Category Archives: Personal

Escape From Texas

The Republican-controlled legislature in Texas is ready to embark on a series of budget cuts that have not been seen in this state since World War II, according to this NY Times piece. Reading through the article and what the Republicans are wanting to do, I’m at a loss. Here’s a taste:

In a party-line vote, the House slaughtered dozens of sacred cows. The budget bill makes huge cuts to public education, nursing homes and health care for the poor. It slashes financing for highways, prisons and state parks. It eliminates full-day preschool, cuts teacher incentive pay and reduces scholarships for college students by two-thirds.

The House plan would give schools almost $8 billion less than current state law requires over the next two years. Medicaid would be about $4 billion short of what officials say is needed to meet the growth in caseloads. One group of budget analysts predicted that 97,000 teachers and school employees would be laid off. Other analysts said that the cuts to Medicaid would force hundreds of nursing homes out of business and would have a devastating effect on rural hospitals and doctors.

Stunning. And there are some within the party, Tea Party types of course, who woud go further still. Texas already ranks near the bottom in educating its students, we are last in high school graduation rates, and we are terrible at providing health care to our citizens. How do Republicans respond to these numbers? By making cuts to health and education their top priority, despite our growing population that is increasing school enrollment and the number of citizens in need of health care.

Apparently, Republicans are not only okay with this, but they seem to take pride in the possibility that we will rank last in these categories in the future, after their cuts have gone into effect. Maybe I am just pissed off right now, but if I could, I would move the family out of the state pronto. It is sad, really. I was born and raised here and I find myself wanting nothing more than to leave. Why should I want to stay in a place where its political leaders have nothing but contempt for the majority of its citizenry and the institutions that seek to make them healthier and more educated. It is so illogical and so blatantly anti-poor and anti-middle class. It goes against everything I stand for, and I know my credibility may be weakened by the fact that I am a teacher, but I assure you I would be equally repulsed if I were not.

With these Republicans in control of the Legislature and the Governor’s office, the future of Texas seems incredibly bleak at the moment. I hope I am out of here by the time the state implodes.

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Teachers: America’s Enemies

I just saw the clip below featuring Sarah Palin talking to a critic in Alaska and I am overwhelmed.  Forget the incredibly moronic things Palin says in the clip, which is nothing new from the woman who continues to butcher the English language, but it is her eye-roll at the 1:10 mark at the critic’s statement that she is a teacher that really gets me. Check it out:

Her antics would be humorous if she were not looked at as a serious political force and a role-model for so many.  That a person in this country would be so adored despite showing contempt for intelligence and now, apparently, teachers, is astounding! Last time I checked, teachers were not getting paid much to do a public service that is demanding but ultimately, vital to our society. I know our education infrastructure is damaged, but maybe it is because when times get tough education is one of the first places we look to for budget cuts when we should be investing more in education (for an analysis of educational spending, read this, but note that I, like its authors, know it takes more than just money to fix the system). And remember, our public schools are open to any child of any learning ability of any sex, race, income level, religion or whatever, and many of our parents could not afford private schools so privatization alone would not work.

And I know I may appear biased as a teacher, but even if I were not a teacher, I would say the same thing.  But honestly, how can any reasonable person have contempt for someone because they are a teacher?

But Palin is just the latest far-right conservative to do what the most conservative of the Republican party have been successfully doing now for a generation: demonizing educated people as being somehow out of touch with “real Americans”. But who is the one out of touch?

One one side you have Sarah Palin: She quit her job as governor to write books, earn $100k+ to speak in public, criticize our President (imagine if he quit to do what Palin is doing) via twitter and Facebook, and have a segment on Fox News and now a reality show, all of which have made her a multi-millionaire. On the other side you have the teacher: Even in Alaska where teacher salaries are higher than in most states, she does not make in a year what Palin makes for one speaking engagement (in the video you notice she says she has other jobs, too; do you think Palin can relate to that?), she actually has to work for a living to make her money and she does not have cameras following her around to help fatten her wallet.

If you are still not sure who is out of touch, ask yourself this: Which of these stories more closely resembles your own? The only America Palin stands for is the one that believes that you can quit your job and shirk your responsibilities and still make it rich, or that you can make it rich by appearing on a reality TV show so you do not have to be a contributing member of society.  There is definitely a feeling in this country that this is a way to go, and this is the path Palin has chosen. Get rich while not really trying.

Ironically, she pretends to speak for the rest of us that have to work hard to make it, that struggle to pay for health care costs and gas, food, electricity, etc., that at any moment could find ourselves in serious financial straits if we lost our job. If you have ever been on a reality TV show or are filthy rich, by all means, Sarah Palin is your “average Jane”.  For me, I will take the teacher, the auto worker, the social worker, the fry cooks, waiters, bartenders, baristas, sales persons, etc., who bust their ass to make a living and get less and less to show for it, while the wealthiest people (like Palin) keep raking in the cash.

What is worse is that so many of “us” buy into Palin’s bullshit story. She has crafted this bullshit narrative (and she probably knows it, too) to appear as a representative of the common man or woman, the “mamma grizzlies” and such, and yet, it is a farce that is getting her rich.  Why do we not know better than to believe in this charlatan?  Maybe it is because we do not value education as we once did and are now to dumb to know when we are getting duped.

Anyway, if Palin and the most extreme conservatives had their way, there would be no public schools, free lunches, or anything like that because there would be no government, or at least, no real functioning one. If you want a glimpse of what this country might look like without hard-working, dedicated teachers and a functioning government, take a look at this:


Too Close to the Madness

I am sure that one of the most appealing aspects of being a teacher to those who are not is having the summer off.  As a teacher I will say that it is both a blessing and a curse, at least for me and at least it has been this first summer spent as a teacher on break.

A break is definitely necessary to recharge the batteries and get ready for a new school year.  But I am also the type that likes having things to do and is easily bored.  Having this blog helps cut against that and in fact, the blog was started last summer when I was unemployed and going “crazy”.  The problem with having all this free time and choosing to blog about the topics I write about is that I read a lot of news that is frustrating and depressing.  The bulk of my Google Reader time is spent reading political blogs and news articles which, given the times, are not very cheery. News is not inherently discouraging, it just seems that way because most of what is reported is negative. And of course, the political climate today gives way to increasing frustration, which is prompting one side (Republicans and conservatives) to get mobilized for November and the other side to stay home (another topic for another time).

All this is to say that the school year is approaching and I start in-service next week, and it could not come at a better time.  The other night I could not sleep because I was thinking about how illogical it is for so many “middle and working class” people to vote against their economic interests by casting a vote for the Republican party while they cling to their entitlements, complain about unemployment and the economy (the Bush tax cuts are not going to get you a new job!), and advocate for tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, thereby adding to the deficit and keeping their incomes stagnant (yet another topic for another time).

The point is that I spend so much time thinking about these kinds of issues because I have the time to do so. Being as wrapped up in politics and government as I am is really a niche thing.  Most people do not take the time to get so heavily invested or informed and it is understandable. I am not judging. So it is somewhat unfair of me to expect the people I referred to in the previous paragraph to fully understand the weight of their choices.  And in no way am I implying that a vote for Democrats is the “right” thing to do. I am just saying that politics can be an ugly business and because of the real-world consequences that result from the votes we cast and the policies that our elected leaders push on us, things can get heavy if you follow this stuff closely.

As “mad” as following our government can make me at times, I never think about how nice it would be to not care so much about it.  I honestly would not want it any other way.  I think it is very important and it does matter and that is why I do what I do, read what I read, and think what I think. Maybe politics does not really matter at all and I am wasting my time thinking about it and writing about it here.  I know some people feel that way and I get it. But to those people I would say that, if you feel that way because you think nothing we can do matters, that things will be FUBAR no matter what, it is precisely that thinking that makes change difficult and it is what the powers that be want us to feel. It keeps them rich and able to do whatever they hell they want (looking at you corporate America, the real power in Washington).

And arguably, this blog is a waste of time because not too many people read it, but for me, it is a place where I can vent about the things that concern me and for that, I am very grateful to have it.  However, what matters more to me is being an educator. So when I get back to doing what I love and what I am actually paid to do (teaching, in case you are having trouble following along), the activity on this blog will decrease. But I like knowing The Mess will always be there for me, waiting for the next sweet release of ranting and raving. After all, the blog and the purpose behind it have not pushed me to the brink of madness, they have helped steer me away from it.

(Note: The author is not really crazy nor on the verge of such.  The terms “crazy” and “madness” are used for dramatic flair, and probably too loosely.)


Mac Users

Calling all Mac users. Does anyone out there know how to import google tasks using iCal? What about putting google tasks on the dashboard? I found a way to do that using Safari, which has a function that allows you to open web pages in the dashboard, but I am not a fan of Safari. Does anyone care to convince me to switch from Firefox to Safari and thus eliminate the need to both import google tasks with iCal and figure out a way to add tasks to Dashboard?


Cubs Win! Really.

Yesterday

I am in El Paso without a vehicle and staying at my cousin’s house so when he drives to work I take his car to the Lone Star golf club (formerly known as Cielo Vista) to do some chipping and putting. I had my putter shortened and re-gripped two days ago and am eager to try it out. It is scorching hot and I break a mean sweat practicing for about an hour. I love my “new” putter.

I leave the course and drive to Cattle Barron’s, the place where my cousin waits tables, to both drop off his car and wait for my aunt to pick me up so we can go eat and wait around for cousin to get off of work and pick me up to take me back to his place.  I sit down at the bar and order a Guinness expecting it to be my only beer because my aunt is due to pick me up in about 45 minutes. One beer ends up being three as my aunt is not able to pick me up at the time previously settled on and by the time she sits down next to me and orders a beer for herself, I am nursing that third Guinness (and believe me, I nursed them all).

But even before she joins me, I had been sitting at the bar watching the Cubs play the Astros at Wrigley.  The Astros score four runs in the second inning and by the time my aunt joins me at the bar, they are beating the Cubs 7-1. She and her son proceed to heckle and taunt me for my team’s general suckitude and I cannot say anything in response because, well, they are right.

But then, a small miracle. The Cubs start to hit. Then they start to score some runs. And when we leave the bar, three beers later and feeling a little unusual (it is a feeling I am no longer accustomed to these days and one I cannot adequately describe or label), the Cubs have rallied to tie the game. By this time it is getting a little late and having already nixed dinner plans we return to my aunt’s house to hang out. We get there and I immediately go to the TV room and turn on the TV and change it to the channel carrying the game. The game is still tied, though not for long. The Cubs score seven more runs in the last three innings and win the game, 14-7.  No matter how bad the team is or how bad their season is going, it still feels good to see them win a game like this.

My aunt expresses her disbelief at what has transpired, as does my cousin a couple of hours later when he picks me up.  I say nothing, but feel extremely satisfied.


Off The Grid

V and I got back from our honeymoon in Costa Rica late Thursday, driving in to Marfa yesterday. We were gone ten days and in those ten days I had no idea what was going on back in the states, and it was great. It only took a few minutes back on Reader to miss being in Costa Rica and out of the loop. That said, this feeling will not last and I will be back scouring Reader for interesting stories to pass along and educating myself on the issues that matter most to me. And of course, I will be writing about those things here. I simply want to say how peaceful and relaxing it was to be insulated from the drama happening in the states that, I admit, I am “all up in” while home.

Think of this and my previous post today as me working my way back in to blogging shape. By the way, Costa Rica is beautiful and worth a look. Cheers!


Vacaciones

I am on day 4 of my honeymoon adventure in Costa Rica. That explains the lack of posts. Be back soon, kiddos.