Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

My photo
Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kitsap Sun's Monthly Photo Challenge

I'm pleased to report that I got top billing in our local paper's monthly photo challenge--EFP

FRAMES: Challenge #32 Candid Stand-Outs

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
Once again, nicely done on the candid challenge everyone!
Here are a few we (Yay I get to say “we” again since Derek is thankfully joining us again via back and forth emailing from across the Sound) thought stood out for various reasons:
“Aunt Jo and Daniel” by Ed Palm
The photographer added a note to this photo about how it is a picture of his Aunt during the final stages of Alzheimer’s and while she didn’t recognize him anymore, there seemed to still be a connection between her and his son, whom she had cared for at one time. The additional information helps put the photo into context and the viewer can really understand what the moment captured is all about. Instead of just a small moment between a woman and child you realize the small things in the image, like the purse in the background and the tray that he is leaning on, and all of that adds to emotional moment that is portrayed. Even if you didn’t know the backstory of the image the photo has beautiful light, nice composition and is a nice moment. It’s all around a fantastic storytelling image, and those storytelling images are our favorite kind of images.

Read more: http://pugetsoundblogs.com/photovideo/2010/12/#ixzz18FEvyELX

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Palm on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

I couldn't resist weighing in on the current debate over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":  "My Turn," Kitsap Sun, 5 Dec. 2010, p. A11

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Mariner's Fan

Clearly, you're not a real Mariner's fan until you get one of these.  --EFP

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Revolting Development!

We're having our first snowstorm of the winter--already!--complete with two power outages, thus far.  We only have about four inches of snow, but that's enough to paralyze Western Washington.  --EFP

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Palm on Veterans Day

The Seattle Times was good enough to give me some space today:  "Appreciate the True Value of Military Service."
     I couldn't resist ringing some changes on Sarah Palin's recent boast about raising a "combat soldier."  I wonder if in her economy that is better than raising a pediatrician, a policeman, or a priest."  --EFP

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Freudian Slip of the Day

On the Today program this morning, Texas Governor Rick Perry praised former President George Bush for doing a good job "protecting us from freedom."  Truer words were never spoken.  --EFP

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My New Teaching Assistant

I thought I would share a couple images of me and my new teaching assistant, "Phineas,"  hard at work.  Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.  --EFP

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Photo of "Big Bad John"

The Sun, a literary magazine out of Chapel Hill, has accepted the photo I've inserted below.  It's a remnant of my eight years in West Virginia.   The little fawn's mother had been hit and killed by a car, and some friends found the fawn trying to nurse on its dead mother.  They took care of the little guy for a week, before turning him over to the Department of Wildlife Services.   The man in the photo is John Diehl, the brother of the Vice President of Administration at Glenville State College.  --EFP

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old Mill Days

Last Saturday, Andrea and I took in Old Mill Days, an annual fair held at Port Gamble, Washington.  --EFP

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Do the Puyallup!"

Today, we decided to "do the Puyallup," as they say around here.  We went to the annual Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup (pronounced "pew-yowl-up".)   --EFP

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Larry on Zero Tolerance in Lieu of Common Sense

My old friend and fellow Marine Larry Scroggs shared an interesting reflection on the tenor of our times:
Watching local news. Sixth grade boy was caught carrying a knife at school. Not threatening anyone just had it in his possession. Police were called. Boy was carried off then released to his parents. School says he will be suspended at least ten days and it could be as much as one year. Criminal charges are pending.
     Flashback to 1958-1959. I'm in sixth grade. Attending a combined elementary-junior high school on an Air Force base in northern Maine. Just about every boy in sixth grade carried a pocket knife. In fact, most boys from fifth grade on up carried knives daily. Usually a Boy Scout knife if you bought your own or maybe a Barlow or Schrade if your dad was an officer and bought one for you. On the far end of the playground at recess and lunch many of the boys would be playing Stretch or Mumblety Peg. We also had a "chicken" knife-throwing game, but we usually didn't play it at school because sometimes someone would get stuck and that could create problems. Isn't it great that those days are gone? I don't know how all us boys kept from stabbing each other or cutting ourselves. Maybe sometime I'll tell you all about the high school boys from the local small farming town who came to school with shotguns or deer rifles in their trucks during hunting season. I know it's hard to believe but no one called the SWAT team. In fact, the coach may even have walked out to your truck to check out your new .30-30 lever action.
     You wouldn't see that today. Things are so much better now that the government has written all their "zero tolerance" rules and laws to replace common sense. We don't have to get all confused with trying to think of the "right thing to do" or the "best course of action" or "what's in the best interest
of the child". The politicians have written all the rules for us and no thinking is required. Just enforce the rules. 

Larry reminded me of a comparable situation.  Not too long ago, a first-grader (I think it was) was charged with sexual harassment for kissing a little girl in his class.  His elementary school too had a zero-tolerance policy in lieu of common sense.  An old joke, a play on a Wordsworth title comes to mind:  that school was determined to stamp our imitations of immorality.  --EFP

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mt. Rainier Marmot

On Saturday, we went to Mt. Rainier, where we found this little marmot popping up to check out the hikers on his trail.  As always, please click on each photo for a better view.  --EFP

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Of Religion and Original Intent

[The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has taken this one too:  Of Religion and Original Intent.]
Back in the mid-nineties, when I was a professor at a small college in West Virginia, I had a telling encounter with a Muslim international student. We were going over a paper he had written for my class, and at one point in the paper, he had referred to America as a “Christian nation.” The context was innocent enough. He was not attacking America, and this was before 9/11 raised the national consciousness about the problem of Muslim extremism. So I saw this as merely the occasion for a teachable moment—an opportunity to give the student a more sophisticated understanding of our American government.
     I explained that, while the majority of Americans may consider themselves to be Christians, America has no official religion and that our Constitution mandates a separation of church and state. I could see the student becoming visibly upset as I tried to explain this concept to him. I had obviously shaken a deeply held core belief. I let the matter drop and went on to point out the rhetorical and grammatical problems with his paper. I realize now that religious identity must have been central to his concept of nationhood and that, as far as he was concerned, every nation had to fit into one of three categories: Muslim, Jewish, or Christian.
      I think of this encounter every time I hear one of the rightwing pundits calling America a “Christian nation,” or dating the doom from the demise of school prayer—or, worse yet in my view, asserting that our founding fathers never intended to build a wall between church and state. I also think of it whenever I hear these same pundits calling for a reaffirmation of America’s exceptionality.
     When I went to school, I was taught that one of our greatest marks of distinction as a nation was our decision to keep religion out of politics. I was told that our founding fathers--as men of the Enlightenment, the aptly named “Age of Reason”--had learned the lesson of hundreds of years of religious strife in Europe. They wisely wanted to set America apart from all that. Hence, they crafted the First Amendment forbidding the establishment of a state religion and guaranteeing freedom of worship.
     A close reading of the Declaration of Independence will reveal that the framers claimed their right to rebel not directly from God but from “the laws of nature and . . . nature’s God.” That is not a Christian formulation but rather a deist one, a philosophy that was much in vogue during the 18th century. Deism held God to be the “great clockmaker” who set the universe up according to natural laws and who is now leaving it up to us to take care of the secular realm. Hence, I am all for turning back to the original intent of our founding fathers. It is past time to usher in a new age of secular humanism, reaffirming that religion is a private affair.
     I don’t know how that young Muslim student felt about America, nor do I know whether he went on to become radicalized or not. But I do know that the so-called “narrative” that Muslim extremists are using to recruit and radicalize moderate Muslims holds that America is waging a new crusade against Islam in general. And I have to believe that all the neo-conservatives rallying and agitating to redefine America as Christian are reinforcing that narrative and playing into the hands of the extremists. --EFP

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Funny Story

The news that 12 Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldiers are being investigated for conspiracy to commit murder in Afghanistan reminded me, by some odd conjunction, of the funniest story I heard while serving in Vietnam.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been kind enough to allow me to share that story.  --EFP

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Victory in Iraq?

Back when we were mired in Vietnam, some wag—I forget whom—suggested a way out:  “Let’s just declare victory and leave.” 
                It seems to me that this is exactly what we’re doing in Iraq.  Despite what the neo-cons would have us believe, we haven’t won the war, nor are the Iraqi military and police ready to keep the peace.  And a large number of U.S. advisers and trainers are remaining behind, in harm's way.  I wish someone would poll a significant sample of average Iraqis, asking, “Do you feel you’re better off without Saddam than you were with him?”  I suppose it comes back to the old Marine Corps axiom:  "If you can't stand the answer, don't ask the question."  --EFP

Racing to the Top

The Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, with its emphasis on teacher quality, reminds me of something my father, a career Air Force pilot, once told me. 
                It was the early eighties, and the Marine Corps was having no end of problems with the new Harrier “Jump Jet.”  There had been a series of devastating crashes, and people were beginning to wonder if there was something inherently wrong with the design.  Drawing on twenty-plus years of flying experience, my father advanced a theory that certainly rang true to me.  
                A production airplane, he explained, has to be designed to a level of mediocrity.  Even a mediocre pilot has to be able to fly it safely.  This is because no operational squadron can count on placing only exceptional pilots in its cockpits.   The Harrier, my father suspected, was just too demanding an aircraft for the average pilot.  And the reality is that the majority of pilots are going to be mediocre—just good enough. 
                The same holds true, it seems to me, when it comes to teachers.  To be sure, we need to weed out lazy, unmotivated, and incompetent teachers.   But, no matter what we do, we’ll never be able to put an outstanding teacher in charge of every classroom.  Like those operational pilots, the great majority of our teachers will be mediocre—just good enough.  And, in my view, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 
                I feel this way because I don’t believe that replacing a mediocre teacher with an inspired one will guarantee an improvement in standardized test scores—the main criteria some would use in judging teacher effectiveness.  There are just too many variables in the equation, parental support and cultural background ranking high among them.  
                For example, as I look back over my own public school education, I can’t say that any of my elementary school teachers stand out as having been exceptional or particularly inspiring.  But they got the job done, and they were able to do so for two reasons:  They were supported by parents who understood the need for discipline, and they taught within a school system that didn’t reward or promote students who failed to perform.  
              Recently, I heard the noted conservative pundit Michael Medved proclaim that class size was not a significant factor in educational effectiveness.   If I understood Medved correctly, he is all for judging teachers on the basis of standardized test scores.   It seems to me that if we go that route, if we begin to purge teachers whose students fail to score well on standardized tests, we will need to build new schools—ones with large lecture halls.  That’s because each member of that limited, elite corps of truly exceptional teachers will probably need to teach classes of 250 to 500 students.  --EFP

Monday, August 30, 2010

The New Pharisees

[I'm pleased to report that this one appeared in The Kitsap Sun on September 1, setting off a firestorm of response.  As I always say, if you can't be insightful, at least be inciteful. Here is a link to the letter in the Sun:   The Return of the Pharisees
I am amazed that Glenn Beck’s disciples are O.K. with his criticism of President Obama’s Christianity (at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on Aug.  27)   For one thing, I don’t recall that Obama ever made anything but a general profession of faith, asserting merely that he is a Christian.   But more importantly, Beck doesn’t seem to have paid any attention to the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:  9-14).   Nor does he seem to hold with the injunction to “judge not that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:  1).   Finally, Beck is a Mormon.  Are his disciples aware that many Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church alike consider Beck’s beliefs to be outside the Christian mainstream?  It would seem that the Pharisees are back and that they are being led by Glenn Beck. --EFP

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Phiney at the Dog Park

Here are three more shots of Phiney at the Dog Park.  Please click on each photo for a better view.  --EFP

The New Spartan Mother

[Cpl. James L. Reaves, killed in action, December 4, 1967]
Sarah Palin has lately carved out a new role for herself.  At Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington on Saturday, she was quoted as bragging that “I raised a combat vet, and you can’t take that away from me.”  Palin has clearly cast herself in the role of the fabled Spartan mother, who in sending her son off to battle would warn him to come back carrying his shield or on it, and with his “wounds all before.”   That last phrase was a warning that he had best die facing the enemy and not running away or his mother would be ashamed of him. 
            Clearly, a line has been crossed in America.  Despite what rightwing revisionists would have us believe, even during the darkest days of our Vietnam War, the great majority of Americans still respected the military.  The difference is that they didn’t revere and idolize the military.  And there are at least two reasons why this new attitude is not in our best interests.
            First, as women can attest, one of the best ways to keep someone down, ironically, is to place him or her up on a pedestal.  Women were once viewed as too good, too ethereal, for higher education and for careers.  Their roles as wives and mothers were idealized.  The effect was to keep them in their male-ordained places.  We’re doing essentially the same thing to our troops.  We give them glib expressions of gratitude, but that’s all we really give them—lip service.  The average American doesn’t seem to mind that we don’t have enough volunteers and that our soldiers and Marines are enduring multiple combat tours.  The result was predictable:  widespread problems with PTSD and an alarming increase in suicides.   Yet people like Palin don’t seem to feel this.   They obviously view our troops as Spartans all--born and bred just to fight.
            Second, the country seems to have forgotten that the military has a vested interest in war.  It is a great oversimplification to view the civil-military relation in America as clean cut.  Our military does indeed answer to civil authority, but the lines between civil and military authority become blurred at the top.  Generals and admirals are ambitious people, and they usually don’t get to four-star rank without having highly placed political allies.  It is na├»ve to think that a president gets unalloyed, completely objective professional advice from the general he places in charge of a war.  Such a general is part of the administration team, and he is expected to speak only on message, to shape his opinions and assessments to fit the administration’s views.  Just ask General McChrystal if you don’t believe that.  
            There is also the problem of military careerism.  It is difficult to be a credible warrior without a war.  To its credit, today’s military seems to have curbed the abuses we saw during Vietnam.   We’re not seeing high-ranking officers pinning medals on one another willy-nilly, nor are we seeing them trying to save face with inflated body counts and chest-thumping predictions of imminent victory.   But still the military profession demands a “can-do” spirit, even when something cannot or should not be done.  Theirs, after all, is “not to reason why,” but rather to “do and die.” 
            The military is indeed an honorable profession.  Soldiers render a necessary service in this fallen world, but it is a serious business and one that should never be sentimentalized.  What it comes down to is that a soldier’s mother sends her son out to kill another mother’s son.  Sarah Palin, and all the neo-Spartan mothers like her, would do well to remember that sad necessity. --EFP
[This piece has been picked up by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:  The New Spartan Mother.]

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mere Palm Loosed Upon Seattle

I'm pleased that The Seattle Times gave me a little space to today to comment on a topic near and dear to my heart.  It is in keeping with my motto:  If you can't be insightful, at least be inciteful:  "Vietnam vets should speak up"

Grand Opening of the Silverdale Dog Park

Our new Silverdale Dog Park opened today.  Phiney and I attended the grand opening.  Please click on each of the photos for a better view.  --EFP

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life with Phineus

Our eight-month-old Jack Russell Terrier Phineus--"Phiney" for short--has developed a taste for blackberries. Click on the photo for a better view. --EFP

More Blue Jays

I'm still moping melancholy mad, trying to take a perfect picture of a Blue Jay flying with a peanut.  Click on each photo for a better view. --EFP

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blue Jays with Peanuts

I'm still obsessed with trying to get a good shot of a Blue Jay flying with a peanut. Click on each photo for a better view. --EFP

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Olympic Game Farm Revisited

On Friday the 13th (8/13/2010), we took Andrea's brother Brian, his wife Linda, and son Evan to the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, Washington.  Click on each photo for a better view.  --EFP