Voting Rights Act, legislation to prevent legal barriers at state and local levels in the U.S. wasn’t passed until 1965.  African American men were given the right to vote by the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), but until 1965 voting districts and entire states could legally block them from voting. Today’s BLOG writing isn’t meant to be a history lesson, but it can be a reminder that we should pay attention our past, and that we can look with expectation and hope to a better future for all our citizens if we pay attention to how and under what circumstances we educate them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Mission Valley where dairy farms and orchards once stretched from Mission de Alcala all the way to the sea, not even a small garden remains; but between the shopping center and the San Diego River at the bottom of our hill a few old olive trees stand as reminders of an earlier time. I particularly like the way the sun shines through them in the middle of the day and casts shadows that remind me of some of Van Gogh’s paintings from the time he spent around Saint-Remy and Auvers.  My friend Tom Fagan went there with me today.  He painted. I watched him and enjoyed getting another glimpse of the way an artist sees things.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My fiddle leaf ficus lost a leaf a couple of months ago…
accidentally dislodged from it’s vibrant place on a limb
when the young man delivering the morning paper
aimed a little high I guess and brought it down.
I found it lying alongside the Los Angeles Times
when I went out to get the paper in the morning.

I picked up the leaf and held it for a minute
thinking how green and very much alive it seemed.
I set it aside in a place beside still living plants
not wanting to cast it onto one of the little pyramids
of raked leaves that fall naturally in autumn.
An unnatural death of anything deserves notice.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Don't Cry for Us

Autumn in Southern California happens... more subtly and every bit as beautifully as in the areas of America with more dramatic shifts from season to season.  Patrick and I went looking for color in the Palomar Mountains.  The logical place to start was at Mount Palomar Observatory.  We found it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Margaret and I felt a great surge of pride today when the  Parkinson's Association Celebration 2014 was opened  by our son-in-law David Higgins, the President of the Board of Directors for the association.  The celebration and fund-raising event was a huge success. Anyone interested in finding ways to support the work of the association in reaching its goal of providing compassionate care, support, and research for a cure can go to the association's WEB site:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Some Things Are too Bright for Close Inspection

What's to be done
with those things in the world
too brilliant for close inspection?
Flowers are like that sometimes,
defying the keenest observer to discover
where one petal ends and another begins,
repelling with unrelenting, blinding brightness
including those flies with a thousand eyes.
Even honeybees and hummingbirds
stay back from too much glory.
Ask Daedalus; he knows.

Friday, October 24, 2014

O.K...  O.K.!  The picture of my little study on this Friday morning is an honest confession that the place where I write is often like an unmade bed... but I wanted to get it done and posted, so this has to be my photo du jour.

The old teacher who still wakes up inside me every morning is always on the lookout for good writing.  I found some this morning.  I swear Diana Marcum must have some of William Faulkner’s or Flannery O’Connor’s DNA… or some other Southern writer’s blood… in her… or maybe the Salinas-born John Steinbeck's creative juices flow through her veins. 

Marcum’s writing is good from the beginning of the piece, but it gets even better as it goes along… right to the last word.  But this isn’t fiction. The people she describes don’t live just in her imagination.  They are real.  Read the story that begins on the first page of the Los Angeles Times today… and be glad we still have a newspaper like the Times and writers like Marcum who write for it.

I went on to read the rest of the paper this morning and found today’s issue to be a bit of a gold mine of good reporting and good writing.  I was born in Arkansas, so how could I not jump right into the piece by John M. Glionna which begins with the tag “Possum Grape, Ark.

…and the Jim Puzzahghera’s reporting about Scott Peters bid for reelection to his Congressional seat:

Oh, what the hell…  You may as well go out and buy today’s paper if you’re not already a subscriber.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oh, Canada… our Neighbor, our thoughts are turned in your direction today.  These photographs are meant to comfort…  There are no explanations that make sense, so I’m trying a peace bell on Shelter Island, flowers, stuff I like in our house, and good thoughts.