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.)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #20

This week, I'm channeling the ghost of Christmas past.  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #19

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #17

This one is about what I did in the not-so-great war.  --S/f, EFP

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #15

This the last column I'm going to write about Trump--I think, I hope! (Actually, it's about Television, Donald Trump, and Lawrence Welk: "a-won'erful, a-won'erful!") --S/f, EFP

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #14--Nov. 13, 2016

Palm the Pedant rides again! (I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I didn't study English literature for ten years only to have to think for myself, thank you very much!) --S/f, EFP

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My Current Column (Dispatches 9 & 10)

Kitsap County today is getting a double dose of Palm--who is now a stranger in a strange land. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #11

[The editor is holding numbers 9 and 10 for later.]  Once more into the fray!  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #8

Oh what larks we had on Parris Island!  What larks.  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Occasional Dispatch # 5 (Sept. 4, 2016)

Here I go again, biting the academic hands that used to feed me. --S/f, EFP

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #2, "Kitsap Sun," July 24, 2016

The shelf life for bad news

Your far-flung correspondent Ed Palm here, with my body in Virginia but my spirit still back in Kitsap County. Two recent developments in particular have shaken me out of my heat-induced lethargy and prompted me to file this dispatch.

First, once again, you can take the English professor out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of him.

Pedantic English teachers everywhere must be savoring the controversy surrounding the speech Melania Trump gave on the first night of the Republican National Convention. There is no denying it: The themes and distinctive phrasing borrowed from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech did constitute plagiarism.

As I used to tell students, you must acknowledge the source whenever you borrow someone’s distinctive ideas, opinions, or phrasing, even if you are only paraphrasing rather than directly quoting. Granted, there can sometimes be a fine line between a distinctive idea or opinion and a commonplace one that can’t be attributed to anyone in particular. “When in doubt, cite!” was always my sound advice to students.

The Trump campaign at first refused to acknowledge and take responsibility for the gaffe, denying that the similarities between the two speeches were significant. Two days into the controversy, confronted with the point-bypoint undeniable evidence, they finally offered an explanation. Melania had reportedly read sections of Mrs. Obama’s speech to her speech writer, who wrote them down and blithely used them without checking them against the original. What does that say about the competence of the staff Trump employs?

If I were speaking for the Trump campaign, here’s how I would have responded to the plagiarism charge: “Yes, we should have carefully vetted that speech, and yes, Melania did echo Michelle Obama’s themes and, to a certain extent, her phrasing. But the difference is that Melania means it!”
That last sentence, if I say so myself, is unassailable. Who can say what Melania means and intends but Melania herself? 

Not for nothing did the Marine Corps put me through the Public Affairs Officers Course. While I was there, I learned two lessons that would stand politicians on both sides of the aisle in good stead: (1) Bad news, unlike fine wine and good cheese, does not improve with age. (2) When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, apologize for it, and correct it if you can.

Trump defenders were quick to remind us that Vice President Biden once plagiarized. Biden being a homie, a fellow Delawarean, I remember that controversy. Early in his Senate career he was found to have borrowed a speech from an Irish politician. The difference is that Biden acknowledged and apologized for his lapse, and he was forgiven.

Apologies, however, are not in Trump’s nature. The initial refusal of Trump spokesmen to acknowledge the obvious reminds me of something an old friend used to saywhenever he heard a politician offer an implausible explanation or make an empty promise: “How G**damned dumb do they think we are?”

Pretty damned dumb, I suppose.

That second issue, I’m afraid, is just further evidence of my seriously unintegrated personality as both a Marine and an academic.

Every news report I’ve heard and read about the July 17 ambush of police officers in Baton Rouge emphasized that the killer was a former Marine. A recent headline in The New York Times was a case in point: “Baton Rouge shooter identified as ex-Marine Gavin Long.”

Ironically, news reports associating Marines with murder and mayhem always remind me of making Phi Beta Kappa. “Whatever else you achieve in life,” the professor officiating at the ceremony said, “this accomplishment will be mentioned.” I haven’t found that to be the case. (Thanks to grade inflation, making Phi Beta Kappa is no longer the exclusive honor it once was.) But should I ever do something horrendous, you can bet that the media will identify me as an “ex-Marine” — and a Vietnam veteran to boot.

Ever since 1966— when “ex-Marine Charles Whitman” climbed that Texas tower and shot 49 people — the uncompromising ethos of the Marine Corps has fueled an unfair stereotype: Ex-Marines, more so than the veterans of the other services, are likely to be deranged and dangerous.

The reality is that the Corps’ no-excuses discipline and legendary tough training develop the self-confidence, maturity, and resilience needed to roll with life’s punches. Frankly, the Corps has always appealed to young men with something to prove to those who may have underestimated or rejected them— but most of all to themselves.

In my own case, to quote Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky,” I enlisted to prove that I wasn’t “just another bum from the neighborhood.” It worked for me, and it has worked for the great majority of those who needed the mark of distinction denoted by the title “U.S. Marine.”

So I’m invoking the fairness doctrine: How about some headlines and news reports associating the title “ex-Marine” with good deeds for a change?

Contact Ed Palm at majorpalm@ gmail. com.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Occasional Dispatch #1 (July 10, 2016)

You just can't keep me down or out of the "Sun." The editor has encouraged me to report in monthly from afar, and I'm taking him up on it. --S/f, EFP

Expanded pursuit of happiness

Ed Palm, your former community columnist turned far-flung correspondent here, staying in touch just as I said I would in my "Farewell to rhetorical arms" column (June 5).

Something happened to me recently that, in the words of the poet, "has given me a change of heart ... and saved some part of a day I had rued."

As you may have heard, summers are hot and humid here in Virginia. Today found me not just overheated but generally frazzled over dealing with all the details of moving so much so that I reverted to absent-minded-professor type.

I had just come out of Lowes with a new weed eater and an $11 roll of laminate shelf paper. Needing both hands to load the weed eater into my truck, I set the shelf paper on the roof. (Dont get ahead of me now.) Sure enough, I drove off with the! shelf paper on the roof, and Mrs. Palm was sorely disappointed when I came home without it. So back to Lowes to see if it was still there in the parking lot. It wasnt.

I went in to the customer- service desk and confessed to carelessness, asking if anyone had found and turned in a roll of shelf paper. Sure enough, someone had a roll rendered unusable due to tire-tread marks running across it.

Would you believe that they gave me a new roll free of charge?

Mrs. Palm, who was born in North Carolina, wasnt surprised. (Ours is a mixed marriage. I self-identify as a Yankee.) "This is the South. People are nice here," she explained.

Of course, there are nice people all over in Western Washington as well as Virginia. We just need more of them everywhe! re.

But enough about my trials and tribulations. On to the passing scene.

The big news out of the Pentagon lately has been the decision to allow transgender troops to serve openly in the military. Im sure well be hearing the same objections to this development that we heard about allowing gays to serve openly that it will undermine unit cohesion and threaten good order and discipline. I remember hearing the military enthusiast and popular novelist Tom Clancy sneering to the effect that the real men in the 101st Airborne wouldnt stand for having gays in their midst. But stand for it they did, and I predict that todays young troops will roll with this reform as well.

As forme, despite being an old fogey, Im fine with allowing a transgendered person to enlist or be commissioned under the gender to which he or she has transitioned. But that should be it. My concern is that the Departm! ent of Defense will also shoulder the expense of surgery and treatment for those still in transition as well as for those who have yet to begin the process. Undoubtedly, some few will enlist just to change gender at taxpayer expense.

The irony is that the Pentagon is undertaking this reform at the same time it is whittling away at retiree medical benefits and otherwise looking to cut the exorbitant personnel costs of the all-volunteer force.

As Ive argued before, the key to having a costeffective military is simply to stop enlisting people with multiple dependents and to start restricting family benefits to career NCOs and officers. We have economic refugees enough in the ranks. We need more troops motivated to serve in the old selfless sense of the term be they gay, straight, or transgendered.

Another blip stillon my radar screen is the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Constitutional issues and societal objections aside, what I keep coming back to is our Declaration of Independence. Ever since Lincoln invoked that document in justifying the Civil War, affirming that "all men are created equal," another of Jeffersons presuppositions has done as much, if not more, to shape American attitudes and expectations. Im referring to the claim that "the pursuit of happiness" is an "unalienable" right. If marrying makes a same-sex couple happy, who is it hurting? Gaysand lesbians are merely claiming the same rights and legal protections afforded by heterosexual marriage.

The religious right, of course, will never be reconciled to same-sex marriage. "Chief Justice Roberts, tear down this wall of separation between church and state!" would seem to be what some are saying. That would be an outcome far worse th! an allowing gays and lesbians to marry. Like it or not, the Bibles strictures defining marriage and condemning homosexuality are not normative for everyone in our secular, pluralistic society.

For my part, Im content to thank God for the blessing of air conditioning. Its so hot and humid here that adhesive Mylar numbers wont stick to our new mailbox.

Give thanks back there in Western Washington for your temperate climate.

Contact the sweltering Ed Palm at majorpalm@gmail. com.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Column the Last

Resolved: Kitsap County will not have Ed Palm to kick around anymore! (At least not on a regular basis.) --S/f, EFP

Sunday, May 29, 2016

My Column for May 29, 2016

File this one under my working title:  "Profiles in Courage and Cowardice on Campus." --S/f, EFP

Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Column for May 22, 2016

This week, I'm reflecting on "unspeakable practices, unnatural acts" (a phrase I borrowed from Donald Barthelme).  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Column for May 15, 2016

There's something fishy here in Silverdale, Washington!  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Current Column

Never let it be said that I don't know on which side my bread is buttered!  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Column for April 17, 2016

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Veterans included at OC campus 
In at least one important sense, the term “community college” is a misnomer. Community colleges meet such a diversity of vocational and academic needs and serve such diverse populations of students— most of whom only come and go to attend classes — that they really cannot foster a cohesive sense of belonging on campus. Our very own Olympic College, however, would seem to be offsetting this liability for a distinct group of students near and dear to my heart.
Readers may recall that I devoted my column of March 20 (“Veterans — Olympic College wants you!”) to reporting on what Olympic College was doing to attract and accommodate veterans. I ended that column with a promise to revisit and report on how OC’s Veteran and Military Support Center (VMSC) is faring.
I first visited and reported on OC’s VMSC in 2013 (“A veterans community at OC,” Nov. 3). The center was started by Navy careerist Larry Cleman in 2011 and had already established itself as an all-around refuge and resource center for OC’s veterans. I made good on my promise to revisit the VMSC on April 5.
Cleman had since shipped out for a teaching position. The current director is Tatiane Simons, 36, who took over last fall.
Simons spent four and a half years as a Navy corpsman. (Simons is a woman, but the Navy just won’t budge on the issue of gender-neutral titles.) She came to OC fresh fromthe Navy and earned her associate degree in business and economics while working full-time in the college’s Student Services Office.
Simons is responsible for maintaining the VMSC and for securing the resources veterans, activeduty members, and dependents may need to succeed atOC. Her efforts are complemented by Ashly Mota, 31, a full-time Vet Corps navigator charged with helping veterans find the nonacademic resources they may need to stay in college.
Over the fall and winter quarters, the center logged a total of 5,114 visits by 423 separate people. The center was frequented by veterans, active-duty members, reservists, dependents, and OC staff, as well as 70 civilian OC students. I was especially pleased to see that last number. As a former G.I. Bill student myself, I feel it’s important not to make veterans feel isolated on campus. They should be encouraged to interact with younger students, giving them the benefit of their experience and wisdom.
Toward that end, the VMSC sponsors a number of outreach events open to the campus at large. In November, the center hosted a Thanksgiving potluck.Earlier this month, it offered reduced-price tickets to the Mariners’ Salute to Armed Forces Night and sponsored a free “mindfulness” workshop aimed at reducing academic stress through meditation. On April 21, the center will be hosting a “Garden-Style Potluck.” There is nothing like offering free food, Simons has found, to bring everyone together.
The five veterans I spoke to on this occasion have made the center their homeport and credit it with making them feel wanted and welcome at OC. “ If I’m not in class, I’m here,” Logan Pate, 31, told me. A 10-year Navy veteran, Pate left as a petty officer first class and started at OC in the winter quarter. His ultimate goal is to transfer to a four-year program in chemical engineering. In the meanwhile, he’s showing his appreciation by “cleaning up, making coffee, and helping other students.”
“Very helpful and welcoming” is how Paul Fisher, a retired Navy officer, sums up the center’s appeal. Fisher, 56, served for 25 years, reaching the rank of commander. Intent on acquiring a new manual skill, he started in OC’s welding program last fall. He has been coming to the center from “day one.”
Kate Halloran, 41, retired from the Navy as a petty officer second class and now serves as the VMSC’s work-study student. She is completing her associate degree and is already working toward a bachelor’s degree from Bradman University.She praises the center for opening at 7 a.m., earlier than any other campus facility, and for providing counseling, tutoring, computers, coffee and even couches to nap on.
“A nice, friendly environment” is how Army veteran Amy O’Keefe, 35, sums up the center’s appeal. O’Keefe — just as I was in 1969 — has been academically reborn. She dropped out of OC after two quarters and in 1999 enlisted in the Army. She went on to serve for 10 years, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan. She returned to OC in the fall and is now aiming toward nursing.
And Bryon Mulligan, 56 — whom I first interviewed in 2013 — is still a regular patron. A 12year Coast Guard veteran, Mulligan is finishing his associate degree in computer information systems and is planning to transfer to a four-year school. He appreciates the one-on-one help and the friendship he’s found at the center.
As I myself learned long ago, getting out of the service can be a lonely and disconcerting experience. Suddenly you find yourself without the fellowship that sustained you and the direction you may have resented but soon find yourself missing. Olympic College’s veterans need not feel that way. They have a community to guide and support them.
Ed Palm of Silverdale is a Marine Corps veteran and former dean at Olympic College.Contact him at efpalm@centurylink. net.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday, April 3, 2016

My Column for April 3, 2016

I've reverted to academic type this week.  The shame of it all!  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Column for March 27, 2016

This week's column is a letter from Palm the Apostle.  --S/f, EFP

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Column of January 10, 2016

My Column of January 3, 2016

History under further review

The late Hunter S. Thompson, or some like-minded soul, put it best: “When the going gets weird, the weird get going.” That’s about as good a summation of what’s happening these days in the previously hallowed, but now hollowed out, halls of academe as I can find.

Case in point: The Black Student Union at Lebanon Valley College is demanding that the college rename Lynch Memorial Hall. The building is named after Clyde A. Lynch, an alumnus who served as president of the college from 1932 to 1950 and who died in office. As far as anyone knows, Lynch was not a racist and was never associated with any racist practices or statements. And he was widely praised for managing to keep the college open throughout the depression. Students of color, however, find the name itself an offensive reminder of lynching.

It occurs to me that the city of Lynchburg, Virginia, is equally insensitive. Lynchburg was named after John Lynch, who received a charter to found the city in 1786. Given the tenor of the times, Lynch may or may not have been a hateful racist or even a slave holder. But that’s irrelevant. His name alone is liable to remind people, especially people of color, of the practice of lynching.

But a river runs through it — the James River. Hence, I suggest Lynchburg be renamed New Jamestown.

Closer to home, the current DEX directory reveals that at least 11 people and one business bear the name Lynch here in Kitsap County. I recommend they change their names lest they find themselves accused of a “micro-aggression” — academe’s current term of art for expressing attitudes or invoking associations deemed to be offensive or politically incorrect.

As if by uncanny foresight, the bard of my generation, Bob Dylan, put it best: “Look out, kid./It’s something you did./ God knows when,/but you’re doing it again!”

And no one’s safe. The liberal ideologues on campus today feel entitled to judge the quick and the dead.

At Princeton, in mid-November, students occupied the president’s office demanding that the university rename the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The school was named after Wilson because of his leadership in founding the League of Nations after World War I. The problem, however, is that Wilson was not so progressive on the racial front.

While he campaigned on a promise of fair treatment of blacks, once elected, he segregated the federal government. Only after being promised that the university would consider renaming the Woodrow Wilson School would the students leave the president’s office.

As of this writing, Princeton’s trustees have not reached a decision. The issue, of course, is whether Wilson’s progressive accomplishments outweigh his regressive position on race. In all fairness, Wilson may have been a visionary about international affairs, but he was not able to convince his own country to join the ineffectual and shortlived League of Nations. Hence, I’ll punt on this one.

A more problematic figure is Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a slaveholder who not only bought and sold slaves but also fathered a child with one. Because of that, students at William and Mary, Jefferson’s alma mater, have begun posting disparaging notes on his statue there, and students at the University of Missouri are circulating a petition demanding the removal of his statue from their campus.

Historians have given Jefferson mixed reviews on the issue of slavery. His economic security depended on the institution. But, later in life, he did support a gradual end to slavery, believing that African-Americans were inferior in intelligence and that a sudden emancipation would be a disaster for both races. To fall back on modern psychobabble, he seems to have been deeply conf licted about slavery throughout his life.

But Jefferson was also the author of our Declaration of Independence, and without his moral courage on that front, American independence may have had to wait a century or so. Still, his detractors tend to compare him to Washington, who in his will freed his slaves. The debate centers on which man more accurately reflected the attitude of his day regarding slavery.

That debate, however, is moot.

As the late professor and cultural critic Edward Said reminded us, no one completely transcends the cultural and social constructions of his or her time. We’re all shaped by the manners and mores of the times in which we live, and it is inherently unfair for future generations to summarily dismiss all our accomplishments because some of our practices or attitudes may fall outside of their enlightened standards.

In the end, we’re all subject to the balance scale of history, and to my mind, Jefferson’s positive accomplishments outweigh his commitment to slavery. And I suspect that he, and not Washington, reflected the conventional wisdom toward emancipation in his day.

Ed Palm of Silverdale is a Marine Corps veteran and former dean at Olympic College. Contact him at efpalm@ centurylink. net.

My Column for December 27, 2015

Demagogues doubling down

With the end of the year fast approaching, I'm devoting this week's column to tying up loose ends and clarifying where I stand on some of the issues swirling around us.

"Reason not the need!" Shakespeare's King Lear thunders when his two oldest daughters question the need for a retired king to retain a hundred knights and squires.

This is essentially the National Rifle Association's response whenever anyone questions the average citizen's need for a military-style assault rifle. The NRA seems to consider the Second Amendment to guarantee an absolute right to own any type of gun. That being the case, why not a howitzer for every home?

I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole here, of course, to drive home the essential irony of the run on gun sales following the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The most popular gun, according to national news reports, has proved to be theAR-15, essentially a civilian version of the military's M16 assault rifle. These buyers are seeking solace in firepower and losing sight of common sense. An AR-15, as with most rifles, does not lend itself to concealed carry. If you subscribe to the view that an armed citizenry is the best proof against a mass shooting, buy a handgun, not a rifle.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. would certainly agree. Regular readers of this column may recall that I devoted my column of April 21, 2013, to Falwell's initial call to arms ("Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition"). Liberty is a private Christian university, and Falwell had just announced a new policy allowing students, faculty, and staff to carry guns on campus. He bragged that this policy would make Liberty safer than Virginia Tech and other campuses that had suffered mass shootings.

According to recent Inside Higher Ed reports, Falwell has doubled down on the policy. Liberty requires all students to attend weekly convocations, and at the Dec. 4 convocation, Falwell acknowledged that he had a gun in his "back pocket" and encouraged all the students to get their concealed carry permits. If more citizens were armed, he added, we could "end those Muslims" before they could kill anyone. "Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here," Falwell said
Way to go, Falwell! Throw down a gauntlet and offer up your university as a test case and a target. That would be my concern were I the parent of a Liberty University student. As I've written before, guns in the hands of trained, seasoned professionals are indeed likely to make us safer. But encouraging young college students — many of whom are feeling overwhelmed with academic and personal pressures — to carry guns is likely to backfire (pardon the pun) on Liberty University.

Questioned later, Falwell denied that he meant to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists who need to be killed. But the seed was planted, and I suspect it will find fertile ground among Liberty's fundamentalist Christian students. Many probably believe we're heading toward a Christian/Muslim Armageddon. And that view seems to have been reinforced by a Liberty professor who, in defending Falwell, reminded students that Christ is not only the "Prince of Peace," but also the "Lion of Judah."
Falwell, I suspect, would find an ally in demagoguery in our leading Republican contender, Donald Trump. Both are exploiting popular fears and prejudices.

On the other hand, the problem with Obama is that he can't seem to allay our fears or counter our prejudices. His recent address to the nation impressed me as just more of the same.

Rhetorically, for instance, I find Obama's linguistic caution to be unnecessary and counterproductive. The phrase "radical Islam" doesn't imply that all Muslims are radical, nor does it disparage Islam in general. Obama's refusal to use the term merely invites criticism and would never change the minds of those who, like Trump, would like to register and discriminate against all Muslims.

Militarily, the linchpin of Obama's strategy remains building a coalition of regional forces. What if that never comes to pass? I wish he had given us some indication of progress on that front. We're only now stepping up our adviser and special-operations-forces commitment to make that happen.
Hence, I stand by my previous position: America has to take the lead in this fight, even if it means committing ground troops.

Two of my critics have called me an alarmist and charged me with echoing the discredited hawkish argument over Vietnam — e.g., that we have to fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here. But it's a false analogy. The NVA and VC had no intention of following us back home. They just wanted us gone. Not so with ISIS. Is there really any doubt that they aspire to attack us here?

Ed Palm is a community columnist for the Kitsap Sun. He is a Marine Corps veteran and former dean at Olympic College. He lives in Silverdale. Contact him at efpalm@centurylink.net.