Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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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.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Remembering April 30, 1975

[The former Presidential Palace of South Vietnam, July, 2002]
It just occurred to me that today is a sad anniversary.  It was 35 years ago today that North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace.  (Bill Cooke and I visited it in 2002.  It’s now a museum.)  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not mooning over what might have been in terms of a U. S./South Vietnamese victory.   I came to understand that it was indeed the original “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  Still, it was sad to watch how it ended and to think of all the lives lost and the time and money wasted, not to mention the way we deserted the Vietnamese we had encouraged to depend on us. 
       Ironically, I was a newly commissioned second lieutenant going through the Basic School when Saigon fell.  That same week, the C.O. of the Basic School summoned us all to a  farewell reception for the ten South Vietnamese officers who were going through the program with us.  They had suddenly become men without a country, and the State Department was sending them somewhere.  (I know not where.)  I remember our C.O. saying something about honoring them as allies and wishing them well.  But it was anything but a smooth speech, and it was an awkward occasion—to say the least. 
       I wonder sometimes:  What America be like today had our leaders had the foresight not to get involved in Vietnam? --EFP

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Private Sector Unleashed

[The Washington Narrows, looking toward Dye's Inlet, Tracyton, WA, April 29, 2010]
This evening's CBS Evening News reminded me of that great conservative article of faith--to wit, if we just "unleash the private sector" our economy will fix itself.  
      The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lehman Brothers must not have been on a very tight leash.  He reportedly claimed over 5 million dollars in compensation before his company went bankrupt.
       Apparently, British Petroleum was not required to invest in a back-up shut-off system for the oil platform now leaking thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  The news report priced such a system at $500,000.  BP's leash, likewise, couldn't have been too tight.
       So much of the populist conservative rhetoric we're hearing these days reminds me of the sort of binary thinking we used to call the either - or fallacy.  To hear the demagogues tell it, either we have a completely unbridled free marketplace or we have socialism.  Frankly, considering what has happened to our economy, and what is now happening to our environment, I think a little socialism would be a very good thing.  --EFP

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Recent Palm-Prints

Keyport, WA, April 25, 2010.  (Taken in the course of a 12-mile bike trip to Keyport and back.  If I say so myself, I like the lighting in this one.)

I don't know:  The bedrooms may be a bit cramped.  (On the road to Brownsville, WA, April 22, 2010.)
The old girl's still got it in her!  Silverdale, WA, April 21, 2010.  (This was after she brought it in the house and I had to chase her down the hall.  I was trying to intercept her before she gave Andrea a heart attack.  Fortunately, I managed to chase Gracie back outside and to break the news to Andrea gently.  She just wouldn't drop it, and I wasn't about to play tug of war with her.  We had to bribe her with a treat in order to get her to drop her trophy.  Sad to say, but Gracie is 14 and is otherwise aging rapidly. )

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Palm-Print of the Day

Cam Hieu village, between Dong Ha and Cam Lo, Vietnam, July, 2002

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Palm-Print of the Day

Bill Cooke pointing out the Rockpile, along Highway 9, west of Cam Lo, Vietnam, July, 2002.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Palm-Print of the Day

Our guide Trieu ("Tango") at an NVA cemetery, Vietnam. July, 2002.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Palm the Patriot

[Monument to Non-Violence, Malmo, Sweden, July, 2004]
So Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann is urging Tea Party members to "take back our country from this gangster government."
      Let me get this straight:  We have now have a "gangster government"?  I take it that the Obama Gang is getting ready to fit conservatives with cement overshoes.
      I have to wonder if Bachman isn't confusing "gangster" with "gangsta"--as in "gangsta rap."  This, of course, is the type of hip-hop music reflecting the violent behavior and attitudes of urban African-American gangs.  Does Bachmann actually see Obama as this type of "gangsta," or worse yet, is she encouraging her listeners to view Obama in this light?  
      Personally, I still think that underneath all the vitriol is an unacknowledged racist refusal to accept an African-American as our president.
      Kudos to Bill Clinton for speaking up against irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and on behalf of civility and common sense.  --EFP

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Palm the Patriot

[Margaret Toston, giving Bruce Babbitt a piece of her mind, Maryville University, 2003]
My department chair at the Naval Academy once told me that I "present a complicated text to the world."  Frankly, I think it was a left-handed compliment.  There was always tension between us over my refusal to conform to his stereotypical notions of what a Marine should be like.  Also, I didn't know my place.  Before I got there, the token Marine officer was always marginally qualified to teach on the college level and was therefore expected to be appropriately deferential and humble.  I expected to be treated like an academic.
      But, truth be told, I suppose I am somewhat complicated.  Liberal that I am, for instance, I found myself in agreement with John McCain today when he was railing against our longstanding wishy-washy, timorous approach to Iran.
      It's not that I subscribe to Bush's notion of an "axis of evil."  It's just that I've always thought it was a grave mistake to allow Iran to humiliate us on the world stage embassy in 1979.  There have been strategic, theater-wide repercussions for our failure to act decisively and aggressively when "Iranian students" stormed our embassy and held the staff hostage. The example was not lost on Muslim extremists far and wide.
      More recently, the Iranian government's brutal crackdown on the current generation of "Iranian students" suggests that Obama's constructive engagement approach is doomed to fail.  Let's face it: our permissive culture is a threat to their theocracy, and in age of instant mass communication, it is nearly impossible to cloister the Iranian people.  We're still the "Great Satan" as far as Iran's theocratic leaders are concerned, and that makes reaching a modus vivendi rather difficult.
      Complicated guy that I may be, I admit to being somewhat conflicted right now.  I'm certainly not one of McCain's fans.  I didn't support his presidential bid, and I'll never forgive him for launching Sarah Palin's political career.  But when McCain's right, he's right.  It's time to get tough with Iran.  The current regime is never going to like us.  We had better make sure they respect, and maybe even fear, us.  --EFP

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Palm-Print of the Day

My former colleague Norm Waldow demonstrating his grading method. Maryville University, 2004

Palm the Patriot

{Patriotic Cadillac, Smyrna, DE, December, 2001]
On CNN today, I caught a little snippet of Sarah Palin giving her "Keep the Change" speech.  I have to give her speech writer credit for a cute turn of phrase.  It is an ironic allusion to President Obama's promise to transform America.  Palin was telling the crowd that Obama can "keep the change" because the "transformation" that he envisions is "un-American."   Tell Obama "no thanks," Palin urged, adding, "We'll keep our guns, our religion, and our Constitution."  
       I suppose that, according to Palin's criteria, I'm un-American.  Never mind that I'm a former enlisted Marine, a Vietnam veteran, and a retired Marine officer.  The problem is that I don't own a gun, I'm a secular humanist, and I believe that the Constitution is a living document that can and should be modified from time to time.
       I wonder if Palin can even spell, much less define, "demagogue"?  --EFP
P.S.  Palm's Progress:  I weighed in today at 185.2, and I ran 3.1 miles out of 4.22.  Yesterday, I took it a bit easy, running only 1.2 out of 3.5.  By this time next week, I should be running one day and bicycling the next.  That would be a welcome change of pace.  Pardon the pun.  --EFP

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Palm's Progress

I've been hitting it hard here of late.  On Thursday, I ran three miles, covering 5.77.  On Friday, I ran 1.6, covering 4.23.  Saturday was a recovery day.  Today, I overdid it.  I decided to try a new route.  Instead of staring out at the trail head, I decided to run up Ridge Top Road.  It didn't realize how long the uphill trek would be.  I think it was a mile to the crest.  But I made it.  I ran 3.7 and covered 7.11.
       The big news is that I bought a bicycle today--a Raleigh Route 4.0.  I bought this one because it's the same shade of blue-green as my first car, a 1967 Pontiac Tempest.  You just can't ignore a sign like that.
       My plan is to start alternating between bike riding and running.  We're finally starting to get some decent weather.  I'm looking forward to launching out on some long rides.  --EFP

{The Palm-Print of the Day, Seattle, January, 2009]

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Palm-Print of the Day

It's odd, but I still remember taking most of the pictures I took in Vietnam in 1967, including this one of a seamstress in the village on the northern side of the river (the Song Cam Lo) that divided our area of operations roughly in half.  Her older brother was there on the scene, and it was obvious he didn't like my photographing his sister.  He also spoke a little English, and I remember his proudly telling us "I am student."  It would be years before I would realize what an accomplishment it was to be a student in that time and place.  
      If I say so myself, I think this one is rather good.  The lighting, the expression, the selective focus, and even the canted angle all seem to work together--at least, I think they do.  The original is a Kodachrome slide, which was only ASA 25 at the time.  I must have been shooting at F2.8 at 1/30th of a second.  --EFP

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Palm's Progress/"Up in the Air"

{Garrison Keillor, St. Louis, 2004]

Weighed in today at 183.6.  Yesterday, I ran 2.5 miles, plus another .5.  I covered 4.1 miles in all, counting my walk to and from the trail.  Of course, I went out just in time to get caught in the worst downpour of the day.  The weather was pretty lousy today as well, so I decided to make it a recovery day and to get caught up on my Strayer work.
         Over the weekend, my wife and I rented the George Clooney film "Up in the Air."  I was surprised to discover that it really is a good, thoughtful film.  I was expecting just a vapid comedy with a happy ending--as in "cold-hearted loner mends his ways and becomes a person who needs people'."  But that's not quite the way it works out, and it's not really a comedy at all.  No wonder it was an Academy Award contender.
        While I was running Sunday ( I did 3 miles), I listened to "A Prairie Home Companion," which was originating from the Paramount Theater in Seattle.
         I met Garrison Keillor in St. Louis.  Maryville University long ago joined forces with a California promoter who needed a Midwestern University to front for a high-power, public lecture series.  While I was with Maryville, we brought in such luminaries as Walter Cronkite, Benjamin Netanyahu, Terry Gross, Amy Tan, Rudy Giuliani, and Benazir Bhutto.  And then there was Garrison Keillor.
        I must admit that he gave a wonderful performance--holding forth, and pacing back and forth across the stage, for a hilarious hour and a half.  But, as our public affairs person told me later, he had not read his contract closely, and he didn't realize that he was on the hook for a reception with the university staff and selected guests after the show.  You would think he would be gracious about it, but he wasn't.  It was evident from his sullen demeanor that he was there at the reception only because he had to be.  Of course, he was 63 at the time, and he was tired.  But still . . .
        Here is what Keillor said when the person who introduced me to him volunteered the information that I am a retired Marine officer and an academic:  "How original of you."
        My brush with Keillor reminded me of some advice one of my professors gave to us, an eager group of English majors:  "Study literature, but don't seek to meet the writers you admire.  They'll only break your heart."
       Of course, there are exceptions.  Amy Tan could not have nicer.  She is a down-to-earth, unaffected person who genuinely likes to meet and mingle with people.
       Garrison Keillor--not so much.
        Amy Tan has two little dogs she dotes on and takes with her wherever she goes.  Say what you will about "people who need people."  I prefer people who need dogs.              

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Palm's Progress/The Wrong Side of History--Again!

[One expression of hate speech that I can support:  Pike Place Market, Seattle, Jan. 24, 2009.}
Weighed in today--Easter Sunday--at 182.6.  I couldn't run on Friday; we were in the midst of a bad Pacific storm.  But I ran yesterday--3.1 miles, covering 6.7 in all.
       The big news yesterday was that a Florida urologist posted a sign on his front door telling Obama supporters to seek their medical treatment elsewhere.  In all fairness, he claims he would never refuse medical treatment to an Obama supporter; he would just prefer not to treat such people.  Still, for me at least, the sign itself carries a disturbing historical resonance.  It reminds me of the photos I've seen of intimidating signs posted on the windows of Jewish shops in Hitler's Germany.  These signs virtually commanded German citizens not to buy from Jewish merchants.
       I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it's not Obama and his supporters who are on the wrong side of history.
        This being Easter, I'll step out of character and indulge in a prayer of sorts:  God save us from the people who think they're saving the country.  --EFP