Monthly Archives: February 2011

Vilifying Teachers

I just cannot understand how this became a war between teachers and the government. Teachers run our schools. The government assumes teachers are to blame when students or schools fail. Why? We all can name at least five possible reasons why a student might fail that have nothing to do with teachers. The teachers I have known have been hard workers who often enhanced their instruction at their own expense. Are our politicians jealous of the only people in our society with some degree of job security? Are other American’s jealous (this, at least, I could understand)? No society can be successful with a good solid middle class.

What kind of message does this send our children about the importance of teachers and schools? If everyone is vilifying teachers how can we expect to produce more competitive citizens? These methods will not get you better schools. Only study, discussion, and reform will get us better schools. Some of our children seem to be unable to value education because it is mandatory and they are “forced” to attend. We need to make schools that students want to attend. Maybe we need to make schooling more competitive in a way. Our children are as stubborn about their freedom as any of us, although they often lack the maturity to act in their own best interests, and if they don’t buy into the importance of school we need to make schooling more desirable. Our school system is huge and big institutions do not change easily. Busting unions and “dissing” teachers is not the way to accomplish positive change.

Facebook Announcement

Facebook logoImage via Wikipedia

There is a new Facebook page for The Brissioni Blog. Nothing very extravagant. There is a small album of photos of the house and my office tree. Each day I post the topic for my blog and perhaps a small message. I don’t know how Facebook works but if you do you are welcome to interact with my Facebook page in the ways that are possible. I’ll try to learn more about Facebook. Be kind please.

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Book – The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon

It seems as if there have been quite a few books written lately where the unraveling of family secrets has been central to the story. The title here does not disappoint. In The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon, a husband, father, and successful hotel manager has inexplicably accepted the fact that he is not in contact with anyone in his family and has not been for many years. His wife, who loves him, finds that his lack of a past is impacting on their relationship. His family did have some whopping secrets and if anyone deserved to be dysfunctional it is “Justin”. That he found love and is successful is a testament to the resilience of children. Justin wins his peace, although I don’t know if the resolution that he gets would satisfy me. The reader gets a wicked surprise at the end of the story. Would knowing this final secret have changed the outcome of the story? We will never know. This is Dianne Dixon’s first book. I did enjoy reading it, but am not sure it is unforgettable.

Books – February List – Part 2

These books are also on my February list. They are recommended by librarians and for some reason some of them have really long titles this time. The starred books are the ones I am most interested in although I want to read them all. If only there were two me’s, one who could just read and one who could do everything else.

An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorjan Norton, “her grandparents killed themselves in their tidy little house in a suburb of Copenhagen”
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka, “mixes history and romance to tell the tale of two lovers living in Poland during WWII”
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley, “11 year old sleuth”
The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, “Sherlock Holmes meets the Arabian Nights”
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, “magic, myth, and mystery”
The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard, “adolescence gone awry”
Invisible River by Helena McEwen, ”beautiful, tender novel”
A Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor, “an artful mix of mystery and history
Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, “tale of healing and redemption”
The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – A Love Story
by Ree Drummond
*Ugly Beauty by Ruth Brandon, “dual biography of Helena Rubinstein and Eugene Schueller the founder of L’Oreal”
*The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, “a British Lady with TB and her maid go to live in Egypt where they experience a brief but wonderful freedom”
Swamplandia by Karen Russell, “a novel about the Bigtree family of Florida alligator country

The Daily Beast describes a book called Vilmorin The Vegetable Garden by Taschen. Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie are famous French seed purveyors. This book is made of loose leaf copies of Vilmorin’s gorgeous vegetable prints ready for framing. It sounds like a wonderful thing to read and see in February and I would love to own it, but it is somewhat pricey.

Two Americas

If the rich don’t want to pay more (or any) to help America with its deficit, we probably can’t make them. If they want to let education funding go and health care disappear because they can afford schooling without taxes and health care without health insurance, and they refuse to pay for the leeches (us) at the bottom of the pond, then there is probably nothing we can do. If they don’t want to pay they will find a way to legislate the whole thing away through arcane loopholes that we could never foresee. Perhaps there is loophole think tank somewhere. If we need new sewers, new roads, new mass transportation we are probably on our own because the rich don’t find these expenses necessary and they don’t want to pay. Just keep the air fields in good shape.

I get it. They are saying that we can only have things that we can pay for by ourselves. They know how to funnel the money towards their neighborhoods so their neighborhoods will still be nice. If they are surrounded by blight they will build walls and gates and hire guards. If they are threatened by disease from beyond their walls, they will put air scrubbers on top of the walls. They’ll sequester their water supplies. We will have two Americas. Our forefathers might not mind. They lived in times when only male landowners had rights. But we won’t be a democracy. We won’t be the land of the free and the home of the brave. We won’t be America. We’ll be something else.

As much as you would like to believe that you can separate yourselves from us bottom dwellers you probably cannot. We are all interrelated. If schools fail, the fallout will eventually affect you. If our health care net fails the resulting diseases will ultimately affect you. If there are epidemics some of you will probably be affected. The world is old and people in Europe have been through all of this before. If we let our roads and railroads get worse (and they are already not good) you won’t have a supply line. You can’t fly everything in.

Slashing and burning is not the answer here. If we let everything slide we may never be able to afford to rebuild. We are Americans. We don’t usually go for each other’s throats. We don’t usually have dictatorial men or women saying “it’s my way or the highway.” We usually discuss our problems and come up with solutions. We cannot make up all of this debt at once and still have a viable America. We need a slower, but surer plan to pay off, yet maintain. If teachers can forego raises they were promised, our wealthier citizens could let their leaders off the hook and agree to pay somewhat higher taxes, instead of insisting on tax cuts.

I Am a Union Girl

My Dad was a union guy and I am a union girl. I can’t count the number of times my union has fought to protect our state universities. We already saw what capitalism is like without unions. It isn’t pretty. The problem is that we may have to accept that our economy may succeed in making unions irrelevant. When our businesses moved to China or India all our unions could do was provide for retraining. When our companies went bankrupt sometimes our unions were able to protect pensions or other benefits and retrieve them on our behalf, but sometimes they were unable to do that. Employees everywhere are agreeing to freeze their own wages with or without the blessings of their union. I am stunned by Wisconsin where they are going for the juggler vein of the union, collective bargaining. They are taking back promises to provide pensions and benefits. It is entirely possible that union members will have to accept the cuts, although hopefully they can save their collective bargaining rights. (I just love those gutsy Democrats who are roaming around in a bus to stop a vote.) I didn’t think we were there yet. If we are seeing the death of the unions we all understand that at some point we will need something just like them again. Even in the Middle Ages they had the Guilds.

I do not believe, as many people apparently do, that the unions caused the global shifts in our economy. This shift was probably inevitable. The dialectic is always at work, or, in other words, two steps forward, one step back. One final thought, since when does being able to get elected mean you are given a mandate to act like a dictator?

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Entitlements II

If it is true that these entitlement programs are creating huge debt in our federal, state, and local governments then we must either come up with a plan or just deal with the consequences when the programs fall apart.

Our problems are partly due to the way everything is interrelated. If the corporations didn’t leave for Asia, if the housing boom wasn’t built on fraud, if unemployment wasn’t so high, if there was some new product or invention that would fill the profit gaps in our economy, then our entitlements might not be an issue.

Can we give up these entitlement programs without feeling like America has failed? We were a country where the American Dream was so strong and so real that we could afford empathy, humanitarianism. There was enough affluence to allow us to take care of our poor and our grandparents. If we have to backtrack from this will we lose our mojo? We’ll still be America but won’t we be America with its tail between its legs? I can’t believe we’re going to go here but it is looking more and more like somehow we will.

Entitlements I

Part of the answer to the question about what to do about entitlements might be to break each program down:

Social Security

Leave aside the people already on Social Security

Ask each group not yet of age what they would like to do. What do the 50 year olds want?, the 40 year olds?, the 30 year olds?, the 20 year olds? Pitting young people again seniors is not nice.

Separate Social Security disability from Social Security retirement because there is more fraud in the disability program and perhaps more money can be saved here

If you have to cut Social Security you will need to cut the people with the highest incomes first because those at the bottom will not be able to survive without their Social Security income.

Medicare

If you cut the whole program many Seniors will be without health care.

If you cut too many tests and meds you will be deciding about the life and/or death of the poorest seniors.

Think again about senior selected euthanasia. Many of us would like the option when our quality of life is gone and there are no other measures to be taken. Lingering deaths are not what anyone wants for self or loved ones and such prolonged illnesses are very expensive. This is one of those issues where Christian Americans try to dictate against choice.

Can we do a better job stopping fraud?

Medicaid

Can we do a better job stopping fraud?

Consider services to children and adults separately. The needs of children should be met: pediatrics, specialists, dentists, orthodontists, vision services, hearing services, dermatology. No skimping here.

Can some services to adults be cut?

Can different income levels be served differently?

Will Obama’s health reforms lessen the need for Medicaid?

If we break these programs down would we get more useful feedback from more focused groups of people? Every time our elected leaders mention cutting entitlements we all go nuts because we have no idea of what specific cuts are being considered.

Lara Logan

Picture of CBS News correspondent Lara Logan o...Image via Wikipedia

Lara Logan – I have watched her from the midst of two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. I have admired her professional daring and her personal moxie. This is what women’s lib was all about. Women can be mom and stay home if they wish or they can traipse off to the ends of the earth if they wish.

I never realized that independence for women might mean putting yourself at risk until I took a drive cross country once by myself in winter. I did it because I had a sabbatical. I was going to graduate school. What I learned is: 1) I am not brave at all, and 2) however wonderful some men can be there are a lot of men who are not wonderful at all. Women, who go off on their own, in areas that men consider their bailiwick, may face danger. Of course wars also have all kinds of threats from non-human sources. A personal attack by humans, though, seems somehow much worse. Although harm could theoretically come from other women, it is not the usual order of things. Women, however, do have to be aware of what the men around them are thinking, what they believe, and what they will be willing to do.

I am sure Lara Logan knew what she did for a living involved a huge element of risk, but she usually had co-workers around her or American troops who were on her side. I don’t know if she was prepared for a personal attack. I cannot stand to think of her being separated from her crew in the center of an apparently hostile mob of men, men who do not even believe women should drive or walk about without a head scarf. She was always brave but not stupid. This threat from men who would not even consider the liberation of women was a danger that was always there but was always unlikely because she had back up.

Sexual abuse makes women afraid. I’m sure that is part of the point. The psychological effects are often the worst part. We will all understand, Lara, if you want to lie low for a little or a long while and find some less risky work to do. We will also understand if you feel you have to get right back out there to show that you refuse to let fear dictate your future. Either way, it is purely your choice and I will continue to admire the work you have done and the work you will do, whether you choose to do it from the scariest place on earth or from here at home. It has been a pleasure to watch your career in the glimpses we get on TV. I’m sure there are millions of people wishing you well.

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Time Warp

Echo Park Time Travel MartImage by Laughing Squid via Flickr

It used to be that if you had more than one TV you could go from room to room and the TV’s would be in sync. Now the audio on each TV goes off on its own. If the rooms are close enough to each other you get the effect of an audio echo. I’m sure there is a scientific explanation for this, but it seems like the cable company is playing with time. It’s good for energy conservation because you have to turn on and off as you go, but the old in sync audio made housework a lot more fun. You could follow your shows around the house. Now you either experience audio chaos or time traveling, or both. Would this be difficult to fix?

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