Odd juxtaposition of images — but it gives me some hope

January 29, 2013

A great photo from Pete Souza, the current White House photographer.  I’m hoping to track down I’ve tracked down even more details on this, because not all sources like to post all the credit information or other stuff a newspaper or blog should have . . .

Pete Souza photo, lunch in the White House, Obama, Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, McConnell

Photo of a lunch in an anteroom of the President’s office, with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Consolidated News published the photo for its clients with this information:

United States President Barack Obama has lunch with members of the Congressional Leadership in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, May 16, 2012. The President served hoagies from Taylor Gourmet, which he purchased after a small business roundtable earlier in the day. Seated, clockwise from the President, are: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat of Nevada), U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican of Kentucky), U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat of California), and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (Republican of Ohio)..Mandatory Credit: Pete Souza – White House via CNP

At least we know where to get sandwiches like that, now. (Here’s the photo in the White House Flickr set.)

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield; oil on canvas by Aaron Shikler, 1978;  photo of painting from Wikipedia

Way back in the Early Holocene, when I first interned with the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Montana, held a close friendship with Sen. George Aiken, R-Vermont.  Many mornings they breakfasted together in the staff carry-out in the basement of the Capitol; their wives were friends, too.  One morning we got a question on some hot political issue at the Democratic Policy Committee (where I shared the best office I ever had in the third floor of the Capitol); I was dispatched to find Mansfield at breakfast and get an answer.  I found him dining with Aiken.

I forget the issue, but it was highly politically charged, something about policy on Vietnam.  Republicans and Democrats were much at war on the issue.  Mansfield read the note, and showed it to Aiken.  They discussed the issue while Mansfield penned an answer and handed it to me.  No big deal — two senators dealing with an important issue, talking it over.

When I joined Senate staff in a permanent position, life was much different among the senators.  The easy camradery between Mansfield and Aiken couldn’t be found anywhere.  That was in the late 1970s.  Partisanship was much sharper and nastier than I had seen earlier.  Vietnam was over, and that was probably a good thing.  The divisiveness I found would not have lent itself to any resolution of Vietnam.

At the RARE II conference at the University of Montana, in 1978, I heard a presentation from a staffer to Montana’s Sen. Paul Hatfield, if I recall correctly, a guy who had staffed for Sen. Lee Metcalf before.  He described the difficulties in getting serious legislation done on public lands issues.  As he described it, especially before the installation of air conditioning in the Capitol, the Senate would recess for the insufferable summer heat.  Senators, who had developed working relationships, if not friendships, would visit each other in their home states, for hunting and sight-seeing, among other things.  A Montana senator might show his colleague from Vermont how different the Rocky Mountains are from the Appalachians.  A Louisana senator might show his colleagues from western states how different is flood control on the Mississippi than on the Colorado or Sacramento, or Columbia.  By the time the Senate got back to business in the fall, legislation had been worked out, key alliances formed to get things done for various states, and though opposition was expressed to many projects, it was genuine difference of opinion expressed to friends.

That’s gone.  In 2013, it’s rare a Member of Congress can develop those kinds of relationships with other Members, especially with the fund-raising requirements for re-election.  Members travel back to their states and districts as many weekends as they can; they get to know their staff on each end, but they don’t know the other senators, or members of Congress.

President Warren G. Harding doesn’t have a reputation as a great president; but his poker parties were famous.  Lyndon Johnson didn’t play poker a lot (though I understand he did on occasion), but his presidency’s record in photographs show that he invited Members of Congress individually for afternoon meetings, often punctuated with a drink, always slathered in business and the potential for favors or arm-twisting.  Those sessions are legendary for the legislation they greased into law.

When I saw that photo at the top, I was put in mind of another famous image.

Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want

Norman Rockwell’s painting, “Freedom from Want,” part of a quartet based on the Four Freedoms State of the Union Speech of Franklin Roosevelt, in January 1941.

Did Souza have that Rockwell painting in mind when he framed that shot?

Rockwell’s work was more than just iconic, really.  In the simple history, from Wikipedia:

The Four Freedoms or Four Essential Human Freedoms is a series of oil paintings produced in 1943 by the American artist Norman Rockwell. The paintings are approximately equal in dimension with measurements of 45.75 inches (116.2 cm) × 35.5 inches (90 cm).[1] The series, now in the Norman Rockwell Museum, was made for reproduction in The Saturday Evening Post over the course of four consecutive weeks in 1943 alongside essays by prominent thinkers of the day. Later they were the highlight of a touring exhibition sponsored by the Saturday Evening Post and the United States Department of the Treasury. The touring exhibition and accompanying sales drives raised over US$132 million in the sale of war bonds.[2]

The Four Freedoms theme was derived from the 1941 State of the Union Address by United States President Franklin Roosevelt delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941.[3] During the speech he identified four essential human rights (Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom From Want and Freedom From Fear) that should be universally protected and should serve as a reminder of the American motivation for fighting in World War II.[4]

The theme was incorporated into the Atlantic Charter,[5] and it became part of the charter of the United Nations.[6] Roosevelt’s message was as follows: “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”[3][7]

Torpedo sandwiches from Taylor’s don’t exactly make a Thanksgiving dinner, but that’s not the point.  Rockwell portrayed an American family — at Thanksgiving, perhaps — sitting down to enjoy dinner together, breaking bread together as a Christian preacher might put it in a sermon.  President Johnson famously invited, “Come, let us reason together.”  Around Obama’s smaller-than-Rockwell’s table, the smiles are not so evident.  But I still see hope.

I see some hope for friendship, for the relationships that might move legislation, for the legislation that might move the nation.  God and Norman Rockwell know we could use it.

We can hope, can’t we?

More, perhaps related:


GOP “no-budget” hoax

January 28, 2013

If you repeat some hoary old falsehood often enough, people will begin to assume it’s got some accuracy to it, right?

Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor are at it again, complaining that the Senate hasn’t passed a budget.

But that’s false.  In fact, no only did the Senate pass a budget, but so did the House — and then (perhaps stupidly), they made it a law instead of the budget resolution the Congressional Budgeting process calls for.

Then-Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, explained last April how this worked:

We’ve got a budget, by law — and it’s a disaster.

We don’t need a budget resolution nearly so badly as we need some Congressional leadership who understand supply and demand, and who are committed to good government and not the destruction of America (even if unintentional).

Oliphant cartoon on GOP leading nation over fiscal cliff

Cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winner Pat Oliphant, syndicated by Go Comics

More:

Text of Sen. Conrad’s remarks, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mount Ranier by Milky Way light

January 28, 2013

Stunning photograph posted by National Park Service people in Mount Ranier National Park:

Mount Ranier by Milky Way light -- Dave Morrow photo, October 2012

Photographer Dave Morrow photograph of Mount Ranier and the Milky Way, from October 2012

Information from the Mount Ranier NPS site at Instagram:

Some images are just plain extraordinary — and often, the photographer has invested a great deal of time and effort to make that image happen. Photographer Dave Morrow describes the process of among this image from Mount Rainier National Park in October 2012. “I went up to Sunrise Point at Mt. Rainier last weekend with my buddy Keith. After a lame sunset, we waited for the Milky Way to come out. The placement was just perfect and the sky was pitch black!  Time to jack up the ISO and shoot some stars . . . this was one of many from the night.”

See more of Mr. Morrow’s work, here:  DaveMorrowPhotography.com

Difficult to know whether the streaks are airplanes or meteoroids.  No doubt it was a long exposure.

(Links added here.)

More:


Eagles! We reduced DDT, and the eagles recovered

January 28, 2013

Love this photo, from the great folks at Yellowstone National Park:

Chris Daniel photo of a bald eagle in Yellowstone National Park, in the snow

From the Yellowstone NP Facebook site: An adult bald eagle perched along the Firehole River on New Year’s Day, near a trumpeter swan that it had either killed or was scavenging. Adult bald eagles usually remain in or near their nest territory throughout winter provided they have access to sufficient prey. Photo courtesy of Chris Daniel. (kd)

It’s a reminder of progress we’ve made in environmental protection.

While bald eagles may not have been the most endangered animal protected under the Endangered Species Act, or any other law, they became the most famous.  In the late 18th century Congress voted to designate the bald eagle as our national symbol.  At the time, the continent was still lousy with the creatures.  But from the arrival of Europeans after 1492, eagles had been hunted mercilessly.  By the early 20th century it was clear the animal was bound for extinction, like the great auk and other species (see here for technical information on the auk).

Ben Franklin complained the eagle was a dirty carrion eater, in a smart and funny polemic favoring the American turkey as the national bird.  Franklin couldn’t know how hunting and in-breeding would suck the nobility out of even wild turkeys over the next 200 years, until species protection laws and hunters pushed governments to invigorate stocks of wild turkeys again.  Compared to the eagle’s troubles, though, the turkey’s genetic torpor and limited habitat was almost nothing.

Americans tried to save the eagle.  After 1890, and during the run on great bird feathers that excited the fashion world and led to the senseless slaughter of millions of America’s most spectacular birds, we passed a federal law against hunting and shooting eagles for sport or no reason.  It was a toothless law, and the decline of eagle populations begun in the early 16th century continued unabated. Migratory bird treaties, providing more legal heft to bird protection, didn’t help the eagles either — not enough of them crossed borders, at least not that hunters and law enforcement could see.  The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, kicking into action in 1941, provided teeth to eagle hunting restrictions, and hunters stopped shooting them so much.  Between 1940 and 1950, eagle populations stabilized, with a good bunch in Alaska, and a few nesting pairs spread from Oregon to Maine, Lake of the Woods to Florida Everglades.  There were so few eagles, and they were spread so far apart, that most Americans could not see one without major effort and travel.

Bird watchers noticed trouble in the 1950s.  Young eagles stopped showing up for the Audubon Christmas bird count, and at the Hawk Mountain migration counts.  Adults went through the motions, migrating, hunting, building nests, laying eggs for all anyone knew, and hatching young that had been seen, sometimes, to fledge — but then the young birds died.  Between leaving the nest, and returning to mate up and breed, the young birds simply disappeared.

Research showed deeper trouble.  On careful observation the birds were seen to be frustrated in hatching and raising chicks.  Sometimes the eggs wouldn’t hatch.  If they did hatch, the chicks died.  The few who lived to fly out, died soon after.

Rachel Carson called attention to the trouble in her 1962 claxon call on pesticide and chemical pollution, Silent Spring (50 years ago in 2012).

Doctor Science at Obsidian Wings wrote a paean to seeing bald eagles in the wild, with a brief and kind mention of this blog. You should go read it there.

Protecting birds?  The Steve Milloys, CEIs, AEIs, Heritage Foundations, CATO Institutes and other dens of smug cynicism and bad citizenship have it all wrong.  It’s not about power for environmentalists.  It’s nothing so cheap or mean.  Heck.  Often it’s not even about protecting the birds so much.

It’s about protecting our own dreams, and places we have to inspire those dreams.  Frederick Jackson Turner postulated that there is something mystical and magical in a frontier that helped form the American character and make us hard-working, smart, and noble.  He was right, of course.  Those frontiers are not simply frontiers of settlement in the wilderness anymore.  We have to work to find them, to declare Alaska the “Last Frontier,” or government reform and Cold War enterprise as the “New Frontier.”  But we still need frontiers.

Eagles still soar there.  Wherever eagles soar, in fact, we find those frontiers, those places to dream and inspire.  The Endangered Species Act isn’t about saving animals and plants.  It’s about saving our own souls.

More:


In 90 seconds, National Parks stuff you should see in Washington, D.C.

January 27, 2013

National Park Service video, and of course, featuring some stunning time-lapse photography.

696

 


Darrell’s corollaries of education + technology: No good work goes unpunished, most opportunities missed

January 27, 2013

Aristotle, and his pupil Alexander

Does this 19th century engraving show the perfect learning situation? Alexander had no iPhone, no laptop; Aristotle used no PowerPoint, no grading machines, not even a chalkboard. Have we come a long way, or is this a measure of how far we’ve fallen? “Aristotle and his pupil, Alexander (c. 340 BCE)” (original source?)

David Warlick‘s blog serves up a lot of stuff to make teachers think (cynically, I wonder whether education administrators can be shoved into thinking at all . . . but I digress).

David Warlick

David Warlick, in a taxi in Shanghai, probably off at some education conference or other.

Recently he pondered his own son’s use of several different kinds of media at once.  In a longer discussion that would be worth your while, someone asked, “Has the nature of information influenced the emerging ‘appropriate technologies’ like the digital learning object called an iBook?”  David responded:

My knee-jerk response is, “Not nearly enough.” This current push toward digital textbooks, urged on by our Secretary of Education, concerns me. I worry that we’re engaged in a race to modernize schooling, rather than a sober and thoughtful imagining and designing of learning materials and practices that are more relevant to today’s learners (ourselves include), today’s information landscape and a future that has lost the comforts of certainty, but become rich with wondrous opportunities.

What I enjoyed, though, about my experience in publishing an iBook was learning to hack some features into the book that were not part of Apples general instructions for using their publishing tool. This is the ultimate opportunity of digital learning objects and environments, that they can be hacked into new and better learning experiences by information artisans who see what’s there and what it can become.

In a cynical mood, I commented on an earlier statement Warlick made, about how technology has changed the education landscape:

“… we live in a time of no unanswered questions.”

BUT:

1.  The internet and especially portable devices have exponentially increased the probability that difficult questions will be answered incorrectly.

2.  For teachers, no longer is it possible to ask a simple, factual question as a teaser to get students to search for the answer, and thereby learn something deeper along the way.  Portable computer devices present one more non-print medium in which education appears to be abdicating its duties, and the war.  (We missed radio, film, television, recorded television, and desk-top computing; now we’re missing portable devices.)

English: Cropped picture of Jaime Escalante

Legendary AP calculus teacher Jaime Escalante; pencil, paper, chalkboard and chalk, maybe a slide rule, made up his technology kit. Photo: Wikipedia

3.  No question goes unanswered, but what is really rare is a question that is worth answering; even more rare, that good question that can be answered well from free internet sources.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary:  When administrators and policy makers tell educators (especially teachers) they wish to utilize “new technology,” they mean they want new ways to figure out ways to fire teachers, because they don’t have a clue how technology can be used in education, nor have they thought broadly enough about what education is.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary Corollary: When a teacher effectively uses technology in a classroom, it will be at the teacher’s instigation, the teacher’s expense, and administrators will get revenge on the teacher for having done so.

I’ve wondered whether I wasn’t too cynical; David offered a solid response.

A couple of weeks later, my cynicism is growing.  I’m warning you, teachers, you adopt new technologies at your risk, often — especially in some school districts like Dallas ISD.

It’s a caution only.  Teachers, being teachers, will continue to push the envelopes, as Fionna Larcom related at Warlick’s blog.  Good on ‘em.  One out of 500,000 will get accolades outside the education system, like Jaime Escalante did.  Many others will face reprimand.

But if education is to improve, this experimentation by teachers must continue.  So teachers slog on, under-appreciated and often opposed in their attempts to fix things.

Someday a school system will figure out how to unlock teachers’ creativity, knowledge and skills.  Not soon enough.

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos.  Photo: Wikipedia

(Can someone explain to me how Warlick’s blog, with much better stuff than I do here, gets fewer hits?  Teachers, not enough of you are reading broadly enough.)

More, not necessarily the opinion of this blog:


Swearing-in stew: Inauguration week olla podrida – Where are the dung beetles when you need them?

January 25, 2013

In no particular order, nor in any particular ardor, stuff of interest and consequence we should be talking about instead of soaking in Millard Fillmore’s bathtub and admiring the plumbing:

More:


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,332 other followers

%d bloggers like this: