Archive for October, 2008

A Middle-School Lesson for Obama and the Democrats

This is an entry I’ve been meaning to post for quite some time, and feel a strong need to get done while there’s still time before the election, especially with Barack Obama wanting to “spread [America’s] wealth.”  If that statement hasn’t made your alarm bells start clanging, read on:  the following is for you!

Although I was teaching English/Language Arts in the small, rural, impoverished district where I was employed before I moved to the state capitol, at some point during the year, there would arise an occasion to give this small lecture about how Communism/Socialism only works on paper.  I never got to complete the lesson, because someone would indignantly shout out the “moral of the story” before I could finish.  That’s ok–that’s how I wanted it.  I wanted them to realize the lesson on their own and they did.  Every time.

To make my illustration, I would begin by writing on the board that famous one-sentence summary of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto:

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

I would then lead a brief discussion of the meaning of that sentence, to ensure that everyone understood what it meant.  I’d then ask the students “Sounds good, doesn’t it?”  The students would agree.  I would leave that quote on the board throughout this mini-lesson.

At this point, I would choose two students to come to the front of the classroom and stand beneath the quote.  I was always careful to choose two students who loved being the center of attention and who could take a good-hearted ribbing.  For the sake of this illustration, I’ll call them “Chris” and “Tyler.”

“Chris,” I’d tell the students, “is a model student.”  Chris is always on time to class, prepared with pencil, paper, and textbook.  Chris takes notes in class, and asks questions in order to ensure understanding of what is being taught.  Chris’ work is always turned in on time, neat and legible.  If there is something Chris still doesn’t understand when class is done, Chris will come in before school to meet with me.  When it’s time for the big test, Chris has kept up with the chapter reading, so on the night before, all Chris has to do is review the things that need reviewing.  Chris gets a good night’s sleep and eats a good breakfast the next morning.  Chris uses the test-taking skills taught in class and takes his/her time.  When I grade the test, Chris’ hard work has paid off, for (s)he has earned a “100” on the test.  I then write a large “100” above “Chris'” head.

Then there’s “Tyler.”  Poor, poor, Tyler.  Tyler is always the last one in class and the first one out.  Tyler’s attendance record has more “no shows” than Harry Houdini at Halloween seances.  When Tyler DOES show up to class, don’t expect to see pencil or paper.  Tyler couldn’t locate the textbook if his/her life depended on it.  Tyler’s idea of taking notes?  Writing a snarky comment on a piece of paper and passing it to a classmate.   The only question Tyler has ever asked in class is “How much longer, Miss?”  The night before the test, Tyler stayed up all night IM’ing someone from MySpace.  Tyler overslept on test day, skipped breakfast, and missed the bus.  Tyler stumbles loudly into class halfway through the period, and announces loudly enough to disrupt everyone:  “We had a test today?”  Of couse Tyler “Christmas tree”‘s the test, marking random answers here and there.  Still, Tyler beat the law of averages and scores a 40 on the test.  I write a large 40 above “Tyler”‘s head.

At this point, I stop to remind the class that 70 is the minimum passing grade, and write a large 70 between “Chris” and “Tyler.” I then remind them of the quotation written on the board above both of them:

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

Next, I tell the students that since, according to the principles of Communism/Socialism, “Chris” has 30 points more than (s)he needs, I am going to take those points and give them to “Tyler,” who needs 30 points to pass.

I turn around and, with a different color marker, begin to cross out the “100” above “Chris”‘ head, and draw an arrow toward “Tyler”‘s “40” which I also cross out, replacing each score with a “70.”

Funny thing is, though, I never get to finish.  As I illustrate Communist/Socialist theory on the board, some student–usually one of the more vocal ones, rather than one of the highest-scoring ones–invariably shouts out “But Miss, that’s not fair!”

At that point, I stop.  I cap my marker and put it on the tray.  I turn to the class and benignly smile.  I say quietly and calmly, “And that’s why Communism doesn’t work.”

Middle school students have a super-heightened sense of what is or isn’t “fair.”  They pick up in five minutes what tweed-clad graying Economics professors haven’t learned in over 100 years:  Socialism doesn’t work.  It goes against all of human nature.  If we work hard to earn something and play by the rules, dammit, it’s ours.  Keep your grubby hands off it.  Conversely, if you want to be lazy, that’s your perogative.  If you choose to do so, however, don’t expect someone else to take up your slack.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I know the system fails from time to time and people who DO play by the rules occasionally lose.  I’m there now myself.  For the first (and hopefully, the last) time in my life, I’m drawing Unemployment.  What I need is a short-term stop-gap measure until I’m back on my feet.  I don’t need some overprotective government entity doing everything for me and making us all pay out the wazoo for it.

The thing we’ve forgotten all too quickly is that whenever liberals attempt to “stick it to the rich,” it’s us average Joes who really get the shaft.  Back in 1991, Congress imposed a “Luxury Tax” on high-ticket items such as jewelry, cars, and boats with a selling price of over $30,000.  What happened was that rich people STILL got the luxury items they wanted–they just bought “gently-used” items instead of new ones in order to avoid paying the tax.  It was the middle- and lower-class wage-earning workers who MADE these big ticket items who wound up paying–by losing their jobs.  No demand means no employment.  The rich stayed rich (hell, they SAVED money in the long run), and the poor workers lost everything.  This “luxury tax” wound up costing the Federal Government money in lost income and sales taxes and increased unemployment and other assistance payouts.  The next Congress couldn’t repeal the “luxury tax” fast enough.

You’d have thought the Democrats would have learned their lesson.  Sadly, they haven’t, else Obama wouldn’t be preaching “sharing the wealth.”  You’d have thought America would have learned its lesson as well when it comes to a “sore loser” tax.  Judging by the number of people who are swallowing Obama’s proposal hook, line, and sinker, I think it’s safe to say that we as a nation haven’t.

Those of you who haven’t yet taken advantage of early voting, it’s not too late.  Let Obama and the Democrats know that you are not falling for this sucker play.  Show them that you’re smarter than that.  My middle school students were.

Postscript:

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with this Tale to tell.  Waiting for me in my Inbox when I finished was the following link on the same subject.  It’s well worth the read.  I just hope that by using the name “Gator,” he doesn’t mean that he pledges allegiance to the Florida Philistines.  The Dawgs are going to kick some serious Gator tail in Jax on Saturday, then blacken it and serve it on rice, Cajun-style (in remembrance of our sweet victory over LSU this past Saturday)!

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I Got Tagged?

Jennifer, my conservative comadre, fellow Knave of the Round Table, apparently identified me to play a little cyber-game and didn’t tell me.  OK, so for some unknown reason, her responses to my posts evaporate into the ether (and for the love of Mike, I don’t know why), and I haven’t been available for much of the email erudition the last couple of days, but she coulda told me instead of having me find out by accident!

So, apparently, I have to stop, introduce the game by linking to the perpetrator (see link above), list seven weird and wacky facts about myself, then “share the wealth” by nominating another seven–and my top two were already taken, thanks a lot.  😦

Anyway, here goes:

  1. My two grandmothers were both redheads and had almost identical names.  Mattie Lou (my father’s mother) was a carrot-top; Mattie Louise (my mother’s mother) had auburn hair.  Neither used the name “Mattie”–they were “Lucy” and “Louise,” respectively.
  2. I have two sons and a daughter.  My mother has two sons and a daughter.  Her mother had two sons and a daughter, as did her mother before her.  In other words, there haven’t been a pair of sisters on the distaff side of my family for four generations now.  I don’t know any farther back than that.
  3. Remember the song “Tom Dooley,” made popular by the Kingston Trio?  That true story was actually about a convicted murderer named Tom Dula, whose aunt Judith was my great-great-great grandmother.
  4. My great-grandfather, Thomas David Hall, was one of only three men of Co. C, 26th North Carolina Regiment to survive Pickett’s Charge.
  5. I can trace my lineage to three Scottish immigrants who arrived in the American Colonies ca. 1730.  My husband is a first-generation American, born in California to LEGAL immigrants from Mexico.  That means my children are just about the only second-generation Americans who are also card-carrying members of the CAR (Children of the American Revolution).
  6. I have family (either by blood or marriage) who were in every American military conflict except the Spanish-American War, WWI, and the current War on Terror.  One of my husband’s ancestors was a general in service to Benito Juarez who witnessed the capture and execution of the Mexican Emperor Maximilian at Queretaro.
  7. I love dogs–as long as they aren’t mine.  With cats, you can clean the litter box, fill the food and water dish, take off for the weekend, and when you return, they’ll look up and say “Oh, you were gone?”  If I tried doing that with a dog, I wouldn’t be able to set foot in my place until the HazMat people were done.

Now I have to tag seven other lucky schmucks.  As said before, my top two are tagged already, and I have a dearth of other victims eligible nominees, so I’m raiding the list of My Friends’ Blogs for this one.

  1. Lucy Belle:  This should be interesting; Lucy Belle’s a cat!
  2. Betty:  I wrote a great poem about her furbabies.  Maybe she’ll be sympathetic.
  3. Cato:  Another cat, but this one’s running for President!  Seriously!
  4. Buttercup:  “Mawwaige.  Mawwaige is what bwings us togewthew today.”
  5. Sybil Baggins:  I’m spreading the wealth all the way “across the pond”!
  6. Willow and
  7. Wicket: Hey, is it MY fault they blog together????

Food for Thought

My last post generated quite a bit of interest, and a modicum of criticism.  In accordance with the policies in my House Rules, I posted those that presented logical discourse and debate.  The one who had nothing to contribute but name-calling and anti-Semitic rhetoric got the attention he deserves:  none.

It was, however, the criticism from much closer to home that stung me.  I was told to my face (by someone who is NOT voting for Obama) that my post was shallow and descended into character assassination.  That hurt.  I wrote my post as a cautionary tale (in the spirit of my teaching philosophy derived from George Satanyana’s “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”) in order to get my 1.4 daily readers to understand that his/her duty as an American citizen is to go into the polls an informed voter.  Don’t choose one candidate over the other because of something that happened decades ago, or because of an accident of birth, or because of who he chose as a wife, or because of what his kids did (or didn’t do).

Think about your values–what is important to you?  What to you is worth defending?  Worth dying for?  Worth preserving for your children, and for generations after that?  What is it you want people to think when they hear the words “United States of America”?  Once you’ve figured out what your values are, research the candidates.  Look not only at friendly sources, but unfriendly ones as well.  Get the view from all sides, because I guarantee you, there is no such thing as objectivity in media.  There was for one brief, shining moment in the mid-20th century–Edward R. Murrow led the way, but in less than five years after Murrow’s death, even Uncle Walter was showing his true colors of bias.

What matters to me?

The Constitution I swore to give my life for when I joined the service back in 1985.  Even though the Air Force released me from that oath when I received my Honorable Discharge in 1993, I still feel bound by it.  I still will, if necessary, die to defend it.  The ENTIRE Constitution–the Preamble (which, thanks to Schoolhouse Rock as a kid, I have completely memorized), all seven articles, and all 27 amendments, ESPECIALLY the first ten. I’m going with the candidate whose stated positions are more in line with mine regarding a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  Point to McCain, but only because his view is ever-so-slightly stricter than Obama’s on the Constitution.

That includes the First Amendment, which I spent three months studying as a senior in college, under the instruction of one of the foremost scholars of 1st Amendment law in the country, Dr. William Lee at the University of Georgia.  The 1st Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [Emphasis mine]

Note that the Amendment guarantees freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.  Sorry, ACLU, you’re dead wrong!  Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Wahhabists have as their stated goal the deaths of all who do not worship their way.  Sorry, pal, but that ain’t the American way.  If I die for my faith, I fully intend to take as many of my murderers with me as I possibly can.  I’m willing to let God sort it out–are they?

Which leads me to the Second Amendment.  The founding fathers learned their lesson when the British government seized their guns at the first opportunity.  They specifically wrote the Second Amendment to prevent that from happening again.  I AM the NRA, and I DO vote.  I’ll be damned if I drop the ball on my watch. Point to McCain.

Twice already, I have mentioned dying for what I believe in.  That’s my choice.  “Choice” is NOT forcing an innocent to die for one’s own misfortune or stupidity.  Abortion is cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder, period.  Even in the case of rape or incest–there has already been one innocent victim, why must there be two?  Castrate the bastard who did it, and take care of the pre-natal needs of both innocent victims:  mother and baby.  When we were first married, my husband and I sat down and had a serious talk about the Right to Life (which was called “Inalienable” by that Patron Saint of Liberalism, Thomas Jefferson).  We both were in total agreement that if, God forbid, I were ever to be raped and become pregnant as a result, that we could not punish an innocent baby for the circumstances of his conception.  Neither one of us knew if we could raise this child in our own family (and so far, thank God, we have never had to make this decision), but there are SO many good families out there aching for a child to call their own.  One of my very best friends and her husband just recently gave up on their quest to adopt after 16 years on the waiting list.  It was heart-wrenching to see her go through the process of giving up a dream.  Neither Presidential candidate satisfies me on this issue.  Point to Sarah Palin.

Obama made a point of saying at one of his myriad rallies that “All sexuality is sacred.”  Bullmalarkey.  Does that include rape?  Pedophilia?  Incest?  Beastiality?  When it comes to homosexuality, call me a realist.  I know it has gone on since long before recorded history.  It will continue to go on long after I’m cold in the ground (did I ever mention before I don’t want to be cremated?  I don’t, but not for any religious reasons.  The “why” will have to be a Tale for Another Day).  We can make laws against it (and adultery, and premarital sex) until the Second Coming, but it won’t matter a hill of beans to what goes on between two consenting adults in the privacy of their own bedroom.  (On the other hand, I’m all for laws against sexual activity when at least one party does NOT give consent, or is not an adult).  HOWEVER, what you do in the privacy of your bedroom needs to be just that–private and in your bedroom.  Don’t parade it in front of me or my kids, don’t flaunt it, and DON’T make a mockery of a Holy Sacrament instituted by God the Father Almighty by calling what you do “marriage.”  John McCain is on record as supporting the Sanctity of Marriage Acts spreading among the states like a healing salve.  Yes, I know all about the fiasco of his first marriage and transition to his second.  I’m not happy with it, but I’m much less happy about what Obama has said and done.  Point to McCain.

I believe that a stronger America is a safer America.  September 11, 2001 marked the first time in 189 years that a foreign power committed an act of aggression on the American homeland (Hawaii and the Aleutians were merely territories when the Japanese attacked in WWII).  On the morning of September 12, 2001, I bought a red, white, and blue cloth bracelet bearing the slogan “God Bless America” that was being sold as a fundraiser that week by the school where I taught at the time.  Sales had been slow before 9/11; afterward they couldn’t keep them in stock.  It’s still on my wrist, just above my watch.  I remove it only for sleeping and washing.  It’s a constant reminder of what can happen if we let our guard down for just one moment.  I like Theodore Roosevelt’s philosophy of diplomacy:  “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  His “big stick” was the Great White Fleet.  Ours is the ultimate “wack-bonk” stick:  we hit (“wack”); they fall (“bonk”). [Hey, Instinct, did we agree on 5 or 6 cents per click royalty for the use of your Registered Trademark?  I forget.]  Obama wants to meet the most insidious America-hater on the planet, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, without conditions.  He hobnobs with Hamas.  He wants to abandon all we have worked for in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the deaths of our servicemen valueless and their beliefs (and those of the rest of us veterans) meaningless.  I’ll throw in my lot with the man who has been on the receiving end of the “tender mercies” of America’s enemies.  I want my country represented by a pit bull, not a pansy.   Red, White, and Blue point to McCain.

There’s my two cents and a bit more.  Vote your conscience and vote for the future of America.  But above all, vote.

Margo Channing, the Broadway superstar in the classic 1951 film All About Eve portrayed so brilliantly by Bette Davis, said it best:  “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”  Make that a bumpy fortnight.

Think Before You Vote.

It’s election day.  To say the economy is in the toilet is the understatement of the century.  People are losing jobs left and right.  When it comes to food, clothing, and shelter, you can choose any two–if you’re lucky.

At the polls, there are a bunch of “little candidates,” but only two really matter.  One aging candidate represents the old guard and traditional values.  He is a respected war hero, especially by those who claim the “moral high ground,” but also has enough of a following by social democrats to avoid being automatically tagged as a “hard-line right-winger.”

The other candidate wants change, period.  He is in his 40’s and a dynamic speaker.  Questions linger about the validity of his citizenship, as well as other nasty rumors about his background and intents once he takes office that just won’t go away.  He mounts a grueling campaign, flying from town to town, making speech after speech about how he wants to restore wealth, respect, and hope to a dispirited and increasingly-pessimistic nation.

You are the average citizen, exercising your right on election day and shaping the future of your nation.  Whom do you choose?

The aging symbol of the past, or the young dynamo?

Which one?

Decided?

Good.  Remember who you picked.

You’ve turned in your ballot.

You can’t go back and change it.

Oh, I forgot to tell you a minor detail.

The year is 1932.  The country is Germany.

If you voted for the aging war hero, you chose Paul von Hindenburg.

If you voted for the young dynamo wanting change, you chose Adolf Hitler.

Early voting started yesterday in Texas.  Election day is November 4.  Think carefully before you cast your ballot.  The future of not only your country, but mine and our children’s country depends on the choice you make.

Levi Stubbs 1936-2008

I really don’t mean to turn my blog into the obits page.  Really, I don’t.  They say that famous deaths “come in threes.”  If so, this one is number two.  Levi Stubbs, the golden-voiced baritone who led the Four Tops to Motown glory from the 60’s to the 80’s has died at the age of 72.

The list of Four Tops hits is legion:  “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” Standing in the Shadows of Love, “Bernadette,” “Still Water (Love)”, and “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got.”  Stubbs did lead vocals on each one of those listed above, and there were numerous other Four Tops hits in which Stubbs did not do lead vocals.

I think, though, that my favorite work by Levi Stubbs was without The Four Tops.  He provided the voice of Audrey II, the man-eating plant who called himself “The Mean, Green Mother from Outer Space” in the 1988 film Little Shop of Horrors.

If you missed this sleeper starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia with classic bit parts and cameos from Christopher (“Count Rugen”) Guest, John Candy, Jim Belushi, and most deliciously, a scene in which Steve Martin plays a leather-wearing sadistic dentist, and Bill Murray portrays his masochistic patient.  At last, we learn the answer to the ancient joke set-up “A sadist and a masochist meet on the street….”  See for yourself:

But I digress.  Even though Levi Stubbs was a natural baritone, most of the Four Tops songs he performed were written in the higher tenor range.  Little Shop of Horrors allowed him to be at his bari- best.  I’ll let you cogitate on that as I bow out to Audrey II.

Three of the Four Tops are gone now, as is Stubbs’ superstar first cousin, Motown and R&B legend Jackie Wilson (“Higher and Higher”).  The Nightshift has gotten even sweeter in sound now.  Rest well, Levi.  Well done.

Edie Adams 1927-2008

It was a bittersweet moment when I read yesterday of the passing of singer/actress/Muriel cigar spokeswoman Edie Adams at the age of 81.  Even though I never met the lady (and she was that), I always found her admirable (even envied her somewhat) and I felt genuine sorrow for the world who has lost one of the most beautiful voices attached to one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.  If you haven’t been fortunate enough to hear this jewel sing one of the most romantic songs ever written, feast your eyes and ears upon this:

Still, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of relief amid the sadness.  Behind that demure smile and soft voice was a lifetime of tragedy.  Edie married the love of her life, the innovative and well ahead of his time comedian Ernie Kovacs in 1954 and bore him a daughter, Mia, in 1959.  Even though Edie had graduated from Julliard and aspired to become an opera singer, she got her break with Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (a 1950’s era American Idol).  That’s where she was noticed by Kovacs, who invited her to audition for his own show.  The rest, as they say, is history as far as their relationship is involved.  Although their marriage was happy, it was not without more than its share of problems–most having to do with the impulsive, albeit brilliant Kovacs.

When Kovacs died in early 1962 in a one-car crash in the wee hours of a Los Angeles morning, he left Edie with over $500,000 in debts (mostly from gambling and impulse buying), and ugly legal imbroglios with his first wife (over the custody of their two daughters) and the IRS.

A pantheon of Hollywood stars, including Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, and Milton Berle (from whose house Kovacs was returning when his car–for reasons that were never conclusively determined–crashed) immediately organized a TV special to raise money to settle Kovacs’ debts and provide for his daughters.  Edie said “No, I can take care of my own children.”

And she did–doing unceasing show business work for over a year, and appearing sporadically after that.  Groucho Marx, in introducing Adams during a Las Vegas gig, summed it up beautifully:  “There are some things Edie won’t do, but nothing she can’t do.”

Wherever and however she could, she paid tribute to Kovacs.  She happily pitched Muriel cigars in remembrance of Ernie’s signature stogie (even though during his lifetime, he pitched rival Dutch Masters cigars).  She not only repaid Ernie’s debts, she won the bitter custody suit for Ernie’s daughters from a previous marriage, and spent the rest of her life buying the rights to the numerous TV shows and specials Ernie created over the years.  Because Kovacs was so far ahead of his time, his series were many, but short-lived.  Still, once Edie had  collected Ernie’s shows, she repackaged them for rebroadcast and for home enjoyment so that future generations could experience the comic genius that was Ernie Kovacs.

Sadly, Edie’s life after Ernie was not idyllic.  She married twice more, but never for long.  Her daughter Mia, like her father, died tragically in an automobile accident in 1982.  Edie is survived only by her son from her second marriage, her younger stepdaughter by her marriage to Ernie Kovacs, and one grandchild, the child of Ernie’s oldest daughter (who died of chronic ill health in 2001).  Still, she always carried herself with charm and with grace, and with beauty that not only dwelt on the outside,  but radiated from within.  Rest in peace, Edie, reunited with the love of your life and your daughter.  You think they have gorilla masks in heaven?

I Finally Finished It!

How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence - and Changed America Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence – and Changed America by H.W. Brands


My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really, really wanted to give it five stars, but had to ding it a little for the amount of effort it took for me to finish this book. It took three attempts over three years to get through it (although, admittedly, the second attempt was aborted when Hubby took the book with him when he relocated for his new job and I stayed behind for 8 months to finish my teaching contract), but the effort was well worth it.

This book is THE definitive history of Texas from the first steps of Europeans on her fertile soil to the death of Sam Houston in 1863. There is a wealth of information you never hear in History classes, even though Texas history is taught all year in both 4th and 7th grades.

H.W. Brands pulls no punches when recounting the history of principal players in the struggle for Texas independence (even secondary players, such as Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams get extensive coverage). The admirable qualities (and, believe it or not, there are some) of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna are not overlooked. Still, and refreshingly so, Brands does not fall into the trap of post-modern revisionism.

Writing this book was obviously a labor of love, as was reading it. God Bless Texas!

View all my reviews.


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