April 22nd, 2008

alan's marigolds

Good Morning!

It is Earth Day, and Bella is determined that I spend a great deal of time petting, hugging, and kissing the earth of her being.  She is in affection mode, and, if I turn away, she hops up on the desk to let me know she is here.  Now, she settles into  the chair next to me and I see her eyes begin to close.  It is time for her morning nap.

She is a reminder that it is most important today to remember the earth inside us, to treat ourselves well, and that will transfer out to the planet.   Bella knows when she needs petting, and is very clear about it.  She also knows when she wants to be left alone.

Cheri Huber writes:  We'd all like to have someone who thinks we're wonderful, encourages us, and loves us unconditionally.  We can be with that person all the time because we have that person inside us.

Can we use this day to nourish ourselves?  I watched John Adams last night, the final two segments, and near the end of his life he is in total awe at one little flower.   Each of us is a flower and a universe.  We each are unique.  Enjoy yourself today, savor and celebrate the most marvelous being you are.   It is a day for prayer, prayer for the earth we are.  


ayer's rock -

Honoring the ancestors -

Joe Riley offers a poem each day and today he offers a traditional song from Senegal that honors the ancestors.  

You can check it out at:    http://www.panhala.net/Archive/Earth_Song.html

Listen to things more often than beings.
Hear the voice of the fire, hear the voice of the water,
Listen in the wind to the sighing of the bush:
This is the ancestors breathing.
Those who are dead are never gone;
The dead are not down in the earth:
They are in the trembling of the trees,
In the groaning of the woods,
In the water that runs, in the water that sleeps,
They are in the hut, they are in the crowd.
Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in the woman's breast, they are in the wailing of a child,
They are in the burning log and in the moaning rock.
They are in the weeping grasses, in the forest and the home.
Listen to things more often than beings.
Hear the voice of fire, hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind to the sighing of the bush.
This is the ancestors breathing.  
(traditional song from Senegal)

Book Cover

Jimmy Carter in 1979

Here is Jimmy Carter in 1979.   This speech keeps popping back up and rightly so.  Jimmy Carter says this, and so the Republicans bring in Ronald Reagan.  Now, we have George Bush.   How different the world and planet would be if we were better able to discern truth, from fiction and manipulation.

Jimmy Carter - an excerpt from his speech -

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our Nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.

Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this Nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our Nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.

In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous tool on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our Nation.

The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.

What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important.

Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980's, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade -- a saving of over 4 1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day.

Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my Presidential authority to set import quotas. I'm announcing tonight that for 1979 and 1980, I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow. These quotas will ensure a reduction in imports even below the ambitious levels we set at the recent Tokyo summit.

Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our Nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the Sun.

I propose the creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2 1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in America's energy security.

Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this Nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.

These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that is why Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without delay. It will be money well spent. Unlike the billions of dollars that we ship to foreign countries to pay for foreign oil, these funds will be paid by Americans to Americans. These funds will go to fight, not to increase, inflation and unemployment.

Point four: I'm asking Congress to mandate, to require as a matter of law, that our Nation's utility companies cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next decade and switch to other fuels, especially coal, our most abundant energy source.

Point five: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board which, like the War Production Board in World War II, will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the redtape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks to completing key energy projects.

We will protect our environment. But when this Nation critically needs a refinery or a pipeline, we will build it.

Point six: I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every State, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.

I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your Nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

Our Nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we will increase aid to needy Americans to cope with rising energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate way of rebuilding our Nation's strength. Every gallon of oil each one of us saves is a new form of production. It gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more control over our own lives.

So, the solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the future, and give our Nation and all of us individually a new sense of purpose.

You know we can do it. We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world's highest level of technology. We have the most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war.

I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our Nation's problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act.

We can manage the short-term shortages more effectively and we will, but there are no short-term solutions to our long-range problems. There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.

calder mobile miniature

sobering -

The John Adams series is considered to be for adult audiences.  Why, I wonder?   HBO posts when there is nudity.  Is this why the miniseries on John Adams is considered to have adult content?  One time the nudity was a man being tarred and feathered.  The other it was a woman's breast being shown, before it was cut off because of cancer.  Hardly anything titillating there.   Isn't this what life is about?   Why is our history suddenly treated as for "mature audiences?"

Below, in case you missed it,  is Bob Herbert on the state of education in this country.  It is sobering.  At one point, John Adams has the support of the mob and he knows that support is meaningless and will quickly turn.   He also chooses keeping this country out of a war for France over a second terms.  Morals and ethics.   We need them now, as then, and how can we have them if people have no idea of what this country is about, and the history and people who built it.   

I wonder with Bob Herbert, why those running for president are bowling, drinking, and eating waffles.  It is ridiculous and demeans the office.   We've had our manufactured "good ole boy," and look what that has done. 

Op-Ed Columnist

Clueless in America

Published: April 22, 2008

We don’t hear a great deal about education in the presidential campaign. It’s much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball.

The nation’s future may depend on how well we educate the current and future generations, but (like the renovation of the nation’s infrastructure, or a serious search for better sources of energy) that can wait. At the moment, no one seems to have the will to engage any of the most serious challenges facing the U.S.

An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters in an era in which a college education is crucial to maintaining a middle-class quality of life — and for the country as a whole in a world that is becoming more hotly competitive every day.

Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

“We have one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world,” said Allan Golston, the president of U.S. programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In a discussion over lunch recently he described the situation as “actually pretty scary, alarming.”

Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education.

When two-thirds of all teenagers old enough to graduate from high school are incapable of mastering college-level work, the nation is doing something awfully wrong.

Mr. Golston noted that the performance of American students, when compared with their peers in other countries, tends to grow increasingly dismal as they move through the higher grades:

“In math and science, for example, our fourth graders are among the top students globally. By roughly eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. And by the 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring generally near the bottom of all industrialized countries.”

Many students get a first-rate education in the public schools, but they represent too small a fraction of the whole.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered a brutal critique of the nation’s high schools a few years ago, describing them as “obsolete” and saying, “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”

Said Mr. Gates: “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they are broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools — even when they’re working as designed — cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”

The Educational Testing Service, in a report titled “America’s Perfect Storm,” cited three powerful forces that are affecting the quality of life for millions of Americans and already shaping the nation’s future. They are:

• The wide disparity in the literacy and math skills of both the school-age and adult populations. These skills, which play such a tremendous role in the lives of individuals and families, vary widely across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

• The “seismic changes” in the U.S. economy that have resulted from globalization, technological advances, shifts in the relationship of labor and capital, and other developments.

• Sweeping demographic changes. By 2030, the U.S. population is expected to reach 360 million. That population will be older and substantially more diverse, with immigration having a big impact on both the population as a whole and the work force.

These and so many other issues of crucial national importance require an educated populace if they are to be dealt with effectively. At the moment we are not even coming close to equipping the population with the intellectual tools that are needed.

While we’re effectively standing in place, other nations are catching up and passing us when it comes to educational achievement. You have to be pretty dopey not to see the implications of that.

But, then, some of us are pretty dopey. In the Common Core survey, nearly 20 percent of respondents did not know who the U.S. fought in World War II. Eleven percent thought that Dwight Eisenhower was the president forced from office by the Watergate scandal. Another 11 percent thought it was Harry Truman.

We’ve got work to do.


form - Marquerite Wildenhain -

I am reading Where Light Takes its Color From the Sea, A California Notebook, by  James D. Houston.  It is a series of essays,  so is perfect reading  for a doctor's waiting room, in which I was today.   If one is going to be in a waiting room, it should be in California, reading about the beauty outdoors. 

One essay, called Clay, is about Pond Farm, near Guerneville, where Marguerite Wildenhain, is a master potter. 

As she spins clay on a wheel, she says, "Imagine that you are breathing into the bottle or pitcher or bowl, and when you can breathe no more air into it, when it is full, then, it is finished."

She begins with her students at the beginning, with a study of and work with simple forms.

"It's a matter of starting at the beginning.  Too many teachers put a student on a wheel and turn him loose, saying, "Express yourself."  Well, self-expression is fine, but first you must master fundamentals.  It is purely a matter of knowing what you are doing. You ask a carpenter what he is making.  He can tell you.  It will be a door or a window or a wall.  You ask some potters what they are making. Today too many say, 'I don't know. We'll see how it turns out.'  I don't believe you can make a good pot that way.  You have to know what you are making."

"Observe how nature solves its many problems and you will learn more about pottery, more about form than I can ever teach you."

She has her pottery students draw outside.

"Look closely at that oak. Every thrust, every line has its reason. Exactly how does it grow out of the earth? Where do the large branches start? How again do the small ones fork, at what angle, and in what proportion? What does the bark look like? And the leaves, how are they arranged? What is the movement of the total tree, definitely upward as in the pine, or drooping as in the willow? If you look closely, you will discover the oak's particular tension. It comes from inside pushing out.  And in a few lines you should be able to capture it."

"It is finally a matter, you see, of working from within, from within the subject and from within yourself. Rodin said it in his Testament.  "All life surges from the center, then grows and blossoms from the inside toward the outside."

In her book, Pottery: Form and Expression, she writes:

"Technique alone, without any moral and ethical point of departure or aim, has brought us to the very edge of a universal catastrophe that we have in no way overcome.   To achieve this necessary future victory over ourselves and the terrifying world that we have created, we will need to find again a synthesis between technical knowledge and spiritual content.  It is not a question of the crafts only, the problem is as wide as the whole of human civilization."