the world, it is too much with me

Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I wasn’t such a news junkie, that my twitter feed and FB newsfeed weren’t stories of devastation in Japan, or protests in Wisconsin, or governmental misdoings here, there, and everywhere. I sometimes think it would be nice if the most heartbreaking thing I read on social media was that so-and-so broke up.

But perhaps that’s part of growing up. But does it have to be so overwhelming? Is this what my parents felt when I was younger, this sadness and sense of being unable to provide a safe, sane world for their children?  Or has the advent of 24/7 news and instant updates made it seem worse?

Published in: on March 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm  Comments (1)  

avoidance or therapy?

Yesterday, my daughter planted some myrtle under the (now contained) pyracantha, and helped me plant a purple fountain grass and a curly rosemary.  We mulched the apricot, apple, and almond trees, sowed the front box with orange poppy seeds. We trimmed up the winter death off the roses, unearthed (unleaved?) the zebra grass, russian sage, and lipstick salvia, and trimmed the pomegranate.  Then I rearranged the porch, but together the IKEA storage/seat units, and swept the sidewalk.

We topped off our day by seeing Rango and eating popcorn for dinner.  It was almost perfect.

I say ‘almost’ because I have this thing hanging over my head, you see, called Chapter 4. It is my bane at the moment, a gnarled mess of bad Latin and even worse analysis, and I feel sort of trapped by it. What do you do to get out of the dissertation avoidance rut? I garden. And muck about on the interwebs. But it sits there, like a malevolence, something to be dealt with, to be tortured into the semblance of something less…pervasive and nagging.

And today, I’m trying to avoid it still.  But no more. I simply must.

Published in: on March 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Welcome to France in 1788?

In 2010, Exxon paid nothing in taxes to the federal government, yet the GOP-led house isn’t even considering cutting their subsidy.  That’s right…nothing, and for that, they get $4 billion in government subsidies.  Okay, admittedly, last year, I got more back from the Feds in the form of EIC than I paid, but I made less than $30,000.  Exxon has posted record profits over the last couple of years, with $9.25 billion this last quarter. Now, that may make their shareholders happy, just as my EIC made my shareholders (my kid, my landlord, the utility companies) happy.  But that doesn’t make it right.  Despite Exxon’s record profits, apologists on Capital Hill say that Exxon absolutely NEEDS those tax breaks.  Um, really?  Are you sure about that? Because they paid OTHER countries taxes, and they’re still in those countries.

And of course, Exxon can make these record profits because unrest in the middle east is always good for gouging out an extra buck or two (or 20).  The cost of gas and coffee is going up.  Rising gas prices mean higher food costs.  Sure, the cost of cucumbers has doubled in the last couple of months thanks to some crappy weather, but you can bet some of that is because of gas prices.  Wisconsin’s governor signed the union-busting (but not about money!) bill into law, despite over 60% of Wisconsin residents opposing it.  Michigan’s governor just signed into law a bill that makes it okay for the state to come into cities and school districts, declare a ‘fiscal emergency’ and take over. No, you didn’t read that wrong. If a city or school district is struggling, the state now has the right to replace ELECTED officials with appointed ‘managers’ who, presumably, will oversee a return to solvency.  How is it legal, you ask, to simply replace elected officials?  Ya got me on that one. I’d argue it isn’t, but then again, I’m not a lawyer.

PolitiFact, they of the ‘is this person telling the truth’ meter, rated MIchael Moore’s comments that the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 60% of Americans.  American Progess’ chart shows that tax loopholes and breaks for the wealthy basically equal all of the programs for the poor on the chopping block:

you can see where they got their figures from the original article.

People, what the hell are we telling ourselves is happening here? The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and what are we doing? We’re laughing at Charlie Sheen. Yes, the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan is devastating (and could have been worse, had it not been for those expensive, pesky government building codes), and there’s still a whole lot of homeless Haitians.  But this is America, where hard work is supposed to get you somewhere.  Why isn’t it? Why are unions under fire (and please, I know the pitfalls of unions, so none of this BS about unions being bad for America — thank your lucky stars — and the unions — that your kids don’t work, you don’t have to put in 15 hour days, and you have that thing you call a weekend)?  When did being liberal become a dirty word? Why isn’t anyone more upset by the Citizens United decision?  When did we start being thankful just to have a job, and stop actually demanding that those jobs be not only economically viable, but provide us with benefits? Where did this idea that universal health care, which works so well in every other industrialized nation, is a bad idea come from? And we did we decide that education was not only expendable, but apparently, one of the worst things ever to do to our children?

I know, lots of questions. And I don’t have all the answers. But damned if I’m going to continue to be passive about it.  Yeah, okay, what can one itty bitty blog do? Not much, truth be told.  But what if we declared a specific day a ‘stand up for education’ day, regardless of our political positions?  What if we all marched on our state capitals demanding that education be funded adequately?  What then?  What if instead of laying down and taking it, we actually started talking? And doing? And *gasp* collectively beat our energies towards making changes?

Myabe I’m wrong. Maybe we aren’t France in 1788…yet. Maybe we should write our cahier de doleances first.  But damn, if we aren’t careful, what’s next? Storming the Bastille? Marching on Versailles (or in this case, Washingon?)

Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 11:52 am  Comments (3)  

why NPR shouldn’t have backed down

I’m going to say some things that some of you may not want to hear, and frankly, I don’t care if you don’t want to hear them. Because I’m through being nice about politics.  Let me be clear…I’m a pretty damned flaming liberal on most things (I do think that the death penalty is warranted in some cases though, so my street cred may drop a little).  But I’m also a citizen of this country, and by the various deities, I’m fed the hell up.

What am I fed up with?  I’m fed up with Fox News defending billions of dollars being poured into Wall Street while decrying middle-class teachers as the enemy. I’m fed up with Scott Walker and his Koch monies doing an end run around what the people of Wisconsin really want. I’m fed up with union-busting as a method of saving money. I’m fed up with defunding NPR and Planned Parenthood while keeping millions of dollars in funding for the military to slap a sticker on a frickin’ race car. I’m fed up with educational budgets being slashed, which prison budgets go up. I’m fed up with Newt Gingrich claiming that his patriotism led to his infidelity, and Peter King spending my tax dollars to go after Muslims, spouting ‘facts’ that have been disproven.

And I’m fed up with the liberals in this country, even if they aren’t actually LIBERAL, backing away from every single fight.  Universities get called ‘liberal bastions’ and when their turn on the chopping block comes, they don’t defend themselves.  Are we too intellectual to defend ourselves? Too educated to join in such a pedestrian conversation as money? Did the Ivory Tower’s air system go wonky?  Look, if we think education matters, we gotta stand around with some signs and yell.  We’ve tried talking, and look where that got us…gosh, exactly NOWHERE.  Where are the walk outs, the sit ins, the shout downs?  Where are the students converging on state capitals demanding that the state stop balancing the budget on their backs? Hell, where are the FACULTY doing the same thing? Come one…how many students and faculty are in the UC, CSU, and CACC system? Rent every single school bus you can find and converge on Sactown. Do you really think Jerry Brown can ignore several million people on his doorstep?  Really?

We can hope, of course.   Even though Walker managed (I’m still calling illegal on that, however) to bust the unions in Wisconsin, do you really think there’s gonna be a Republican majority in 2 years? I’m gonna say no. They guy may not even last a term.  Just saying.  Here in Arizona, one can only hope that Jan Brewer finally steps over the line into whackoland and gets canned. There’s already a recall petition going around, and you’d be surprised who’s signing it. But hope and a dollar — well, it might get you something at the dollar store. Maybe.

When Ron Schiller said that there was an anti-intellectual conservative movement in America, he wasn’t wrong. When he said the Tea Party was racist, he wasn’t wrong.  When he said they were xenophobic, he wasn’t wrong.  Is everyone who calls themselves a member of the Tea Party racist? no. Xenophobic? probably not.  But he’s not wrong.  There are some seriously racist elements in the current conservative tent — witness the birthers, the backers of SB1070 in Arizona, Peter King’s Senate hearings on ‘radical’ muslims.  And when asked to tell the party faithful that yes, Obama is an American citizen, what do they do? “Well, I can’t tell them what to think” — why not? You do it on everything else!  Schiller’s comments may have been ill-spoken, and a bit of a blanket statement, but he isn’t wrong.

And that’s why NPR should have said something like this: “While we deplore the manner in which Ron Schiller spoke, the views he expressed were his own.  Given that Mr. Schiller has already announced he is leaving NPR, we believe the matter is at an end.” End of discussion. By moving up his departure, and the departure the next day (accounts vary on if it was a firing or a resignation) of Vivian Schiller, the head of NPR, NPR has clearly signaled that it, too, is going to lie down and take it. Sure, they did their fundraisers, and asked listeners to give a little more. And I suppose that, truly, as a news organization that actually values a certain adherence to oh, those pesky things called ‘facts’ that other “news” organizations like to…ahem…well…let’s just call it LIE about and leave it at that (and yes, for the dense, I do mean FOX…how’d you guess?!), standing up for themselves is a bit hard to do without being biased. But still, by allowing both of the Schillers to leave under a cloud was the equivalent of rolling over.

I say we’ve done enough rolling over (and yes, Obama, I’m looking hard at you with THE LOOK, and you can ask people just how devastating that can be).  Stop giving in to the bullying of the left wing pundits. Stop paying attention to what those blowhards Beck and Limbaugh have to say, stop fretting that we’ll look like out of touch intellectual elitists, and remind people that if they give a shit about their jobs, their homes, their retirement, their children’s future, and things like oh, not being at war, then perhaps it’s time to STAND THE FUCK UP and DO SOMETHING.

Sorry for the swearing and all, but dang, people. Stop thinking, and start doing.

 

Published in: on March 10, 2011 at 8:35 am  Comments (4)  

the (un)pampered life of a high school teacher

You know, I have to admit, I just don’t get it.  If you take a new teacher’s starting salary, which is somewhere right around $41,000 (But as Chris points out below, it’s actually $31,000 — hey, there’s a reason I’m a historian!) (North Dakota is at the low end, with a new teacher starting at $25,000, and Connecticut is at the high end, with a starting salary of $40,000).  That’s K-12 of course.  Faculty incomes are higher.  But then there’s this whole thing about summers off, and short days, blah blah blah.  And of course, their unions…they’re ruining our economy, right?

Let me tell you about the K-12 teachers I know.  They get to work at least a half hour before the students arrive to make copies, set up their lessons for the day, catch up on the never ending pile of grading, enter grades into the computer, email parents of students who are failing — some of whom never email back — and maybe get a cup of coffee.  Then they greet their students and start teaching. In their classrooms, they have to deal with students who came into their classrooms unprepared, passed along by a system which would rather hand off the problem than deal one more time with problem student’s parents, who insist that their little angel couldn’t possibly be flunking.  They also have to deal with, well, teenagers — not the most attentive of age groups, regardless of the situation.  They have to keep in mind that state tests are coming up, and they have to prepare students for that, while at the same time, keeping the bright ones interested, getting the slow ones up to speed, and yet not losing sight of the middle.  They do this with somewhere between 25 and 40 students in the room.

In the 5 minutes between classes, they are breaking up fights (and occasionally, very public displays of affection), prepping for the next class, getting students into classrooms and ready for the start of class, and if they’re very, very lucky, dashing off to the bathroom.  If they’re really, really lucky, they might get 15 or even 20 minutes to go down to the break room and scarf down their lunches, although most times, they eat at their desks, grading, filling in paperwork to justify why someone’s ‘little angel’ isn’t, getting ready for their afternoon classes, calling parents who may or may not pick up the phone or return a message, answering emails from parents worried about their students, setting up a speaker or field trip (if their state still allows for those, mind you)…and then their afternoon begins.

Oh, you say, well that’s what I do at work, and they get done at 3 (such an easy life…and summers off, let’s not forget).  Yep, the students go home…at least some of them.  But then there’s the drama teacher herding cats into some semblance of a play, who’s there until 7 or 8 every night, and for 12 hours both days of the weekend to guide the students in building sets, and then, of course, there’s the performance nights, which start at 4 and often end by midnight.  And then there’s the teacher who helps the Model United Nations students, or the yearbook students, or the cheerleaders, football team, German club, history club (there’s a lot of clubs in high schools)…they’re there, still guiding teenagers, planning cultural events, or game schedules, coordinating chaperones, organizing bake sales, helping students with layouts or a new cheer, working on a new play…and they are there at every meeting.  Oh, and then there’s those meetings of all the teachers, to learn about yet another budget cut, new state standards, and other assorted things that are required for the school to actually RUN.

They might, if they are very lucky, leave sometime between 1 to 2 hours after the students have.  But when you go home from work, unless you are in a position where you might be on call, you don’t worry about it until the next morning.  When these teachers go home, they take a crate (yes, a crate) full of grading that they do, with a few breaks for dinner, maybe a bath or laundry, until they go to bed.  They fill in reports, grade exams, quizzes, and papers, make sure they’re ready for the next day, and ponder what to do about that student who, despite all the extra help, just isn’t doing well.  They might have to run to the office supply store for lined paper, or other supplies, which the school used to provide, but no longer can afford to.

And I haven’t even touched on that ‘summer off’, which, by the way, isn’t.  In the summer, if they aren’t teaching summer school, they are cramming in continuing education classes required by their states to maintain their teaching licenses. Some spend their summers writing grants so they can make education better.  Others spend time with their younger children, for whom the cost of daycare outstrips any income they could earn from a summer job. Still others get summer jobs, doing everything from working at a resort as a food server to being the gardening expert at the local big box home improvement store.  Some do all of these.  And let’s not forget that before students show up again in the fall, they have to get everything in place.  They show up back at school a full month before the students do, so that your precious little angel walks into a classroom that is ready to go from day one of the year.

So, just take a moment.  $41,000.  Let’s just assume that yes, they aren’t teaching in the summer.  Okay, still, most of the teachers I know work upwards of 80 hours a week.  Let’s do that math, shall we?  Let’s assume that a teacher makes the national average of $41,000 a year.  And further, let’s assume that they work 10 months a year (not true, but okay).  That’s $4100 a month…gosh, that’s a lot!  But wait, they work 80 hours a week on average…so that’s 4 weeks a month, which makes 320 hours a month.  Wait, what?  We pay our teachers an average of slightly UNDER 13 bucks an hour?  (Oh gosh, that’s a lot you might say…but remember, that doesn’t include taxes, their contribution to their retirement accounts — largely mandatory — or their health insurance premiums).  So let’s just cut that to $10 an hour (and dang, that’s a great cut…it’s likely much less than that).

Now ask yourself…would you do everything they do for $10 an hour?

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 12:34 am  Comments (11)