Ruminations on the crazy people we are, by a retired teacher/musician. Can't get the "requests" out of my system after years of barroom/lounge/restaurant/party gigs mining 100 years worth of the musical mother-lode.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Who IS to blame?

late life pete says "so who is to blame," for the deception, the power-grabbing, the failure to serve the people's needs in our democracy?

I have never taken on the task of answering that question before. Most of the answers thinking people come up with are symptomatic, and don't get to the root of the problem. Is our Constitution a failure, since clever, driven, politicians can neutralize the Separation of Powers, the Checks and Balances, and actually carry on something of a dictatorship? If they can, then we are subject to the playout of every weakness of every leader we chose.

For the better part of four decades, I taught American History to upper elementary level kids. I taught it proudly, and made every effort to instill in them the attitude that they owed their predecessors big time for the nation that had been handed down to them. I would be at a loss for what to say in the classroom today, how to explain what is going on presently, and what we have discovered only too late about what has taken place in the past.

Consider a few examples:
1. the acquisition of Panama: when we say it was a steal, we mean
precisely that. Under pretense of a faux revolution, we grabbed
the Isthmus of Panama from Colombia.
2. the Wilson presidency: in his waning days, decisions were being made
by his wife, and the nation none the wiser.
3. the Tonkin Gulf Resolution: a war-powers measure based on a total
fiction. Think of this as you meditate at the Vietnam War Memorial.
4. the War Powers Act: designed to require oversight and appro-
val of Congress for any war-making by the President, is, in fact,
5. so-called "signing statements:" Presidents have, (and the present Pre-
sident has made a practice of it,) added "sidebars" to legislation after
signing, to indicate to Executive Departments which lines to not be
overly concerned about enforcing or executing, thus usurping the very
power specifically assigned by the Constitution to the people's rep-


Whereas, our Constitution has been frequently abused by the very people we elect to enforce it and protect it, and,
Whereas, these abuses have endangered the very continuance of our democracy, and,
Whereas, we have a responsibility to our children to pass on to them the democracy promised to them in the Constitution, and,
Whereas, the influence of our democracy has been so critical to the establishment of democracies all over the world, thus giving us a grave responsibility as caretakers of this great gift which was given to us,

Be it resolved that, through the next six years, we shall endeavor to elect Congressmen rigorously committed to reform of the Executive and the Congress, and,
Be it resolved further, that, once a viable democratically chosen Congress shall be in place, Amendments to the Constitution shall be offered for the people's consideration that will, in effect, return our government to the function and service it was originally intended to provide.

(It is possible.)

A private note: as I concluded this piece I have been listening to a recording, on BANJO, of My Country 'Tis of Thee. (In musical truth, a rendition written by Bach of variations on God Save The Queen, played by Bela Fleck. What a piece of work by Ludwig, and Bela. As a child, My Country Tis Of Thee was the patriotic song we knew best, and I have great memories of it. How strange!

End of Ruminations for today, 5.30.06

Monday, May 29, 2006

Peace, Man

On this Memorial Day, I have seen a documentary about the past that is so rife with lessons for the present, it's uncanny. "Two Days in October" pairs two events in October of '67: an ambush of an American unit in the "iron triangle" in Vietnam, and a series of events involved in a student protest at the U. of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin.

The ambush was a slaughter. Officers and men who survived testify to that fact, with tears in their eyes. The men who died weren't just killed, they were torn to pieces by withering fire, as they followed their orders and walked into a thickly grown area with no ability to see what was ahead. It would have been worse, but that the North Vietnamese had a schedule to keep and had to move elsewhere.That would have been bad enough. What followed was doubly sad. Gen. Westmoreland, as he handed out Purple Hearts, asked what had happened. As the men told him of the ambush, he said, "No, no, it wasn't an ambush." Press releases led people to believe this was just part of a larger operation that was successful, an out and out lie. Bert Quint of CBS was interviewing survivors later, and those men were told by their senior officers NOT to use the word ambush. Right. The truth was never known at home.

The protest at U. of Wisconsin began as a peaceful sit-in, and ended up with the Chancellor of the University calling in the police, who interpreted this as a call to bang heads, which they did. Later statements by public officials referred to "outside agitators."

An interesting side aspect of the documentary is the opportunity to compare the efforts of the G.I.s and the students. The students' attitude and actions seem so small next to the suffering of the G.I.s. However, a UW prof who was on the scene put it well, when he said he had no quarrel with the G.I.s; they were performaing their duty as citizens, as they saw it, and so were the students.

The outstanding issue for us today, is that the lying continues: the Pat Tillman case, the recent Marine scandal in Iraq, and so on.

Two thoughts emerge: 1) the citizenry needs to assure that we have a government that is held accountable, and, 2) it is government's deepest responsibility TO MAKE PEACE HAPPEN! That is how to "protect the American people." A look at how the Civil War came about in this country shows a pathetic example of politicians quibbling for their own regional interests, and allowing the country to fall into a great, shameful bloodletting.
The terminal stupidity of Neville Chamberlain and his ridiculous comment that, having spoken with Mr.Hitler, we have secured "peace in our time." Oh yeah. There never really has been a Pax Americana, but if there is ever to be one, we need to secure better leadership than what we have now.

End of Ruminations for today, 5.31.06, Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"...and you're no Jack Kennedy"

Lloyd Bentsen died today. I guess all the rest of his career as a Representative and Senator was washed aside by the impact of his retort to Dan Quayle, arguably the most "don't get it" candidate the Republicans ever put forward. After Quayle was comparing his record to Jack Kennedy's, Bentsen took umbrage that this silly goose should even mention himself in the same sentence with JFK, and responded, if I may quote loosely, " I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine, and frankly, you're no Jack Kennedy." This was perhaps the most impacting riposte I have ever heard, perhaps on a par with Robert Welch's comment to the infamous Joe McCarthy, "...have you no decency, sir.?"

Though the impact of these comments was intense, the underlying reality was the cosmic lack of human sensitivity evidenced by Quayle and McCarthy that brought these remarks forth. I think we are awash with much of the same today. Lloyd Bentsen, Robert Welch, where are you when we need you.? Will someone please step up to the plate.

End of Ruminations for today, 5.23.06

Monday, May 22, 2006

Big Picture:Simple Picture:Big Question:Simple Answer

The discussion goes on about building walls at our border.Blah, blah, blah,blah.
The discussion is about symptoms, not about the problem.

The problem is: the poor of the world are reaching for the means to survive in ways that all might agree are humane.Some come from Mexico; some come from Africa to the Canary Islands, and become Spain's problem. Some head for Eastern Europe fom Africa and Mediterranean and Middle Eastern areas. Some head for England from old empire nations, protectorates, etc.

The question is, do we wish to help them out?

The need: say yes or no.Simple.

The program: establish an international consortium to improve economies in poor countries; the quid pro quo.......those countries are responsible for channeling their emigrants through legal processes, established internationally.

The only complicated aspect of the problem is all the blah, blah, blah, that keeps running out of the mouths of those with an axe to grind.

End of Ruminations for today, 5.22.06

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Double "WHAT?"

The TV ad says: "If shaving your legs
is not a threat to
your masculinity, then
you're a Mitchum man!



I have occasionally explored a theory that the most obvious cause for the breakdown in what used to be a viable American culture is the drive for profit by entrepreneurs, large and small, but mostly large. Is nothing sacred?

When the earring thing started happening in the sixties, it was a valid statement of sexual, stylistic, and cultural individuality, no profit involved.Since then, however, the effort to make Man into Woman II has never let up. The most ridiculous of all was the guys heading to the salon for that poodle-type "Do," the most obvious offender being the former Dodger pitcher Don Sutton. Tell me it's not about money. If a guy goes to the "salon" for a "do" he's dropping anywhere from $35 to hundreds of bucks for the privilege. At Tony's Barber Shop, (you know, with the pepperment rotating outside,) he would have spent $15 to $20. Mitchum? Well, with every new concept comes a new scent, right? Uh-oh, l said the word: SCENT. Language usage can be indicative of subtle change in society and attaching SCENT to maleness,assuming it does not denote the animal following a scent for the kill, is such an example.

Don't sit by and watch your culture emasculated! Rise up! Get out there and get a damned HAIRCUT! Now there's a simple, uncluttered word for you, HAIRCUT.And don't forget those calendars on the walls at Tony's.

End of Ruminations for today, 5.21.06

Dja know? The word ruminations derives from rumen, which has to do with the process of chewing and rechewing of food in some animals. Gosh!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

After all, they're not all that bad.....................

Yesterday, John Corzine was taken to task by people speaking in behalf of the persecuted Falun Gong, for visiting China on a "Sell NJ' junket. His response was interesting, and perhaps revealing of the man's sensitivity level. To paraphrase, he said that after all, China wasn't in a persecutors league with South African Apartheid or the present day persecution in Sudan.


Who the hell cares? Is the lack of freedom and democratic procedure not "serious enough" to merit his attention? Wow!

The truth is, a convincing argument can, in fact, be made for trading with the likes of China, inspite of their human rights abuses. When I hear that "The New China" is being inundated with McDonalds and Starbucks installations, I feel that the future is safe. With materialism rampant in China, they will, in no time at all, be as soft as we are. After that point, tyrannical governments will fall, just as they did in the once powerful USSR. Though the cause in Russia was more the WANT of material goods, the cause in China will be the abundance of material goods.

Governor Corzine, however, that's a horse of another color.

End of ruminations for today, 5.18.06

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Dja ever notice how the same guys who will magnify the punishing shot by a hockey player or a football player will refuse to show a streaker running across the field? What's the matter with that picture?

Football at Home Plate

Okay, sports fans. Do we really have to leave our brains outside the stadium, arena, raceway, etc..

I used to hear people rail at the uncivilized macho Spanish/Mexicans who could sit and watch a bullfight, Ole Papa H notwithstanding. It seemed as though Western civility had passed judgement on bloodsport, and that was that. Today, however, in the same western culture, we have yet worse examples of bloodsport that the sports fan seems to be applauding loudly.We have the "beanball", sometimes ever so cleverly referred to as "chin music." We have the intentional foul in basketball, sometimes referred to as "necessary?", and sometimes dangerous, as was the case of the Temple/St. Joes event not too long ago. Now we also have the Tony Stewart syndrome in NASCAR, sometimes referred to as "bumping", and sometimes akin to attempted murder.

Historically, we are looking at practices that once were the exception, and are now commonplace.Actions that should call for removal of the perp bring only a reprimand or a brief punishment, or worse, no response at all.

When did it get this way? Who made it/allowed it to happen? I have watched and watched, and keep looking for where the responsibility lies. I see several sources. 1. coaches who teach their players to be totally air-headed, as
if that were the only way to play the game.
2. parents, who are co-conspirators in this training, full of
phrases like "no pain, no gain", and the like.
3. modern-day officials, who don't have the guts they were
born with, and won't call the game as it should be called.
They enjoy phrases like, "Let's just let the players settle
this on the field." The very reason for the officials' presence
is NOT to let the players settle it on the field.
4. The biggest perpetrator of all in this culture is the sports
media. They have glorified the bloodsport aspect of all
sports, I guess because it sells. In the process, they have
caused us to lose sight of what great contests sports can be.
The very same producers/directors who love to bring the
guys those long under-the-skirt shots of the college football
cheerleaders, are equally as adept at using their multi-
camera resources to replay the pass play over the middle
where some lanky tight end near lost his head after a "pop"
by the free safety.

As is true of much of American life today, the dangers of this culture are not as visible as the overt acts. The moral right worries about kids being exposed to unsound influences in film. Let them start a Crusade against the kind of violence their kids are being effectively taught by way of pro football, basketball, and baseball.Let those athletes who all too often reference "the Good Lord" ask the Good Lord how they should treat their fellow athletes. "Should I "pop" 'em, Lord," or "Lord, what would you think of my putting a little "chin music" on this home run hitter."

It's not funny. When my wife and I raised our kids, we had to keep explaining to them that they would have to see themselves as being a minority, in order to help them understand they were never to give in to this idiocy. Individuals CAN change this, however long the odds. It just needs someone to start.

End of Ruminations for Wednesday, 5.17.06

Today's musical oddity: a tune that was heard a great deal in the Depression Era thirties, was "Ain't We Got Fun," the premise of which was "we've got each other, so all is well." A line in that song said "......the rich get rich and the poor get poorer." Now isn't that something;. Things haven't changed much, have they?

Monday, May 15, 2006

There's Wartime, and Then There's Wartime

Here's one that Georgie Boy and the Texas Turdlets have slipped past us while we were dealing with the rest of the dog and pony show they call an administration: WAR POWERS.

I grew up through WWII. The impact was total. Everyone was involved; everyone was in favor. That was a time for WAR POWERS. Georgie Boy and the Texas Turdlets have casually dropped this term on us as an excuse for: shameful un-American treatment of prisoners, spying on our own people, using the National Guard as a permanent fighting force, RENDITION, (no one else was ever so creative with double-speak, ) and who knows how many other clandestine activities we haven't found out about yet.

In this slippery "authorization," Georgie Boy dishonors the whole effort that was WWII.

Can we even begin to assess the intensity of the disdain with which these guys view the Constitution of the United States of America?

End of Ruminations for today..... 5.15.06

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The real average student

A week or so ago, Newsweek published it's annual listing of the one hundred best highschools in the country. Being a teacher for 38 years, I approached this list with some anticipation, since I expected the list would be accompanied by interesting information as to how these schools had solved the biggest educational problem there is: EFFECTIVENESS!

Only a moment had passed before I was disillusioned; most of the schools at the top of the list were special schools. The article had boasted of what these schools were doing for the AVERAGE kid;to my surprise, the top schools were magnet schools, special subject schools, and the like. The only way they were dealing with average kids was to yank the most promising of them out of their neighborhoods, put them in a highly specialized setting with the best teachers available, and voila!, great results. I'm glad for those kids. But this is not what it claims to be: it is a treat for the elite.

The average kids who need effective education are those who DO NOT show promise, or signs of genius. Let the results be what they may, but give them the best you can. The best teachers gravitate to the best kids. In all my years of teaching, I saw that truism contradicted only once. An old lady who had been creating effective materials all her life was putting them to use in most effective ways with truly average kids, and getting great results. That phenomenon is all too rare. Average kids usually get an average or below average education in school systems that almost never set improvement goals for their average kids.

Consider this possibility: every school district be required to improve its results with average kids by a factor of one every year. One elevated student this year, two next year, three the year after that, and so on. The possibilities are staggering. Consider a goal of elevating one added kid each year from the BELOW AVERAGE group up to the average group each year. Want to solve our crime problem? This is how to do it.

But, in the first instance, its not about solving our crime problem; let that be the beneficial after effect. It's about being true to our kids, in ways that they, and our country, will never forget.

End of ruminations for today, 5.9.2006.

Today's burning question: whence the origin of the "fore" that is yelled by golfers about to hit some poor guy in the head?

Ta ta.