Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wisdom and Justice

Mr. Smith will be returning to Layton High as its principal. I cannot provide any details, but am so glad to be able to share this great good news with all who read here.

I want to begin by saying that my gratitude for and confidence in Mr. Smith know no bounds.

Some years ago I directed the play A Few Good Men at Layton High. It is a story about Justice and Right and the Marine Corp. At one point in the dialoged, two attorneys argue over their support of Marines accused of crimes. One asks, “Why do you love them so much?” To which the other attorney replies, “Because they stand on a wall, and they say no one is going to hurt you tonight.”

I am just a school teacher. I stand in ah of the responsibilities of Administrators. I have always accepted that they should be paid more money than I; they truly earn the money. Many times as I passed through the office on some petty errand, I would see Mr. Smith facing the withering abuse spewed by an angry parent or the bitter disrespect of a spoiled child. (sometimes because of my mistakes) It was ironic indeed, to see the very people who Mr. Smith strives to help, abusing and threatening him. I would pick up my papers and go back to my class room to spend the day doing what I love. For twenty five years, I knew Mr. Smith had my back; Mr. Smith was on the wall for me.

As I have reviewed the information available to me on this situation I have been filled with compassion for Dr. Bowles. I am forced to consider the enormous challenges, the dangers, and the pitfalls he must face. I am most grateful for his courage and ability, his willingness to deal with difficult problems. I can state unequivocally, that Dr. Bowles is deserving of the greatest loyalty and support. He is a wise and man, and a great leader.

Enough people have been hurt. Now is the time to find a way to heal. The goal is still the same; the teaching of students. I am a class room teacher, Mr. Smith and Dr. Bowles are teachers too, in their words and deeds, and by making it possible for me and many other teachers to teach.

To some extent, we must concern ourselves with the opinions of men, but we must not let the opinions of others be the determining factor for our actions. We cannot let those who seek to do so hurt the district, or school, or our students; they cannot hurt us. We must be practical, knowing that, on the level of the ideal, we have already won the argument.

Monday, December 28, 2009

In Need of Support

Last night I had a chance to speak with a representative of the DEA. During the conversation this representative said that he had been told by those in the district office that “They had not received a single letter of support for Mr. Smith from the faculty at Layton High.” From this, they (the district administration) construed that they would have no challenge in reassigning Mr. Smith. I was thunderstruck.

As explanation, but as no excuse, I offer the fact that the faculty at Layton High did not know Mr. Smith needed letters of support. We were told that the “leave of absence” was a routine district procedure related to a routine audit, and that Mr. Smith would be back by Christmas. All of us know that Mr. Smith is, to quote Board President Marian Storey from the Standard Examiner Article of last week, “an honest and decent man.” We also know more, we know he is a great man, the best of bosses, and the best of principals.

I know that 45 teachers signed a petition in support of Mr. Smith that was put together by Ms. Becky Erickson, a teacher at Layton High. This is a large majority of the faculty at Layton. This group signed in spite of the fact that knowledge of the petitions existence was passed strictly word-of-mouth through the school on the Friday morning it was presented to the superintendent. I am so grateful to Ms. Erickson for giving us this opportunity to express our support. I believe more would have signed had they known they could.

I am also aware that another petition, not supportive of Mr. Smith, was sent to the district office. I cannot imagine any of my colleagues who would sign such a thing. However some did. This presents a challenge. In this “post-modern” world, where Political Correctness demands that all things be treated as equal, and in the face of an often amoral attitude by those in power, opinion can be held, by some, as valid as fact. This is a culture in which the grumblings of malcontents can be given the same weight as the word of the finest teachers and the demonstrable and quantitative evidence of Mr. Smith excellence of performance.

We must remedy this.

All who value justice, which I have always defined as decision based on truth, must now write “in support of Mr. Smith.” By Monday the 4th of January, the P. O. Box at the district office must be overflowing with letters of support.

The address is:

Dr. W. Bryan Bowles, Superintendent
Davis County School District
P. O. Box 588
Farmington, UT 84025-0588

Below, I am posting my letter to “the district.” It is an adaptation of a letter I sent to Mr. Smith on October 13th. I felt he needed my support. It had never occurred to me that I would have to prove that support to the district, until now.

Dear Dr. Bowles,

When I first heard that Mr. Smith had been placed on administrative leave I was very concerned, but assurances from the administration that the practice of audit and leave were routine restored my hope and my spirits. I could only imagine the difficulty Mr. Smith had to face, but I drew strength from his example of courage and the quality of his character.

Dr. Bowles, I offer my support for Mr. Smith’s return as principal to Layton High. I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for my family, my friends, my community, and for me. For twenty-five years I have enjoyed a life he made possible. I have always felt safe and supported in all my efforts, inspired to do my best by the faith he has put in me, and by the sure knowledge that he always “had my back.”

The night I heard of Mr. Smith’s administrative leave I was feeling very downcast, I went over to the Wal-Mart. I was stopped by a parent, who proceeded to tell me how I had influenced the lives of her four children. One has become a history teacher because of me. She told me, her whole family has been made better by my efforts. At the pharmacy desk, a former student smiled and waved as he answered my wife’s questions, and minutes later the young man at the self-check-out machine told me I had been his favorite teacher back in high school. This was one hour of one day of twenty five years of days in the life Mr. Smith has given me.

Day by day, my family’s dreams come true: my eldest son is a rocket scientist, my second a PhD candidate at BYU, my eldest daughter is the Associate Director of Special Collections at the University of Utah Library. Their dreams made possible, made real, by the opportunities Mr. Smith gave me.

That Sunday night, I spoke with a former student on the phone from his new $450,000 home near Washington D.C. That week he attended a prestigious awards ceremony in New York City, representing the Coast Guard and the State Department, where he serves as an officer and a lawyer. He thanked me for setting his feet on the path to such opportunity and adventure. He is only one of many wonderful people I would never have known but for Mr. Smith’s faith in me, and the support he has given me. I thank him for the gifts of gratitude I receive from my students every day.

When I contemplate the thousands of similar opportunities Mr. Smith has given to thousands of others, who, like me, have been blessed by his service and leadership, I am overwhelmed. He is the archetype of a great man. He is my hero.

When I was a young teacher, it hurt me that all my students did not like me. However, I came to consider those who did, and decided that what mattered most were those who did like me. As long as those whose opinions I valued, valued me, the scorn of all others was of only passing interest and no lasting impact. No matter who may challenge Mr. Smith, please know that I will always respect, admire, and appreciate him. I assure you, Dr. Bowles, that there is a LEGION of those who know the undeniable truth of Mr. Smith’s goodness.

With respect,

Delose Conner,
Teacher at Layton High

Address for L. Burk Larsen

Here is the correct address for our new board member, L. Burk Larsen.

L. Burk Larsen
1776 West 2475 North
Syracuse, UT 84075

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Peaceably to Assemble

Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (The 1st Amendment to the U. S. Constitution)

On the Davis School District's own Web Page, under the heading “General Duties of the Board of Education”, it states: “The Board has complete and final control over local school matters within the framework set by Utah State Legislature and Utah State Board of Education. The Board acts as a legislative body, determining general policies for programs, care, management, and finance of the district’s public schools.”

In short, in relationship to Layton High – they are our government and we have the right to PEACEABLY assemble to petition them.

Because of the wonderful support of those who have written and petitioned for help, the school board has agreed to consider Mr. Smith’s situation. This discussion will not be at the January 5th board meeting, but because of the efforts of so many, they will take action. There is no guarantee of a positive outcome, but we can have high hopes.

Therefore, this is a continuing call for everyone to continue to speak out and write letters encouraging the school board to act for justice. Let me stress that all of my contacts with members of the school board have been very positive. These people are not our “enemies”, they are our representatives and are willing to redress any just grievances.

I have been made aware of a group organizing to attend the next board meeting. All of us can peacefully and respectfully attend the board meeting on the 5th of January at the District Office Building, 45 E. State Street, in Farmington. Sometimes, silence can “speak” very powerfully. I suggest that all wear a blue lapel ribbon to show support and solidarity. If we can attend, show respect, and demonstrate our resolve to do things right, we will strengthen the board’s resolve to do the same.

A suggestion:

I have had great respect and confidence in the district and superintendent. I am hopeful that the superintendent is wise enough to see there is a way out of this difficulty.

At the Friday meeting the assistant superintendent told the faculty that he could have sent us an e-mail. I hope someone will suggest to the superintendent that he can send an e-mail to the Layton faculty on Monday the 4th of January. He can explain that upon reconsideration, it has been decided to allow Mr. Smith to remain the principal of Layton High until the end of this school year. The district will move forward with selecting his replacement and Mr. Smith will be on hand to facilitate the transition.

I wish someone could explain to the superintendent that such courageous and relatively simple action would increase the esteem in which he is held in the district and the Layton High community. Such wisdom would preempt the difficult and divisive course on which so many are now set and it would facilitate the teaching of students; the purpose for which school districts with their boards and superintendents, teachers, and principals exist.

An Update: There have been over 400 visits to the Agora this week, the two face book support groups I know of now boast over 200 members, and a call this morning to a friend on the school board assured me that they have received many letters. I have spoken with several supporters today, who were preparing to mail their letters today, and have met with people out in the community who are joining the effort. Our snowball needs to continue to roll. We all need to keep pushing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Progress Report

I have had contact with the Davis County School Board. They have been extremely respectful and demonstrated great concern for Mr. Smith and his cause.

I congratulate all of you who have acted with decision and courtesy to move Mr. Smith’s case forward in a positive way. I am absolutely confident we have been heard, and will receive a chance to present our arguments to those who can do something about them.

I am reminded of a line from the Declaration of Independence: “In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms.” At this stage of our efforts I am 100% certain that HUMBLE PETITION is our best course. The Board is on the side of right, and Justice will prevail. It will be easier to advance Mr. Smith’s return with their support.

Some statistics might be heartening. I have received close to 300 visits to the Agora over the last three days. If a good percentage of these visits have resulted in letters to our School Board, we are surely making an impact. I am aware of two “face book” groups that have also taken up our crusade, and they are growing by the day.

I have communicated with the Smiths. They are heartened and grateful for all of your efforts in their behalf. Mrs. Sandra Smith spoke to all when she wrote, “No matter what happens to us now we will never forget what you have done and these incredible letters that are showing up.”

Some reflections:

In any “fight” there will be opposition. I have discussed before the pernicious rumors and the angry claims made by some against Mr. Smith. This is to be expected. I am aware that there have even been petitions circulated against him. This is to be accepted as part of any disagreement. Four thoughts come to my mind.

First – one cannot act decisively in leadership without offending some. Even as a teacher, as many will attest, I have angered some students. I determined long ago that one cannot base their actions on the whim of the mob or any attempt to gain favor. As a young teacher I wanted all my students to like me best, I soon found that my efforts in their service would anger many and stirred real enmity in some. I realized that I did not have to have the approval of all; I needed only to worry about the attitudes of those whose opinions mattered to me. If the people I respected, respected me, if the people I served were improved by my service, then I was doing what is right. What parent, struggling to do what is best for a beloved child, has not heard, “I hate you!” from the child they love and sacrificed for. A good parent goes on to do what is best for the child. I choose to be judged by the good I did for my students. I would rather be “hated” at the moments I forced them to work and appreciated by them years later when they understand the benefit of what I had forced them to do, than to be their buddy in the classroom, and despised in years to come, when they realized that I taught them nothing. It is the same with all good teachers, the same with a great principal.

Second – we are not involved in building some kind of majority vote, we are not campaigning to sway as many supporters as we can to force by quantity or volume any course of action. We are fighting for what is right and just. This is not a popularity contest, it is an appeal to reason, in the end it must come down to those who have right, reason, and justice on their side.

Third - we may have to deal with many rules and policies along the way to justice, but in the end the right must prevail. Cicero speaks of small “l” law and big “L” Law; laws that are simply the statutes of men as opposed to the Laws of nature and of God. In the end it cannot be emotion, anger, or passion, that determines justice, it must be the truth. The wrong shall fail the right prevail.

Last – In the claims and recriminations that result in this debate, one must step back and place on the scales of justice all the actions of Mr. Smith’s service. Please picture with me Athena’s scales held high above her blindfolded face. Pile with me on the one pan any mistakes Mr. Smith may have made, on the other, place the great deeds of goodness that are the result of his 40 years of service to the teaching of students. This examination of facts is also a function of Justice. If we do this, there will be no question of the rectitude of our position.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We Have Not Yet Begun to Fight

This evening, December 21st 2009, I contacted Mr. Smith. My concern was that I might be doing something which would bring him difficulty. I found that he is grateful for our efforts on his behalf, and he has kindly provided exculpatory information, some of which I will pass on at this time.

It is extremely painful to me that a man I respect so highly, whose leadership and character are above reproach, should have to answer slurs and rumors, but he does.

These ridiculous accusations include such preposterous claims as an affair with his secretary, stealing building materials, and taking school money for his own use. I am ashamed to repeat these lies, even in order to refute them. No one who knows Mr. Smith can have anything but scorn for such spurious claims. The first two lies are beneath contempt or comment, but to those who are ignorant of the truth Mr. Smith replies, “I have not taken any money from Layton High School, nor does this audit show that I have done so.”

It has also been alleged that Mr. Smith protected a teacher who was accused of improper teacher/student behavior. Mr. Smith replies that if there was such a relationship it would be a very serious charge and he would have dealt with it. Mr. Smith affirms that, “I have never knowingly nor would never shield a teacher who is or was wrong. To the best of my knowledge, without being able to check my files, I cannot recall any written complaints against [this teacher].”

This is the sum of the attack against Mr. Smith: innuendo, rumor, and lies. Even as there have been no charges brought against him, so there has been no reason given for removing Mr. Smith as the Principal of Layton High. In fact he has been offered the job of Vice Principal at Bountiful Jr. High. Is the district administration implying they are willing to employ reprobates at “that level”?

An audit was conducted. At the beginning of the audit, the teachers, students, and community were told that it was a routine procedure, and once it was completed Mr. Smith would return. The audit is complete and there have been no charges of wrong doing.

After months of digging, nothing which rises to anything more than misunderstandings.

My review of this information has been painful, but it has increased my resolve to bring our distress before the School Board. Over the past months the extent of financial wrong doing within the Davis School District has become painfully known to all. But there is something far more valuable than money at stake in the challenge Mr. Smith must face. His reputation has been damaged, not to those who know him, but to those who should know better. More importantly, the great fortune which, for decades, has been provided to the students of Layton High has been stolen. The teaching of students has been Mr. Smith’s greatest gift to our community. This treasure is threatened by this travesty. I continue to call upon all who can to implore the Davis County School Board to intervene. They are the only hope Justice has. Authority to administer personnel can be delegated to any hireling they choose, but the responsibility to protect the right, and to defend the teaching of students rests on the School Board and those who elected them.

What Mr. Smith wants, what Mr. Smith deserves, what the students and faculty at Layton High need, is for Mr. Smith to be given back to us for the remainder of this school year. Mr. Smith has already stated his intention to retire after this year. His return would allow calm and order to come back to Layton High. It would teach our students that right and justice are still respected, and that a School Board, elected by the community, can fulfill its responsibilities to represent their interests despite the difficulties of so doing.

Please find links below to letters of support for Mr. Smith.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Emergency Alert

Emergency Alert:

Cheryl Werven has been replaced on the board by L. Burk Larsen. The address for Mr. Larsen is 1776 W. 2475 S. Syracuse, UT. 84075. Please send copies of your letters to him at that address.

The next school board meeting is on January 5th at 5:30 PM at the District Office in Farmington. I hope to be there and will try to apprise everyone of plans for that night.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Open Letter to the Davis County School Board and More

To Davis Board of Education

December 20, 2009
Dear Board Member:

I am writing you concerning Paul Smith, principal of Layton High. Friday, after school, representatives of the Davis School District office called the teachers of Layton High together and told them that our great principal, Paul Smith, would not be returning to our school. I felt absolutely helpless.

In the painful hours and days since, I have come to realize that I am not helpless, as a teacher in the Davis School District and a citizen of Davis County, I have you to represent and defend me.
I am asking you to please consider the following points: 1) We were told that we could not be told why Mr. Smith was being removed. 2) We were led to believe that he had been offered another administrative position in the district. 3) It was insinuated that he was not competent to run Layton High.

On the first point: That this ultimatum was delivered without justification or discussion at the last hour (actually after the last hour) of the last day of the year was deeply troubling. The people who know Mr. Smith and Layton High best were cut off from any involvement in or understanding of this decision. It was an attempt to render us powerless and force our acceptance of this injustice.

On the second point, if Mr. Smith is “worthy” to be an administrator on the Davis School District, he is worthy to be the Principal at Layton High. This “demotion” was recognized at once as a ploy to force his retirement and usurp the leadership of the high school.
On the third point: The district spokesman truly sounded foolish as he tried to imply that Mr. Smith, who has been Utah State Principal of the Year, a leader of the Utah State Activities Association, and the guiding force of Layton High for over thirty years is only qualified to be a Vice Principal at a Jr. High. Everyone in the room knew that there is not a better principal anywhere than Mr. Smith. That such innuendo could be mouthed by administrators, who have kept their jobs while millions of dollars have been stolen from under their noses over the past decades, was laughable.

We were given no other information. It was troubling that the Superintendent did not find time to meet with the teachers at Layton High; the people who have worked and benefited from Mr. Smith’s leadership and excellence for decades. It is distressing that the lives which have been blessed by his leadership, disrupted by his absence, and that will be greatly altered by his removal were neither consulted nor given the respect of an explanation.

At Layton High, the students are the great treasure we serve, but our job is to teach. Teaching is the purpose of the school and the district. Teaching is done by teachers, and the support of teachers must be the first job of a principal and a district. I am in my twenty-fifth year as a teacher at Layton High. Mr. Smith never forgot that my success was the best way to serve the students. I fear the district administration has forgotten this. I cannot fathom what would drive them to this irrational decision, and beg you, as the one who has the power to help me, to intervene and prevent this terrible injustice and grave mistake. Please either provide reasonable explanations for Mr. Smith’s removal or restore him to his position as our principal. I would be honored to speak at greater length if you need information. Please feel free to call me.

Teacher - Layton High

To the Agora:

The meeting with the assistant superintendent, mentioned in the letter above, left me angry and frustrated. Indeed I felt helpless. Saturday morning I visited with one of the members of the Davis County School Board. She told me she knew little about Mr. Smith’s situation. She indicated that the School Board didn’t have much involvement in personnel decisions. Surely, our elected school board is in charge of these decisions. If they delegate them to the superintendent and his assistants, the final responsibility, and ultimately the authority, still rests with the elected board members. I asked if I could be put on the agenda at the next board meeting. She said that the agenda was drawn up by the superintendent of the district and the president and vice president of the school board. I asked her if she would request that I be placed on the agenda. She said she would, however she did not seem very confident that it would happen. I asked if she could bring up items for discussion during board meeting, if so I would like to explain my feelings to her so she could share them with the board. She said she was only allowed to speak about things that were on the agenda.

I was very frustrated. I explained that I knew that Mr. Smith was a great principal, and it is obvious that those who were pushing him out have some agenda. How could they know so little about our school, and yet make such overpowering decisions regarding it? I reminded her of the many wonderful things Mr. Smith has done in the past, of the success he has led our school to. I told her how wonderful his support has been for my students and for myself over the many years I have worked for him. There were a thousand proofs of Mr. Smith’s quality I could have offered. I left feeling she would do her best to help me, but not confident that it would be enough.

Now I am calling on all who want to see justice done, and Mr. Smith returned to his position, to write directly to the Davis County School Board members. My letters are already in the mail. Below I provide the addresses of all members of the school board. Please give any arguments or testimonies in Mr. Smith support which you can think of.

Here are some thoughts you may consider:

1. The safety in which all Layton students study and grow, a gift of his wisdom and courageous involvement in the life of our school community.

2. The excellence of many programs offered at Layton High, a school with a broad mix of socio-economic patrons who all find opportunity and support. There is no racial tension, no class conflict, all student feel welcomed and supported because of Mr. Smith’s example and leadership.

3. The dedicated and hard working facility which he has selected, trained, and supported.

4. The “learning-first” attitude of Layton High.

5. The vast number of programs available: clubs, A.P. classes, athletic programs, the drama program, debate, music, the shops and science programs, the computer labs. The new library – on and on and on.

6. What ever problems the district can point to - these cannot outweigh the good that Mr. Smith has done.

7. As a teacher at Layton High I know of the unwavering support I have experienced from Mr. Smith. I know he has also supported the needs of students, parents, and the community.

8. There was never a task too difficult for Mr. Smith. He did not regard any program as trivial, but gave as enthusiastic and sincere support to the Anime club as he did to the football team or the school musical.

9. Most importantly Mr. Smith demanded the best from teachers in the service of students. He inspired by example, and demanded by his presence the best of all who work for him. Consider the vice principles who he has trained, at least two of whom are now principals themselves, Clive Dibble, and Dee Burton - now principal of Davis High.

10. It is unconscionable for a district administration, which for years failed to detect or prevent the recent textbook-purchasing scandal without resigning in disgrace, to attack the integrity of the district’s finest principal on any grounds.

We must act within the next week. The next Board Meeting will be the first week of January. Only by acting in this Christmas week can we have a substantial impact.

I am just a teacher, many who may read this have far greater accomplishments to there credit. Please understand that any service you may have received from my efforts were made possible by Mr. Smith’s leadership and support. Please send a letter of support for Mr. Smith to all of the Board members below. Please include your titles and credentials in the letters on the letterheads you send. If every one of the board members were to receive a flood of letters this week, surely it would embolden them to act. Otherwise they may remain in ignorance until it is too late.

When the assistant superintendent announced that Mr. Smith would not be returning to Layton High, he reminded me of the British Captain demanding that John Paul Jones surrender. As a History teacher, I was inspired to answer, “I have not yet begun to fight.” Please join me in this fight.

Mrs. Marian Storey

1370 N Hwy 89

Kaysville, Utah 84037

Mrs. Tamara Lowe

2466 W 650 N

West Point, Utah 84015

Ms. Barbara Smith

965 S 350 W

Bountiful, Utah 84010

Mr. James Clark

318 S 750 E

Bountiful, Utah 84010

Mr. Walt Bain

536 Woodland Dr

Farmington, Utah 84025

Mrs. Kathie Dalton

272 W Golden Ave

Layton, Utah 84041

L. Burk Larsen

1776 West 2475 South

Syracuse, UT 84075

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech – A Debate?

I found myself intrigued by Obama’s speech at the Nobel Awards. At first I didn’t know exactly why, and then it hit me. I was listening to a debate between President Bush and Jimmy Carter. It was Obama's mouth, but I heard two voices.

(Obama as President Bush) began by asserting that just war is the price of peace.

(Obama as Carter) countered by reading from his precut card by Hobbs – claiming a “dawn of history” when war was a disease or natural disaster, some kind of pre-moral phenomena.

Carter then makes a definitional argument; attempting to cast just war as: 1) a last resort, 2) in self-defense, and 3) required proportionality, insisting American troops in Afghanistan must have their hands tied like the hands of our troops in Vietnam. After all we must make “it” a fair fight for the Taliban.

President Bush counters by going directly to the cause of the wars in which America is justly involved; equating, Islamic extremism to Nazis aggression, and repudiates pacifism by reminding the world that, “A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.” Thus, he recognizes the truth found in history and pays, albeit silent, tribute to the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan. He then goes on to extol the virtues of American military strength and action throughout the past century. He notes the peace and prosperity victorious American armies brought to Germany, Korea, and the Balkans. He does not mention Japan or Iraq, nor does he point out that it was American military might that liberated Norway from Hitler and Quisling. It is the Bush Doctrine of creating peace and prosperity by the spread of freedom.

Then Carter is back. He invokes President Kennedy as the justification for an unusual and painfully relativist view of peace. According to Obama’s Carter voice, Kennedy says, “Let us focus on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.” In what must be a negative counter plan, Obama’s Carter voice calls for a reinterpretation of the laws of nations and war. Wars justified, not by universal truths, not by the Natural Laws that have always determined right and wrong, but based on the opinions of men and states; by something called evolved human institutions. He is willing to bind America, not to natural laws, but to rules of conduct crafted by the likes of NATO and the UN.

Carter then retreats to the political talking point that got so much mileage in the Obama campaign, half truths and manipulation. There is the claim to have prohibited torture, closed Guantanamo, and brought America into compliance with the Geneva Convention.

He then fills the air with more hollow plans and promises. A litany of should-do’s albeit without a single how to: ending nuclear weapons, imposing respect for international law on the two remaining members of the Axis of Evil, and the end of genocide in Darfur, the Congo, and Burma.

Then President George Bush takes the podium. “In some countries failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development. . . Peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear.” He piles up the evidence:

1. “Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace.”

2. “America has never fought a war against a democracy.”

3. “Our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens.”

4. “Neither America’s interests – nor the world’s – are served by the denial of human aspirations.”

Carter comes back: He couples exhortation with painstaking diplomacy, hoping for open doors that will somehow lure repressive regimes down “new paths”.

Then it’s President Bush again; reminding us of real success in diplomacy: He credits President Nixon for lifting the Chinese from poverty and Ronald Regan’s efforts on arms control, (the Star Wars initiative) as empowering dissidents throughout Eastern Europe.

Carter then argues that the solution is access to food, clean water, and medicine which will somehow magically appear if we accept the Global Warming agenda. In order to condemn globalization he seems to lament the loss of racial purity, tribalism, and religious bigotry.

President Bush points out that it is false religion that is used to justify the murder of innocents.

Carter rebuts in to claim that Crusaders did the same.

Bush explains that at the heart of every major religion is the Golden Rule and closes with an appeal to “that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.”

My Ballot:

I give the round to Obama as President Bush:

1. Just War – President Bush wins with Universal Truth and reason that have always enabled men to tell the difference between just and unjust war, and just war is always justified. President Bush proves that America might has always championed the good. Carter loses both by his retreat to the “evil natural man” position and by claiming that some sort of manmade construct can define right and wrong. This is Marx, Mao, and Hitler talking.

2. U. S. Power v International action - President Bush wins by presenting real examples of American success while Carter’s reliance on international organizations has no support in history or logic.

3. On the Democrat Party talking points – President Bush wins on facts vs sophistry.

a) On the claim that Obama prohibits torture – so did President Bush.

b) On the claim that Obama closes Guantanamo Bay - pure sophistry, moving Guantanamo to Illinois does not close the prison. Moving and changing the name will make no difference to the Haters.

c) On the kowtow to the Geneva Convention. America has never violated the Geneva Convention!

4. Carter’s promises are not substantiated. They are wasted rhetoric, he provides no evidence of any doors to open or any way his dreams will do so even if there were.

5. President Bush’s evidence of the positive effects of America’s just wars are historically supported and irrefutable.

6. Carter retreats into the Global Warming farce but provides no support of climate change or any reasonable connection to it and peace. If there is no climate disaster, there is no value in pretending there is one.

7. President Bush’s condemnation of fanatical religion is based on fact.

8. Carter’s “the Crusaders did it too” is neither true nor relevant. The claims against the Crusaders, now popular in some circles, condemn the Taliban “Holy” Warriors, not the American Heroes who fight for justice.

9. President Bush wins with the Golden Rule – universally applicable, divinely reasonable, and factual.

Déjà vu for me: in the end the whole speech was high school forensics.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Figure Art from 2002

2000 found me looking for things to draw, for inspirations, for Masters to copy. I knew that copying the “Masters” has long been a method of art study, so I toured the Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. I tired a sketch or two from some Greek fragments. Perhaps because they were my first, they didn’t please me. I could have been that being just pieces of people they didn’t click with me. I was excited about a small border detail on a painting by no less a master than Poussin. It was a comic head of Socrates. Here are a pair of sketches of it.
The world was still terrorized by 9/11 when I went to the LDS Conference Center to sketch from the Moroni Young's bronzes. They were willing to let me but assigned an elderly volunteer to sit with me. I did my best, althought I felt I was imposing on him. I took his name, and sent a copy of my sketch.
That winter I took a class in Figure Painting in Watercolor. I drove to an gallery and studio down South State in Salt Lake. Those were long, cold, and dark journeys, but I had a skilled teacher and made some progress. Thus began a long string of watercolors from models. I have a great stack of them made over the subsequent years. As I was mainly learning technique I didn’t mind that progress wasn’t overwhelming.

This is an effort from a photo. One does not always have a model, but I have plenty of photo albums.

In the fall of 2002, Kamille Cory opened her studio on 4th South, down town Salt Lake. She started holding figure drawing sessions once a week. I would attend them for several years. Here are some sketches from that first season.

There was a girl in the drawing sessions who was drawing a “comic” strip. She inspired me to try and develop a series of figures to tell stories with. It was my plan to create and master several figures. I copied Da Vichy’s man for a base line sketch, and worked on a head. The more I worked the more I realized I didn’t know enough about anatomy and drawing in general to pull off my dream. I do think the sketches show some promise.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Whole Book is on the Blog

Very Basic Art Lessons is now all posted at the Agora. Lesson 20 below is the final installment. To see the entire book, in order, go to the Index and scroll down to Very Basic Art Lessons and take the posts as presented. Good luck, and study hard.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Art Works from 2001

2001 found me doodling away in my WSU History Seminar. This little guy appeared on my paper. I polished him up a little and tried him in watercolor. Painting skin tone is always a challenge. I did get some help from Watercolor Magazine.

I called him Lysis

Using the relationship and measurement skeems I had studied, I tryed puting his face in profile.

Once more with a little polish.

That spring I read Robert Graves Greek Mythology, and The White Goddes. I did some water colors of Her and her several manifestations.

The king snake and the wheat represent the Sacred King.

The Mother - As a "Medusa" from Ancient Greece.
and one from Modern Huntsville.

In my Life Drawing work at the University of Utah I started working with Watercolor. At first I did only small sketches.

I drew my friend as Justice. After all Michelangelo did sculpt a friend as Victory. This was my statement for 9/11. There were so many things to think about.

Justice Also Has a Sword

We feed the birds all winter at our house. There are so many, and they are so eager; we call them The Pig Birds.

Some Thoughts on Global Warming Etc.

Being a relativist is a lot like being fat. It takes little effort; you just open your mouth and swallow whatever you want.

There are rules for controlling one’s weight and there are rules for avoiding flabbiness of mind and soul.

It must be hard to be a relativist and a scientist, but if you must, let me suggest:

1. Listen to everyone.

2. Examine all evidence.

3. Don’t pre-judge.

4. If the facts disagree with your hypothesis, accept the facts.

5. Argue:

a. Attack the position not the person.

b. State you beliefs firmly and listen to the response.

c. Argue the issue not the argument.

d. Don’t pull you punches and never run away.

We are always hungry or forever fat; we love the truth or are stuck with false opinion.