FEMA 2006, Failure Everywhere, Management Absent ©

The history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] is long and varied.  Now, it may end; a Renaissance is proposed.  There are formal recommendations; this agency must be abolished. Co-chairs of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senators Susan Collins and Joseph Liebermann held a press conference this morning declaring FEMA a disaster.

Chairwoman Susan Collins told reporters today in Washington “FEMA is discredited, disorganized, demoralized and dysfunctional.”  She continued, “It is beyond repair. Just tweaking the organizational chart will not solve the problem.”

Senators Collins, Liebermann, and the Senate committee submitted a plan to ‘key senators this week, the details of which will be released publicly next week.’  In this, there are 86 recommendations.  These would undo what our current President did to change the structure of FEMA.

The 800-plus-page accounting is titled, “Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared.”  This text is a summation of three government studies.  Earlier House and White House evaluations are present in this report; however, they are cursory in contrast.  This final record is far more comprehensive; its assertions are less delicate.

Katrina survivors and those lost in this storm, deservedly required this attention. The 2005 hurricane killed an estimated 1,460 people.  Seven hundred and seventy thousand individuals were forced to flea their homes.  Many are still not able to return some eight months later.

In earlier hearings Congressional committees realized blame was simply being bandied about; nothing of substance was concluded.  As of today, a report has been filed.  Recommendations are pending; however, there is no certainty that things will change.

FEMA was officially established in 1979.  The idea for such an organization was developing for more than a century.  The Congressional Act of 1803 was considered ??the first piece of disaster legislation.’  This bill was enacted after a New Hampshire town experienced extensive damage in a fire.  People needed to be rescued; rebuilding was important.  However, the community was paralyzed.  They desperately required help.

For years after, haphazardly, emergency efforts throughout this land continued.  Attempts to organize a unified front for disaster relief were numerous, yet, disjointed.  Ironically, some might say the state of affairs then, is similar to the one we now have. However, I digress.

Ultimately, the nation’s governors came together and requested a centralized endeavor.  The Governors wanted to be certain that we, as a country, were prepared for a crisis.  These state and local leaders knew planning, in advance, was important.  Procedure must be set in place. Coordinating clean-ups is vital; no community could do it alone.  Thus, the National Governor’s Association sought the help of Former President Jimmy Carter.  They asked for a federalized emergency agency.

Mr. Carter created the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The mission was and supposedly is, “to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters with a vision of “A Nation Prepared.”

FEMA grew and was improving.  During the Clinton years, Director, James Witt was appointed. All was going well.  Many marveled at what this man, with the support of Bill Clinton, was able to produce.  James Witt received “bi-partisan praise for his leadership.”  There was a consensus; this man has taken the agency in the right direction.

However, under the guidance of a quivering King George II, the institution has taken a fall.  It stumbled.  During Katrina, and likely years before, operations were bumbled, repeatedly.  After September 11, 2001, the agency was placed under the auspices of the Homeland Security office and that, some believe, is when troubles began.

Former Director, James Witt spoke of this in 2004 at a Congressional hearing. He said, “I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared.”  It had and would have continued to; then, there was a hurricane.  It hit New Orleans hard; the gulf coast was crippled.  As predicted many years earlier, the region, the nation, and FEMA, were unprepared.

The situation, post-Katrina was bad.  It got worse.  Though the weather had been rough, the internal departmental storms of dissent, for some seemed, rougher.  Questions were raised, people [Michael Brown specifically] were excused or resigned from their posts.  The “blame-game” was banded about.

The circumstances could not be ignored.  Congress chose to act.  Now it is done, or possibly, it has just begun.  We will not know for a time.

There are recommendations and reports, as there often are in situations such as this.  However, it is said, this time is different.  Instead of the hype and hoopla, post-Andrew, the actions now being proposed are looked upon more seriously.  Senators Collins and Liebermann are asking for the total abolishment  of the existing Emergency Management Agency.  They are requesting a new organization, one that would be “better equipped with the tools [needed] to prepare for and respond to a disaster.”

According to a draft of the proposal, the new agency will remain under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. The organization needs to be more powerful than the older model. Additional mechanism for support must be put into place.  The committee advises that this novel organization receive a budget twice as large as the current FEMA.

The current Emergency Management Agency has a budget of $4.8 billion. There are 2,600 full-time employees.  However, after careful study it has been decided these are not enough.  The money was inadequate or misused.  Employees were over worked; the organization understaffed.  Effective systems were non-existent.  Awareness was absent and communication was just a concept.

Hurricane Katrina brought the tragedy, otherwise known as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to light.  Actually, that debacle brought more to the surface. On television and in newspapers throughout the globe, America was seen for what it is, a nation of “un-equals.”  The display was quite disturbing, even for those at home.  Worldwide people saw that “Federal Preparedness” and equal opportunities were an illusion.

Plans were not executed.  Disaster relief was nonexistent.  Operations were inefficient.  People professed empathy, and yet; they were without it.  Barbara Bush welcomed the lost and hopeless, as long as they did not stay in her neighborhood for too long.

Promises went by the wayside; proposals remained only that.  Execution of these has yet to occur.  The Gulf coast poor were homeless, helpless, and hurting. There was little regard for the impoverished. For days, the administration was absent.  Our country was righteously embarrassed.  Leadership was little; compassion short-lived.  The world wondered, was America simply being conservative in its approach? The middle class felt the pressure; however, they have no real power.  They lost theirs long ago.

Fortunately, during this calamity, the affluent were also affected and that made a difference. The wealthy were injured and offended.  They were upset. Senator Trent Lott was a casualty of the storm. His oceanfront house in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was destroyed. The Senator’s 154-year old home was completely awash.  There was nothing left to call home.  After twenty plus years of living in this graceful abode, the Lott family was left with only memories.

Democratic Representative Gene Taylor of Mississippi was also victim of this tempest.  His Bay St. Louis home was ruined.  He, as an individual, was so deeply pained by the “Emergency” process that he asked about it later during a congressional investigation.

Congressman Taylor was able to query Former FEMA Director Michael Brown.  The Representative asked, “What part of the FEMA plan envisioned that the first responders in Hancock County and in much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast would have to loot the local grocery store and loot the local Wal-mart in order to feed themselves, would have to loot the local Wal-mart in order to have a change of clothes? What part of your plan was that?”

Dissatisfied with the Directors answer, Taylor respectfully replied offering, “I hope you’ll admit your mistakes. That’s the best way to learn from them.”

The Representative spoke for many.  Hurricane Katrina, then Rita, and ultimately Wilma affected thousands.  Many pleaded forcefully; they want answers and relief for their friends, families, and themselves.  Thankfully, the voices had influence, ability, and they were able to reach the public’s eyes, and ears and that made a difference.

CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch, did an in-depth assessment of her hometown after the storm. Ms. Koch returned to the city where she was raised, Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi.  She found friends, family members, and herself devastated.  Koch realized as did residents, recovery was not forthcoming.  Promises were not kept.  Relief was little.

Nine months later, families are still waiting for trailers, a home to call their own.  Insurance companies had no compassion; they merely dismissed and denied homeowners claims, [even those of Senator Trent Lott.]  Frustration filled the hearts, souls, and minds of those effected by the storm.  An ineffective agency made all matters worse.

“”Saving My Town” The Fight for Bay Saint Louis,” aired continuously on the Turner Cable News Network. This documentary was calculated and deliberate.  Ms. Koch covered this story with heart felt and heart warming finesse.  Her personal narrative may have had an impact on today’s reported decision, Let us “abolish FEMA.”

Before Katrina, we as citizens saw the inattentiveness of the President, his Cabinet, and appointees.  We knew this was standard.  The nation long ago recognized that the Emperor of Errors could not or would not separate himself from a Crawford vacation.  His associates and subordinates would not disturb their fair leader.  These behaviors were expected.  We as a country had become complacent.  After Katrina, mercifully, all this changed.  Every storm, perhaps, does hold a silver lining.

On this occasion, after this incident, Big-Man Bush had no ground zero to stand on.  There was no war to instigate.  The invisible force truly was.  Mr. Bush could not claim Katrina was a terrorist.  The weather could not be classified as the enemy.  In fact, the foe was he, his organization, his ineptness, and his inadequacies.  When he quipped emphatically, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” He knew, the bell tolled for he and his idea of a Federal Emergency Management Agency.

?¢ Mark Thoma, at Economist View offers another pertinent Paul Krugman article.  This one also addresses the FEMA dilemma, the debacle of cronyism.  Please indulge yourself.  May you enjoy . . .

Paul Krugman: The Crony Fairy

References . . .
Senate Panel Urge FEMA Dismantling, By ERIC LIPTON. New York Times. April 27, 2006
Senate Report Urges Dismantling of FEMA, By Spencer S. Hsu. Washington Post.  April 27, 2006
A Short History of FEMA Public Broadcasting, Frontline
Barbara Bush on Hurricane Katrina Refugees About Thursday September 8, 2005
Sen. Lott’s home destroyed by Katrina, From Joe Johns. CNN Washington Bureau. Sunday, September 4, 2005
Cut the red tape, Lott says CNN. Monday, September 5, 2005
Trent Lott Sues State Farm over Katrina Damage ConsumerAffairs.Com. December 16, 2005
9/29/05 Senators Lott’s Katrina Airport Repair Bill Clears Senate Office of Senator Trent Lott
How Reliable Is Brown’s Resume? By Daren Fonda and Rita Healy. Time Magazine September 08, 2005
Congress Questions Brown, PBS Online News Hour. September 27, 2005
Did the Bush administration destroy FEMA’s effectiveness? A Can’t-Do Government,By Paul Krugman. New York Times Friday, September 2, 2005
The latest on Katrina’s aftermath CNN News. Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Katrina Archives CNN News
CNN Presents Classroom: Saving my town: The fight for Bay St. Louis. CNN News. Monday, April 10, 2006
President Arrives in Alabama, Briefed on Hurricane Katrina, [“Brownie, You’re doing . . .] September 2005

Dreams Live and Die


Another Student, Similar Vision or Lack Thereof. Matt Belin in Iowa. Photographer, Chris Coudron

&copy copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

He was young, relatively speaking, and old, so old, he had already given up on his future. Nevertheless, the flame flickered brightly as he shared what he wished it would be with me.  He stood close.  He was turning in his project.  He was not the first to complete his work. Actually, he was among the last. The students had been working on this assignment for days. It was due in ten minutes.  Work not turned in on time, would be considered late.  Grades could drop.  Yet, that was not his deepest concern.  In that moment, he worried about my future.

This gentle man was housed within a class that had been a thorn in their teacher’s side.  I was sitting in for the regular classroom Instructor on that day, the last day to complete the project.  During this final workday, students had  an opportunity to dream.  If the work was done, they could watch a video, an adventure film, and immerse them selves in a world of fantasy.  If the task was not yet finished, work, work, work would be the agenda.  However, the Teacher had said to me, that once most were done, the video could be played.  The others would be required to continue their endeavor while the hum  was heard in the background.

In this group, none of the options was appreciated.  They wanted to walk, to talk, and to play; however, this was not in my plan.  Commotion is not my vision for a classroom.  Nor was chaos what I needed.

I wanted quiet order.  I stated this aloud before class began.  For me, active, productive, and creative minds are as I crave.  I give pupils the time and space to flow, to self-actualize, as Social Scientists’ might say.  they can gel in the inner sanctums of their minds.  I shared with the students, though they personally may not wish to excel, there are those that do.  I want to ensure that they can.  In harmony, the class grumbled.

This crowd voiced no desire to shine.  Should one exist, it was well hidden.

Since these students were not ones I had a lasting relationship with, I felt that I had very little time to influence what was in their minds.  I could only guide behaviors and introduce possibilities.

It was the last period of the day.  As the movie played, I quietly did my own work.  I brought my power-book from home.  I watched the pupils, not the pulp-fiction, as I typed away.  I did interact, though there was little to interact with.  Some students were, finally, working.  Others were indeed viewing.  The room, at last was void of noise, with the exception of the sounds coming from the screen.  Time passed and then it occurred.

The period was coming to a close.  Learners turned their projects in slowly yet surely.

He approached.  He handed me his papers and I offered my thanks.  He stayed close for a while and then said, “I like your computer.”  His words did not seem as envy, as much as understanding.  I told him of how I had wanted this laptop for more than a decade.  I could not spend the money, or would not.  Then circumstances demanded the purchase.  A long distance move had necessitated and my arrival in town after a tumultuous storm had postponed the possibility of my move into a home I purchased months earlier.   I took up occupancy in a hotel and would reside there for two and one-half months.  My life was in boxes, in storage.  Me, without a computer to meet my daily needs was unthinkable, not do-able.

He said that he could relate. We chatted. I shared my dream and why the workstation seemed a must to me.  I told him of my passion for writing and my dream to do this exclusively.  I shared my fears.  He smiled.  Apparently, he had the same.  He told me of how his words could and did bring readers to tears.  He had scored among the best in the writing portion of the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT.]  I asked; what was he planning to pursue in college to make his dream come true.

He responded quickly, with little thought. He had already thoroughly assessed this decision.  He said, “I am not college material.”  He continued, “Possibly, I will to attend the community college and learn a trade.”  Then shyly he added, “I may work for the school newspaper.  I would like to do some sports writing  . . . and maybe more.”

Not college material?  I expressed my doubt of that.  There was a quizzical look; it disappeared.  He became animated though still certain that furthering his education was not in the plans.  His eyes lit the room.  His skin sparkled.  His voice reverberated.  He began to tell me how much he loved to read.  He was working on a paper for one of his classes.  He researched much.  He was writing on the career of J.K. Rowlings’.  He recounted her life story, in depth and detail.  He spoke of the hard times she faced, her divorce, her children, and that she had been on welfare, all the time working on her books.  He was joyous for her success.  He read each of her books.

He continued discussing her trials, tribulations, and tales.  The rejection she received, her perseverance, and his thrill that she thrived.  He was living her life as he told her story.  This sweet man was absorbed in his loves, his reading, and his writing.  Yet, he had no hopes, or at least he was told by some older and wiser adults not to.

I was sad and happy.  I attempted to encourage him.  The irony is, earlier, he was cheering me on, telling me to believe in my dream and myself.  He wanted me to pursue my passion; perhaps he wanted this for each of us.  He and I were together, fearful, while willing and wanting to take on the world.  However, we both had been wounded by the words of others.  What people had said to us then and now advanced our uncertainties, quelled, or delayed our desires.  Those doubting statements were once or twice said to us; now, they were the ones we told ourselves.

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”~ James Langston Hughes

References for shared realities . . .

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Duping Doctors©

A recently released study reports that the famous and often used, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders is not the reliable source it was once thought to be. The DSM offers definitions and analysis of mental, or personality disorders.  Treatments are also prescribed.  More often than not, these require drug therapy.  For decades, psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacists, and other medical specialist have turned to this guidebook for counsel; it was considered the Holy Grail. This large book was looked upon as an objective reference; it is not.

Apparently, according to a recent study published in the Journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, most of the expert authors have financial ties to the very drug makers whose medications they promote.  56 percent of 170 psychiatric experts who worked on the most recent 1994 edition of the Diagnostic Manual, had at least one financial encounter with a drug maker between 1989 and 2004.

The relationships ranged from speaking engagements to consulting fees.  Some specialist owned considerable shares of company stock.  Gifts were given.  Travel was also a frequently token.  Many “experts” were awarded funds for their research.  It is likely, all were the recipients of perks from the very drug-makers they promoted in the DSM.

In the group of specialists working on mood disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, all had significant ties to pharmaceutical companies.  According to the assessment, “The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders.”

After ample research, lead author of the study, Dr. Paula Cosgrove reported that this guidebook differs little from any other paid advertisements.  The integrity of the information is in question.  Now that we know how much influence these companies had on the writing of the DSM IV, this source can no longer be considered trustworthy.

Benefits befell all tied to this Diagnostic Manual.  The doctors and researchers did well and the pharmaceutical companies prospered.  Speaking of the physicians, Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston said “They can certainly leverage their participation on the DSM, which is very prestigious, into lucrative consulting contracts.”

Drug manufacturers brought in a whooping $35 Billion dollars this year from the sales of psychotropic drugs and if history is a telling sign, the number is going to grow.

According to the Mental Health Policy and Psychotropic Drugs . . .

The amount of money spent on psychotropic drugs grew from an estimated $2.8 billion in 1987 to nearly $18 billion in 2001 (Coffey et al. 2000, Mark et al.  2005), and the amount spent on psychotropic drugs has been growing more rapidly than that spent on drugs overall (IMS Health 2005).

For example, spending on antidepressant and antipsychotic medications  grew 11.9 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively, in 2003, whereas  spending on drugs overall grew at 11.5 percent in 2003 (IMS Health  2005). “

A Washington Post article, Experts Defining Mental Disorders Are Linked to Drug Firms . . .

There is disagreement as to  the validity of this study.  One of the psychiatrists who worked on the current DSM was disparaging of the investigation. Nancy Andreasen, of the University of Iowa, headed the schizophrenia team.  She stated, this latest review is “very flawed.” She declared that there needed to be a distinction between those that had connections to the drug industry while working on the panel and those that established an association after.

Ms. Andreasen offered, “Two out of five researchers on her team had had substantial ties to industry.” In speaking of herself, she noted ??she would have to check her tax statements to know whether she received money from companies at the time she worked on the panel.’ She did add declaratively “What I do know is that I do almost nothing with drug companies. . . . My area of research is neuroimaging, not psychopharmacology.”

I find this interesting.  I am the granddaughter of a pharmacist, a scientist, and a curious soul.  I learned much from him.  My grandfather worked when chemicals were hand mixed.  He ground the concoctions people purchased in his own mortars and pestles.  Drugs were delivered to his store in glass bottles; some stood three-feet high.  I thought of these as toys.  Once again, I digress; my apologies; nevertheless.

My grandfather told me long ago as did a friend, a medical doctor, a man practicing in the field of psychiatry, if you want to learn of medicines, ask a chemist, a scientist, or a pharmacist.  These persons study chemical reaction on human cells.  They know what might be beneficial or harmful; what interacts well with other medications, and what might lessen the potency of a drug.

According to my friend, the doctor, physicians know only what the salesperson tells them.  Drug company representatives give gifts, small trinkets, and expensive dinners.  They cocktail and court a doctor while discussing the quality of their wares.  Ultimately, a physician is convinced this pill, caplet, or concoction is the best.  The doctor may know of no other.  A doctors knows what drugs representatives tells him/her.  He who enters or telephones the office is most influential.

Considering the validity of these opinions, the reality of drug interactions and side affects is not unexpected  Drug side affects were not documented in 1994, the year the most recent DSM IV was published.  Since then questionable practices are being investigated. Conflicts of interest have become an overriding issue; actually, it is these that may have promoted this just released survey.

While many question the reliability of the report, all seem to agree, transparency is necessary.  The researchers discovered the DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Foundation was fundamentally flawed, what was not known was its downfall.  On this, Dr. Cosgrove said, “Transparency is especially important when there are multiple and continuous financial relationships between panel members and the pharmaceutical industry, because of the greater likelihood that the drug industry may be exerting an undue influence.”

Undue pharmaceutical influence; now there is a study that even a novice researcher can do.  Clearly, there is a recent trend in medicine, push the pills on patients, and they, in turn, will tell their doctors what they need [or want.]  We see evidence of this everywhere.  On television and radio broadcasters tell us, take the purple pill and your stomach will be settled.  The blue pill will help you perform.  The yellow pill provides power, and the green capsule will make you mellow.  Looking for love, try potion number 9.

Commercials call us to action; they instruct.  Infomercials dominate the airwaves.  They teach the public to self-prescribe.  Of course, people are advised to consult their physicians before taking any medication.  However, it is well known in today’s world of medical malpractice suits, physicians fear denying patients their desires.  Thus, people are able to self-medicate legally.

There was a time when individuals believed that doctors knew best; they were as father figures. It was thought that a physician would not prescribe what is not necessary.  Those days, if they ever existed are long gone.  Some within the general public assume that a person willing to devote years of his or her life to study is dedicated and altruistic.  Doctors are thought to be knowledgeable.  They truly care for people.  Some do; however, many if not most are just human.

Rarely do health care workers engage in studies that correlate chemical and cellular interactions.  Yet, these are the persons, through the auspice of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders prescribing drugs to treat psychological and personality maladies.

Are they qualified?  Might they be influenced by the almighty dollars that the drug companies throw their way?  Was there any doubt?  Not for me.

Now, there is solid proof for what my Grandfather and my friend the psychiatrist have always said.  Physicians and pharmaceutical companies are pushing pills aggressively on every front.  The public must be cautious.  Do not trust the diagnosis, the doctor, or the documentation.  Consumers and “crazies,” Be aware.  You may not be as sick as you think.

References for Review . . .
Who’s behind that diagnosis? Marketplace, American Public Media. Thursday, April 20, 2006
DSM-IV-TR Library, American Psychiatric Association
Online Psychological Services
Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis By Paula J. Caplan (Editor), Lisa Cosgrove (Editor)
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders From Wikipedia
Excerpted from  the Introduction of Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis, Edited by Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D  & Lisa Cosgrove, Ph.D
Mental illness writers had industry ties: study By Lisa Richwine. Reuters. Thursday, April 20, 2006 11:01 PM BST
The drug industry’s chokehold on America’s health care By Joanne Laurier, WSWS: Book Review, January 2005
Mental Health Policy and Psychotropic Drugs
Mental Health Policy and Psychotropic Drugs Richard G. Frank , Renam Conti, and Howard H. Goldman
Study: Medical manual’s authors often tied to drugmakers By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
Experts Defining Mental Disorders Are Linked to Drug Firms By Shankar Vedantam. Washington Post Thursday, April 20, 2006
Mental illness writers had industry ties: study By Lisa Richwine. Yahoo News Thursday, April 20, 2006
Psychiatry manual linked to drug money, By Lisa Richwine. Reuters
Preparers of key guide linked to drug firms By Judith Graham. Chicago Tribune

Civil Disobedience, Thoreau, Anti-Iraq War Tax Resisters, Mary McCarthy ©

On income tax day, I was wandering about and discovered a post that brought me joy.  Steven Josselson, of Troubled Times: An Online Journal of Policy and Politics, offered a commentary that I found invigorating.  It stimulated my mind.

The topic was, “Refusing to Pay Taxes: Civil Disobedience and the Iraq war.”  I read. Then I began pondering the actions of these “defiant” peace protesters.  Many of the persons discussed in this essay were not willing to contribute their tax obligation to a country engaged in war; yet, they were willing to give their funds to charities.  These individuals consciously choose to donate their tax duties to organizations that embody a civic-minded philosophy.  However, society labels them civilly disobedient.  I wonder.

Since that day, my mind has been absorbed in the idea of Civil Disobedience.  Today, I think of the dismissed Central Intelligence agent, Mary McCarthy.  I read the papers, listen to the news, and I ponder.  Is the phrase a misnomer?  When we peacefully act in accordance with the founding principles of our forefathers, are we civilly disobedient or caring and concerned citizens?  I believe we are the latter.

Currently Mary McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer once assigned to the White House, is in the battle of a lifetime.

This Central Intelligence agent, and analyst, was recently released from her post and accused of leaking classified information on the rumored CIA prisons.  Mrs. McCarthy was given a lie detector test, failed, and then confessed.  On Thursday, April 21, 2006, McCarthy was escorted by agents from her CIA offices, This woman was publicly humiliated, while only a week earlier, Washington Post reporter, Dana Priest was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her reports on the prisons.

The dichotomy is fascinating. Mrs. Mary McCarthy is also accused of civil disobedience. Dana Priest is praised for disclosing the same information.  Some think McCarthy and her disclosures are treasonous.  Yet, they think the public has a right to know and they applaud Ms. Priest.  I question these cross-judgments.  Why would one woman be scorned as “civilly disobedient,” and the other praised as socially dutiful?  How do we define the term “civil disobedience?”

I feel certain some would consider both women wrong; others might think them each saintly.  Even the phrase civil disobedience can be defined as a good or bad. I think this needs to be discussed.  I am asking for discourse.  I pose my belief. When acted upon peacefully, with intentions to better the system, not abolish it, I consider the phrase my definition of “principled lessons in civics.” I think the apathetic disobedient

I believe if we truly care about our country, we participate, peacefully.  We communicate and ask for a dialogue, or present circumstances that create one.  I think citizens have a right and duty to improve our nation. We must commit to excellence.  We must work towards a peaceful union.  I think if we follow our “leaders” blindly, then we are not acting as responsible, concerned citizens.  We are merely compliant and not publicly minded.

Our government is meant to be a body that represents us, not decides for us.  Sadly, in recent decades the “government” is seen as a separate entity.  People in today’s world often consider themselves pawns, not powerful or vital.  They no longer see themselves as the solution; they think of themselves as helpless.  I struggle with this reality.

I believe that as individuals, and as part of a greater group we need to reflect, to act with intent, so that we might grow greater.  To this vision, I am inviting you dear reader to join me in a discussion of Civil disobedience.  To facilitate this dialogue, I am offering some thoughts of my own.  Please feel free to comment.

In reference to Central Intelligence agent Mary McCarthy, what were her motivations and might they possibly have been more honorable than those of the President?  Does this woman not have a history of caring?  Does she contemplate the causes and effects of American actions, specifically aggressive assaults?  It seems from her co-workers, she does.

In a New York Times article, “Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by the Rules,” By David S. Cloud, Mrs. McCarthy is said to be quite a cordial worker.  She is comprehensive in her investigations and states her concerns openly.  She is known to be thorough and appreciates the same.  Her posture favors humanitarian efforts and not those that are hasty, unthinking, or knee-jerk.

“We’re talking about a person with great integrity, who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules,” said Steven Simon.  Mr. Simon was a Security Council aide in the Clinton administration.  He worked closely with Mary McCarthy while serving the former President and he trusts that Mrs. McCarthy is honorable.

According to former government officials, in 1998, Mrs. McCarhty warned former President Bill Clinton that the plan to militarily strike a suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan relied on inconclusive intelligence. Mary O. McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer has long stood for informed decisions.  She frowned upon aggressive attacks that she believed did not promote a civil stance.  One former co-worker attributes this to her disdain for clandestine agenda.

“She was always of the view that she would rather not get her hands dirty with covert action” says Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. official. Scheuer also served during the Clinton years.  He claims to have been in meetings with Ms. McCarthy when she voiced her misgivings.  Mr. Scheuer recalls that McCarthy had strong suspicions about the intelligence on Al Qaeda.  She expressed her doubts to Mr. Clinton; she wondered whether chemical weapons were being produced in these Sudanese factories and thought it better to be certain before attacking.

However, the strike took place just as they were planned.  Ms. McCarthy’s qualms did not stop the retaliatory aggression against Al Qaeda.  After all, Americans want revenge and two American embassies were bombed in East Africa. Nevertheless, this earlier incident, and the current discussion of McCarthy leaks as they pertain to what some consider American abuse, do demonstrate that this woman is willing to dispute intelligence data and the methods sanctioned by her “superiors.”  She can and does question authority.  Is this wrong?

Is it not the manner in which we, as a people, as part of a republic choose to defy, challenge, or confront the circumstances that matters.  Can we register our complaints with compassion?  Can we communicate carefully in our attempt to reconcile our conscious and still be civilly obedient?  I think so.  I offer this component to the dialogue.

In the Christian Science Monitor article, “When the Tax Man cometh, they don’t answer the bell,” many tax resisters were interviewed.  Some, I think were merely manipulating a system that they disdained.  Others, such as Mrs. Ruth Benn of Brooklyn, New York are my heroes.  Mrs. Benn did not hide her actions or beliefs; she stated these proudly.  In a letter to the Internal Revenue Services, submitted with her 1040 form, she explained why she was not enclosing a check and where her funds were sent.

This lovely and thoughtful woman filed her 1040 on time.  She communicated her concerns stating, “I do not want my tax dollars to be used for killing and war.”  That sentiment for me is truly civil.  Apparently, an approximate 10,000 other Americans did the same; they too withheld their tax payments.  They also object to this less than sanctioned war.

There were those persons that did not pay their taxes for religious reasons, others because they conscientiously object to war.  Numerous individual were motivated by “personal politics.”  However, these individuals chose, in good conscious to donate the duty-bound capital to charities.  They wished to commit to causes that were indeed working towards a greater good.

Philosophically, this practice works well for me.  I do not understand those that think killing, maiming, and aggressively attacking those that disagree with them promotes a sense of community.  Nor do I comprehend how reactive behaviors such as these can be considered egalitarian or democratic.  For me, when the government dictates deeds that are counter to the common good, then it is not being civil, polite, or acting for the common good.

I do struggle however, with the reactive stance of those that hide and purposely avoid paying their taxes. Those that do not communicate their reasoning and rationalize that they need not, I consider less than ethical and aware.  I believe, as John Donne did, that “No man [woman, child, or being] is an island.” if we are to exist well together, we must work collectively and support each other.

When our countrymen in Congress do not represent us, we must stand and be counted. After all, this government was founded on the principles of civil consciousness.  We are a government “of, by, and for” the people.  If we are to truly be the United States of America, we must work as “us.”

Is a signature on a social security card similar to that on a professional contract? When we sign either, do we lose our right to question indignities imposed by a warring government?

When we know of activities that go against the grain of what is commonly considered for the common good and civilized, then, I believe we must speak. We need to take a stand respectfully.  Participating in practices that promote man’s inhumanity to man for me is not glorious; speaking against them is.  If questioning behaviors that glorify killing and maiming is considered legally disobedient, then I am willing to advocate defiance.

I strongly suspect Mary McCarthy and Ruth Benn felt they were obeying a higher authority than that of the Bush Band, one that is benevolent and not hiding behind the phrase “compassionate conservative.”  They did not think themselves disobedient.  I believe they thought they had an obligation to goodness, grace, and to their community.  If this is true, then I support them.  I even think them courageous.  And you, what do you think?

The following references may help you to decide . . .
Troubled Times: An online journal of policy and politics
When the Tax Man cometh, they don’t answer the bell By Chris Gaylord. The Christian Science Monitor. April 14, 2006
Henry David Thoreau: Civil Disobedience
C.I.A. Employee Fired for Alleged Leak, By David Johnston and Scott Shane, New York Times. April 21, 2006
CIA Fires Employee for Alleged Leak By Katherine Shrader, Associated Press
Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by the Rules By David S. Cloud. New York Times. April 23, 2006
CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks By Dafna Linzer. Washington Post Saturday, April 22, 2006
CIA Leaker Shown Door
NBC: CIA officer fired after admitting leak By Robert Windrem and Andrea Mitchell, NBC News. April 21, 2006
Dana Priest: 2006 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Category of Beat Reporting
Peace.protest.net: An eye for an eye will only leave the world blind. – Mahatma Gandhi
Please listen to this eloquent link . . . Altruism may be alive and well, even within the CIA.
All Things Considered, April 24, 2006 · NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says that most government officials who leak confidential information think of themselves as true whistle-blowers. They are motivated by a desire to serve the public interest.

Shrubs Grow. What of Bush’s? ©

The Bush Bullies live large. They have much, spend more, and take millions of loyalist down the path with them.  In order to be a Bush you must be well trained, educated at Andover, Yale, and Harvard.  One must know how to seize power while play-acting as though you have none if they want to be a Bush.

To be a Bush, a person must adopt a look of dopey diligence.  They must seem hard-working while doing nothing.  What an individual needs to do to be a Bush is appear less than bright or intellectual.  They must smear those that are truly sharp or smart.  To be a Bush, one must be sly and skimming; this takes brains however, it requires no depth or conscience.  Actually, those are an impediment.

A Bush will stay the course, even if he or she is off it.  Bush’s are not as shrubs; they do not grow, though their dollars do.  Bush’s need fertilizer; they have tilled the old soil for too long. Thus, I am providing nourishment to the ground on which they lie.

“Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.
Violence appears where power is in jeopardy,
but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance.”

Hannah Arendt, Political Theorist [1906-1975]

“Violence cannot build a better society. Disruption and disorder nourish repression, not justice.
They strike at the freedom of every citizen.
The community cannot, it will not,
tolerate coercion and mob rule.”

Commission on Civil Disorder, 1968

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
Isaac Asimov, Science-Fiction Author  [1920-1992]

“Violence does even justice unjustly.”
Thomas Carlyle, English author [1795?”1881]

“Nothing good ever comes of violence.”
Martin Luther, German leader of the Protestant Reformation [1483-1546]

For Further Fun . . .
Up In The Air, Where is the Iraq War Headed Next?, By Seymour M. Hersh
Sky falls in on Bush the outcast, The Observer. Sunday March 19, 2006
Bush Watch
American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, By Kevin Phillips
Don’t Impeach Bush, Commit Him By Ted Rall. Yahoo News. Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Please Participate in Peace, Send Petals ©

Those of you that traveled through this site on many occasions know of my commitment to peace. For me, war is never an option.  I believe in love.

I recognize that many say the same; however, often actions tell their truth.  People propose peace or profess the philosophy, then they state there are exceptions.  For me, there are none. I do not think any war is the one that will end all others.

I believe that we, as a society, are caught in a cycle of civil disobedience; it is known as war.  What is it good for?  In my mind, absolutely nothing! Yet, throughout our planet, there seems to be a conflict occurring somewhere, on any and every given day.

We can study stories from the Bible, the Torah, or our own modern historical texts; everywhere, we see evidence of what I find less than civilized or respectful.  We disobey and defy our own philosophical principles when we quote the Golden Rule, Scriptures, the Koran, Talmud, the Old or New Testaments, or other Holy books while promoting conflict.  We justify battles, bombs, combat, or what amounts to mass murder.  Then, we claim to be caring and innocent.  This is what we, as a culture, do and have done for centuries.  Some call it human nature.  I disagree.

People worldwide belie what they pretend to believe in.  They speak of world peace while going to war.  They state, “War is the last option,” while “thinking,” war the best alternative.  This baffles me.  I believe and observe that if individuals or groups think fighting is necessary at times, then, ultimately, they will do battle.  This dichotomy makes no sense to me; it never has.

Therefore, when I read of an effort to send love and peace to those that support the conflict in Iraq, I was interested and grateful.  This organized action advocates respect and reciprocal reverence. After reading of this, I rejoiced.

I want to share the story of this endeavor with you and ask you to join in.  If you cherished Internet-activist, wish to participate in a peaceful protest against the war, this might appeal to you.

I am linking you to a blog that asks for your nonviolent involvement.  Petals for Peace: You Can Stop the War (Day Three)

The author of this post, BostonJoe, requests a reciprocal reverence.  He desires, as do I, that you express yourself beyond the initial send.  You might consider offering a graceful and growing flower, a petal or two, to your own Congressperson. I think this wise.

Originally, gentle contributions were requested for Michigan Republican Representative Mike Rogers.  However, others might need a to know how you feel.  Please tell your representative that you wish to speak of peace.  You want to live in a world that is tranquil and calm.  Speak your mind and heart; send your representatives a petal of peace.

Let us hope that each seed spreads a message of love.  May we cover the Earth with foliage and not folly.

Please extend your heart, hand, and a bouquet.  Let us celebrate world peace by creating it.

Thoughts to consider . . .
Petals for Peace: You Can Stop the War (Day Three) By: BostonJoe
War is not the Smart Option, By Andrew Greeley. Chicago Sun-Times Friday, March 14, 2003
Anti-War Statements United for Peace and Justice
Iraq War The Nation
Protest Loud, peaceful protest interrupts Bush speech, By Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle. Friday, January 21, 2005

Schools, New York Offers Housing Subsidies, Bribing Educators ©

copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

Sadly, our schools and districts mirror the shortsightedness that permeates our society.  Solutions are simple and never novel.  We, as a people, rarely learn from our mistakes.  We repeat what was done, even if it did not work well in the past.  New York City Schools are an example of this.

Today, the New York City School District offered “experienced” educators a gift; they are giving those that are willing to teach math or science in the inner city schools, a home, or at least the down payment on an abode.  New York City schools are in crisis, and are taking action.  Actually, they are reacting.  For I believe that actions are expressions of love, we react when we fear.  New York Schools, the Teachers Union, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg are running scared.  Thus, they seek solutions, shortsighted as these may be.

Currently, New York City schools are experiencing a shortage of trained teachers. Science, Math, and Special Education instructors are badly needed.  The lack is greatest in the city’s most challenging schools, those in the inner city.  Trained personnel considers urban institutions far less appealing, therefore they go elsewhere.  Mayor Bloomberg is trying to change this.  He, the District, and the Union agree, offer trained personnel money and they will teach in our schools.

As parents, we learn bribing a child does not work.  Children do not grow greater when rewards are superficial, financial, or external.  Enticements might excite a child, an adult, or an educator initially; however, ultimately reality sets-in.  What was once a bonus becomes a burden.  Expectations are tied to these and they do not feel good.  Early on, we may be willing to do what we disdain for a dollar; later we will not.

As educators, we witness the short-lived stimulation of an external incentive.  Some of us realize that intrinsic rewards are authentically valuable.  Nevertheless, society teaches us tokens are attractive.  Even teacher education seminars spew this “truth.”  Vouchers may be appealing for a moment or two, and then the novelty wears off.  We conclude if we must suffer to receive a reward, it is not worth it.  If our minds, bodies, and hearts are overwhelmed while doing as we loathe, then any prize is not enough.

However, in a district that spends $15 Billion a year, money may seem the only answer.  This district may be as an absent parent. They offer material possessions to their offspring to compensate for the fact that emotionally, they are not there for them.  This District, as many if not most, is not there for the teacher; nor is it available to the students.  Education no longer considers genuine learning; it focuses on administering, teaching to, and the taking of tests.

Requirements for President Bush’s infamous, No Child Left Behind program amplify this.  These have taken a toll on scholarship.  Mr. Bush speaks of accountability.  In determining this, he and his comrades have created a structure that is void of learning and ignores the parameters that exist within our poorer and better schools.  Memorization, rote, and rules are the agendas in a kinder and gentler, benevolent Bush school.  In most educational establishments, students and teachers no longer experience a joy in teaching or learning. City schools suffer more severely.  Nevertheless, this strategy persists.  However, I digress, somewhat.

No Child Left Behind is magnifies what we as a society have done to our schools.  We have made them into prisons. We corral our students into a “classroom” and then discourage them from learning.  Curriculums are “standardized.”  School buildings are often locked down, computers locked up, pupils and instructors are locked in.  Creative, productive minds are left with little stimulus.

Books are often outdated, dry, and not readily available. Learners rarely relate to the material or the mentor. Teachers tend to be remote; some feel they have to be.  In truth, a genuine relationship between student and teacher is frowned upon.

In “good” schools and in those that are not, classrooms are crowded.  Discipline might be merely a concept.  Chaos is all too frequently the norm; some call this cooperative learning.  Individual learning styles are usually ignored.  There is too little time; teachers must teach to that basic skills test.  Success on these is vital.  Teachers’ jobs are on the line.

Parent involvement varies greatly.  To educator, administrator, and pupil, it can feel as too much or too little.  Instructors do a delicate dance and students’ needs are often lost in the shuffle.  For an empathetic tutor, this only adds to his or her frustration.

Resentment, dread, antipathy, apathy, and antagonism fill the schoolhouses.  Everyone inside is on edge.  Staff, students, and teachers long to be free; they desire the luxury of thinking, feeling, and doing what brings them pleasure.  Ultimately, they are liberated.  They pass their classes, dropout or burnout.  All are outcomes of a system gone awry.

An estimated 50 percent of all new teachers nationwide leave the profession within five years.  According to the Teacher Support Network,

“In a survey of head teachers by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in May 2000, 40% of respondents reported having visited their doctor with a stress-related problem in the previous year. 20% considered that they drank too much and 15% believed they were alcoholics. 25% suffered from serious stress related health problems including hypertension, insomnia, depression and gastrointestinal disorders.”

“Stress impacts greatly on teacher retention. A study conducted for the Times Educational Supplement in 1997 found that 37% of secondary vacancies and 19% of primary vacancies were due to ill-health, as compared to 9% of nursing vacancies and 5% in banking and the pharmaceutical industry.”

A career as an educator is a dichotomy.  The respect is little, the responsibility great.  American society shows its teachers little understanding.  This profession is interesting to say the least.

While it is nice to think as the New York Times article espouses, teachers are finally being honored and valued for their worth, this is not the case.  The incentives and stipends have strings, three years of service.  In other districts that have tried the same, monies must be paid back.  Service might be considered the same.  If the New York teachers leave before their contract is up, there are repercussions.

This plan will cost the New York City Schools have a $15 million, a drop in their $15 billion budget.  I can only wonder why they never think to spend their dollars on improving conditions.  Physical structures remain in a state of disrepair, more importantly; effective educational practices are not adopted.

Every endeavor in this District as in most seems a Band-Aid.  School districts, Administrators, Instructors, and parents focus on symptoms, short-term solutions and do not consider what truly caring for their progeny might look like.

I believe that a thoughtful education considers the love of learning.  This is not encouraged or promoted in most classrooms.  Advancement is to the next grade is the goal.  We do not train our young to progress from factual repetitions of rote; nor do we allow our teachers to evolve.  We, as a society, and within our schools do not applaud the creative, productive, and imaginative mind.  We do not reward independence or innovation in our educators or pupils.  We want these bodies to just exist and do as they are told, even if we have to bribe them.

Do I think that these “experienced” teachers that New York is now recruiting for their inner-city population will work effectively, will be happy in their new positions, or will serve the students well? No, I do not.

Just as the student population, the teachers will want to fly, to feel fulfilled, and to grow.  They cannot do this in a system that is stuck in what does not work.  People are as plants; they do not grow healthy, wealthy or wise when they are locked in, locked down, locked up, and rarely see the light of day.  Money cannot motivate an instructor or a student more than a moment or two.  Three years in a school or a system that imposes improbable standards, isolates, and insulates intelligence is a very long time!

  • Predicting the Need for Newly Hired Teachers in the United States to 2008-09 Institute of Education Sciences
  • A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools Are We Losing the Dream? By Erica Frankenberg, Chungmei Lee and Professor Gary Orfield. The President and Fellows of Harvard College.
  • Teacher Burnout By Tanuja Surpuriya and Mark Jordan. Memphis Flyer. October 27, 1997
  • Teacher stress: a critical review of recent findings and suggestions for future research directions. By By Matt Jarvis. Teacher Support Network
  • No Child (except those who are part of statistically insignificant racial groups) Left Behind by Maria Luisa Tucker. Alternet. April 19, 2006
  • New York City Will Add Schools to Ease Overcrowding, Klein Says Bloomberg.com April 18, 2006
  • Q and A, In the spirit of cooperation David and Roger Johnson
  • City Will Offer Housing Subsidy to Lure Teachers, By David M. Herszenhorn New York Times. April 19, 2006.

    We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty rewards–gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists or Phi Beta Kappa keys–in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else. –John Holt

  • Bush and His Billionaires Caused It. Let Them Pay ©

    All the talk of Catastrophe Funds seems silly to me; the reasoning is apt.  I think there are better sources for these subsidies than the government. In my mind, our efforts are misplaced.

    It is true; we as a nation and as a world have seen an increase in the number and intensity of cataclysmic storms. Tornados, droughts, hurricanes and other recent disasters have caused great calamity.  We are mired in misfortune. However, we are working to pay for what we caused.  We are closing the barn door behind us; our prides and joys are all long gone.  We now, belatedly, prepare for what was our own ignorance.  We elected George W. Bush, twice.  Well actually,

    . . . in 2000, Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed or anointed this sly desperado.  It was 36 days after his first Presidential run that George W. Bush was selected as our President.

    See what the true winner, by many counts, is now doing. Al Gore presents his concern.

    An Inconvenient Truth
    The Trailer
    A Campaign Gore Can’t Lose, By Richard Cohen. Washington Post. Tuesday, April 18, 2006; Page A19
    Nevertheless, four years later, we as a people essentially elected this twit. What were we thinking, or more accurately, what were those that voted for him thinking?  Many admittedly envisioned GW as the great protector.  He sheltered us [US] from terrorists.  However, no radical fanatic did more damage than he.  Bush battered this nation and our Earth.  He did so under the guise of a compassionate conservative.  I myself prefer a caring individual, one that conserves.

    However, supporters of this scoundrel did not.  They knew that this unethical Emperor had worked to destroy our environment.  Immediately after his initial inauguration, King George II changed our environmental standards.  He chose to lessen the ecologically sound restrictions that had been previously placed on the books.  The Blundering Bush allowed for more arsenic in water.

    Then and now, Gas Guzzling GW refuses to admit that burning coal is a problem.  He encourages it.  Bush belies the belief that cars using Chevron with Techron have served to increase temperatures worldwide.  He says that he wants to reduce this nations addiction to fossil fuels.  Why, if it does not harm?  Perhaps, he, his family, and familiars are planning to invest in renewable energy.  It is possible, though I find the theory questionable.  Actions do speak louder than words.

    If we consider the emission regulations Bush supports, we know his true desires.  Sports Utility Vehicle owners receive tax breaks under Bush.  A Republican Congress and the King allow these “small trucks” to emit toxic gases.  Recent changes in the laws that govern these monstrosities do little to better our surroundings.

    Baby George Bush believes or pretends to that natural causes are the reason we have had 19 of the 20 hottest years since 1980.  This man or monster takes no personal responsibility.  However, those of us that care and have watched the climate change wonder.

    We Americans, those that never marked our ballots for this buffoon, note the irrefutable connections.  We acknowledge that this administration is not only friendly toward oil interests. They are these.  George W. Bush and his majestic dynasty made their money by investing in petroleum.  They still do, as do their friends.

    Moguls and magnates from these flourishing fuel-pumping conglomerates were America’s energy commission.  Scientists were banned.  These industrialists and entrepreneurs created what now is policy. They have generated storms of infinite proportion.  Global warming is their legacy; yet, they are unwilling to pay for it and we, the people, do not ask them to.  We again, chose to mistakenly let this administration be.

    State governments are struggling to break even.  Insurance companies are refusing to issue policies for weather-related tragedies.  >People, ah the people.  Those that are directly affected by decisions of the Bush Band are barely surviving.  Still, we speak of Catastrophe Funds.  The public is relying on its own taxes to pay for the damage that nature and we did not create.

    Why are we not asking those that caused this ruin to pay?  They have Billions.  The price of their pleasure increases as the common folks suffer.  Is this the “justice” George W. speaks of?

    If we are to authentically spread democracy, might we not begin at home?  Here in the USA, let us adopt laws that protect and provide for all equally.  Let us no longer supplement the suffering imposed by a self-serving administration.  If we were to pass and enforce regulations that ended global warming, if we demanded repayment for the damage caused by a corrupt Cabinet, imagine what a world this would be.

    Sources of possible interest . . .
    George W. Bush, et al., Petitioners v. Albert Gore, Jr., et al. Cornell Law School
    Extra funds may ease woes By Beatrice E. Garcia, MiamiHerald.com Tuesday, April 18, 2006
    President Bush Discusses Global Climate Change June 2001
    Bush energy plan includes coal-burning power plants CNN Inside Politics. May 17, 2001
    Bush-Cheney Energy Plan: Plunder, Pollute, Price-Gouge and Profiteer Public Citizen May 17, 2001
    Bush’s Energy Policy Philadelphia Inquirer February 2, 2006
    Bush: Global warming is just hot air By Katharine Mieszkowski. Salon. September 10, 2004
    Global Warming Information Center
    Bush Family Values: War, Wealth, Oil by Kevin Phillips. The Los Angeles Times.Sunday, February 8, 2004
    Humans cause global warming, US admits, BBC News. Monday, 3 June, 2002
    The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won The Popular Vote? By Jonathan D. Simon, J.D. and Ron P. Baiman, Ph.D. Free Press
    The crisis at hand: covering Fla. homes, By Beatrice E. Garcia, MiamiHerald.com Sunday, April 16, 2006
    Katrina Clean-Up By Susanna Schrobsdorff. Newsweek. September 1, 2005
    Post-Katrina Promises Unfulfilled By Spencer S. Hsu. Washington Post Saturday, January 28, 2006
    Hurricane FAQs Hurricane Insurance Information Center
    Coalition Seeks Catastrophe Insurance Funds in N.Y., Other States Insurance Journal. October 3, 2005

    Education. Empty Heads, Full Hearts

    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    I have seen the look before, the focused eye, the stare full of hope.  Years ago, I thought it was fear and for some it was.  However, later many told me it was not for them.  Pupils told me where their minds were in those first moments, what they were thinking as I shared my classroom standards with them. Many said they were focused on my face, my words, and me.  Some stated that in the very first seconds they were scared; they had never heard a voice so certain and firm while still being so calm and caring. They were in awe.

    Shock filled their minds. There was no screaming, yelling, or rage; I was merely resolute.  I offered stories to explain my stance.  I asked if there are questions.  I requested that they participate.  I actively wanted to ensure that there was a complete understanding.  Students have said they appreciated this opportunity, the exchange.  They had heard the “rules” from other instructors; however, mine were different; they provided for choice. For most, my presentation was also unusual.  However, more than the vast majority understood my words.  I knew this by their behavior.

    Today, those gazes caught my attention again.  They continue to fill my mind.

    It has been a long time since I saw those stares.  I was living and working in an oasis.  I had forgotten.  For years, I taught in California, a state that rates low in education.  However, I taught only in exceptional pockets and my purse was full.  I saw students full of life and light.  They were energetic, enthusiastic, empathetic, and seeking enlightenment.  The students in Irvine, for the most part want to learn.  Parents are involved and encouraging.  Yes, there are exceptions; however these are a few and far between.  Those that are lost seem to have a lifetime of reasons to be so.

    I had forgotten. I had long ago accepted Irvine as the “norm.”  Then I moved.  I intentionally did my research.  I chose to live in an affluent community, one that I thought comparable to the Orange County oasis I had lived in for years.  Thus far, it is not.  There are similarities, and stark differences. There are not necessarily evident in a study of demographics or other statistics.

    I intentionally searched for a city with a college or two.  It seems from my observations and experience that youth seeking an education guide a greater community.  The young often have more buying power and influence that the elders, no matter where the locale.  Great minds gravitate to cities with Universities, at least that was my belief.  I saw this in Irvine.  I have yet to witness it here.

    As a child, I lived this.  My Mom always chose to live in cities full of culture.  She investigated, where were the educational institutions.  Each time Berenice decided to move, she would begin her search by asking where the professionals, intellectuals, and academics lived.  I did this too.  Admittedly, the weather was my guidepost; still, the essence of erudition was my mission.  I expected to find this in a population such as this; I have not.

    Today I entered a class. The students had never seen or experienced me before.  This was only my third day teaching in this city.  I began class as I always do; I shared my standards.  The climate in this class differed from my Irvine world, though I knew it would.  As I said this was my third day teaching in this city and in this state.  I am overwhelmed by what is not.

    I have discovered that here, unlike in California, private schools are extremely popular.  Perhaps that is where students similar to those I once knew are. I know not.  I do acknowledge that when I first heard of all the exclusive institutions, I thought this is as it is in California as well.  Now I wonder; is it?  In my neophyte state, wisdom says this is different.  As of this writing, I do not have enough information, though I plan to learn.  I will investigate, ask, read, look, and listen.  However, I digress.

    Today, the numerous looks of anticipation captured my attention. The unspoken thanks, the gratitude expressed by those that welcomed the stillness in the room, and the feeling that my standards were appreciated by those that reflected a desire to learn drew me in.  When there is a great contrast between those wanting knowledge and those lost in a world of whims, an observer can only be struck by those expectant eyes.

    When pupils push for the removal of a distracting and disruptive student, a teacher, a parent, an elder can be moved.  It is refreshing to realize that no mater what the situation, many still have what is too easily lost, the desire to learn.  As I drove home and thought of the day, an ancient song rang in my head.  The title, “Tears of a Clown.”  Granted the song speaks to a lost love; nevertheless, I think when we lose our love of learning, we are lost.  Our greatest love is gone, that pleasure we feel when we are growing greater, strong, and knowledgeable.

    I am glad and grateful; there are those that still hope.  This is good.  It is a pleasure to realize that given the opportunity to study in a focused manner, to be taught more than mere facts, or gain greater knowledge than conventional circumstances provide, students still choose to grab on, even if it is a novel experience.

    Resources that may be of interest . . .

  • Education Defined…Policy or Pupils Passionately Pursuing By Betsy L. Angert. Education Resources Information Center (ERIC)
  • Classroom Discipline Resources About
  • Improving Students’ Decision Making Skills By Robin S. Gregory and Robert T. Clemen
  • Students As Decision Makers Soundout
  • Inquiring Students Want To Learn, By Kim Howey. Brigham Young University Magazine
  • Parent Involvement in Schools! Education World, Incorporated. February 2, 2006
  • Study Shows Buying Power of Youth. iMedia Connection. September 08,2003
  • School District Demographics System Institute of Education Sciences U.S. Department of Education
  • Best Places To Live 2005 CNN Money
  • How Parents and Families Can Help Their Children Do Better in School. KidSource OnLine
  • Profiles of Private Elementary Day Schools & High Schools
  • Nurturing Children’s Natural Love of Learning By Jan Hunt, M.Sc. The Natural Child Project
  • Immigration. Intertwining Self-Interests and Ignoring Interdependence ©

    When discussing immigration it seems that what we in America know is what we ignore.  We know we want higher wages.  Americans strongly support increasing the income of native-born and naturalized workers.  Citizens of this country consider their wages and benefits vital.  Those of others in “foreign” lands are not our problem, or possibly, they are a cursory consideration.

    Persons residing in the United States want to ensure their quality of life.  The general public wants “stuff.”  They are proud of their possessions and property.  They flaunt these on airwaves and movie screens throughout the world.  People in this nation want the others on this Earth to see how good they have it.  Americans say, “Look at me.  I am so happy and healthy because I have this, that, and the riches that you do not.”  People of the USA pose for the cameras and profess, “This is America, the land of the free, home of the brave, and the land of opportunity.”  Citizens of this country invite and entice people from afar to come to this great land.  Then when immigrants do, [the ugly] Americans says, “Now, go home!”

    Americans are offended when those residing in this country without papers crave what citizens have or when they use our services and resources.  What happened to hospitality?  Hostility replaced it.

    Americans once wanted the best, now the most will suffice.  Either way, my countrymen do not want to pay for what they purchase.  They prefer prices to be lower, while wanting wages higher. Thus, we have Wal-Mart and other fine outsourcers.

    The quality of goods and services decreases. Availability increases. Profits do too.  Americans are buying more junk.  They have to; nothing lasts.  Standards are low; craftsmanship is an idea of antiquity.  Then, of course, there is built-in obsolescence.  This is accepted, even expected.  Manufacturers must produce; production provides jobs and profits. For whom, when, where, and how will these affect us all?  Americans avoid these questions.

    As a nation, we are willing to sacrifice excellence when purchasing commodities.  As long as the price is good, we can bathe ourselves in glitter.  “Streets paved in gold” is the notion that attracted our ancestors to this country.  Current “documented” residents also dream of gold.  Thus, they invest in America.

    As shareholders, we appreciate the cycle of supply and demand.  Free enterprise is our strength.  We consider competition good, though we love our Big Box stores.  We spend in and support those “shops” that eliminated the prospects of success for Mom-and-Pop stores.  We want our companies to make a profit, and we do whatever it takes to ensure that they do.  Citizens of the United States shout, “Buy American,” and they do [and don’t!].  Individuals buy the stocks and bonds this nation sells.  Products? Well, that is the earlier story.  The price counts; we have our priorities!

    Americans promote capitalism and the competitive spirit.  They hunger for success, however, only their own.  Thus, Americans create a scenario that they themselves find disturbing, immigration.  The citizenry here is a bundle of contradictions.

    When we work to have better and higher wages, greater and grander benefits, we entice persons from poorer nations to come to ours.  We also create a deeper divide.  The disparate conditions that exist between ourselves and other nations cements what we disdain, flight.  Our closest neighbor suffers as we prosper, and we resent them.  How dare those from afar, those that have less, want more.  Americans can aspire for grandeur; however, that seems to be different . . . in their minds.

    When those living “legally” in the USA parade their wares, gloat of achievements, and proudly express “this is the land of opportunity,” people believe.  Foreign dwellers think this is a place they can come to, to better their lives.  They believe it is possible to achieve the American Dream.  US citizens say we want those from distant lands to join us in our prosperity, however, selectively. They must fit our idea of ideal, our profile.

    Native born and naturalized American citizens speak of “democracy” and “freedom.”  They advocate that they want this for all others.  People in the USA recall many of their ancestors came here seeking a religious sanctuary.  They know that even in 2006, there are those in other nations that yearn to practice their faith freely.  Why would these individual and families not wish to find refuge in a country such as this?  Why are we surprised when those that crave a safe haven show up on our shores?

    More importantly, why do we Americans not see what we ourselves have created?

    I ask America to teach others how to create what all humans desire.  I plead with those born in the USA.  You know that we are the strongest nation on the planet, act as it.  Be powerful enough to offer compassion, physical and emotional support.  Understand those that have less are as we, they want more. Recognize that we exist on this globe together and we must work collectively as one.  Be democratic, not autocratic; remember internal and external walls and wars are not a solution; they are symptoms of a situation that is not resolved.  Let us act on what is true; we as a nation are not isolated.  We are interdependent.  They need us and we need them.  May we please work together as one?

    Indulge, yourself. Enjoy Max on immigration . . .
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