The Soulless Hearts

Our planet surges with soulless hearts whose pulse maintains the tick of life. In this life as a tick, the soulless heart feeds off of the blood of others ensuring its parasitic progression to the end.  No soul thrives in hematophagy because the soul represents the immortal essence of living things.
Soulless hearts have no shame nor remorse as they entangle those whose hands toil long hours into the depths of abject poverty, watching while their serfs build the products of the company. The corporate Acari pay deplorable wages to the masses whom they employ as they gush, overfull from the blood of their workers. As the plutocrats enrich themselves further, swimming in a cesspool of greed, the depression of the human lives from which they feed grows with each living breath.

Collectively, we are many; workers who can unite and march for our multiple causes. But we become entrapped in our daily living to serve others, to feed our families, to educate our children, to stand up to another rising sun and begin anew in a 7-day-work-week that has no end. As we watch the entitled break laws with no remorse while authorities ignore the violations, we sink deeper into the abyss of estrangement. This world, our precious world that we hold so dear, ripples from the incarnate evil of corporate malevolence.

How much longer will we allow ourselves to continue to suffer? How many more days, months, years, do we count (not) living as laborers, wage earners, proletarians?

{INSERT: slow-motion film edit of multiple images of the power of the worker as we rejoice in the music and lyrics to  “Our Day Will Come”.} click the link & listen.

If I only had time to create this video, but there is so much work to do…

Soulless  cdc_illustration_of_tick_removal  strength.1

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And this is how she arrived here…

It’s been weeks since my last post when I was lost among the vineyards of Manzano, Italy; enjoying the countryside, a dear friend and her wonderful family, and tasting the richness of what life can offer a squarely middle-class American who is enabled to take a trip once every 5 years or so; that is, to make an exploration that matters.

This blog post date reads  Aug. 12th, but it began then and finished today: August 28th.  Sometimes life just sits on your lap and obscures your view for a bit…

My trip to Iceland, Belgium, and Italy gave me a new perspective. I’ve been cooking so much more since returning home. The quotidian madness and din of unending work doesn’t stress me as it once did.  It’s all part of the daily chime of life and I’m much more accepting of it. I still make note of the crazy days, both behind and ahead, that I read in the Financial Times. (Side note: It is such a well-written paper. Not only do I learn about the world from the best in news journalism that arrives in my spaceship each day including the ever-amazing Life & Arts weekend edition, but I discover at least one new word for which I must lucubrate. The word “erudite” comes to mind as I pour over the pages. Oh, that I could write with such aplomb! Even the digital subscription is pricey, this much is true. But, what would you pay for not only the right news, correct news, impartial journalism, and TRUTH delivered to you daily? I have answered this for myself since I teach in the world of journalism. This is the cost of professional development.)

THAT was a SIDE NOTE, bien sûr!

Many things have struck my mind since my return.  Now that I’m fully charged (even with a little-over-a-month back to work full-time/full-on), I see and hear the world a bit differently.  I feel as though I watch American news through the lens of a person from afar. When one visits outside of America for more than two weeks, you begin to see and feel the wonders of the world that are distinctly not American.  And let me clarify:  I do not mean UN-American as some paranoid souls from the “right” might read that.  I mean, simply, not from the “over-processed, industrialized-everything, corporate mindset upon the populace” way of thinking. I mean from the every day living of a human soul on the planet without the trance-induced state that capitalism besets an economy and its fervid tribes who ascribe, imbibe, and abide to it.

I honestly feel like I’m more in a slow-motion vibration among a busy-bee world and that feels really good to me.  I play well in the busy-bee world because my work has brought me here time and again for 30+-years.  This is the nature of working in sound and events and creative endeavors with deadlines. As my dear friend has repeated to me recently to just remember Dory in “Finding Nemo” with her wonderful line: “…keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” (I LOVE that!)

My friend and recently-retired Department Chair gave me the perfect “shoo” advice that I needed to embark on this trip at just the right time. As the Spring semester ended and before summer fully infused here in the U.S., I should take flight.  So, I left for Iceland on May 27th and what happened even in the course of one day of my exit was astonishingly mind-opening and soul-engaging.  I had thought too much about when I should take the trip. She encouraged me to go early on into summer and right after finals week.  It was the best advice I have received in decades.

The writings of that trip are well-documented in my “Living Life One Sip At A Time” blog, so feel free to troll about through the archives. I stopped in my last post from Manzano, Italy causing confusion among friends whom I do not work with:  “Dana, did you come back?”  Ha!  Oh, if I had just said, “OK, life. Here I am. I’ll just stop now and start anew…”

For now, I’ll sit here this morning, sip my java before the start of another work day, and summon Dory:

Just-Keep-Swimming

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Knees, Stairs, Cobblestone, and Cafes

Ah, this is now officially day 14 in Belgium. Yesterday, I claimed a pause for the cause and remained en la casa Brussels for the entire day save for a lovely walk in a nearby park, aptly named “The Forest”.

Some reflection on travel: one must take heed before planning a long trip that includes walking over predominantly uneven hard surfaces. Get in shape BEFORE you arrive in old Europe. If you plan to tackle some historic city centers to view paintings, sculpture, masonry, architecture, old relics, new media, mixed media, and this and that along with the arts and crafts, then you will need at least two pairs of shoes with support and a good month of workouts before your arrival.

Stairs, stairs, everywhere stairs! 4 floors up is the usual walk up in any building here in the cities of Belgium and you won’t find too many elevators. This is not a place where you find many overweight people living here as you do in every American city. With all of the bike riding and stair climbing, there is no way for one to over do it, save for a small Homer Simpson belly from the Belgian beer and chocolate. So far, among a few purchased trinkets for friends, I have acquired a further extension of my belly despite the miles of walking and climbing. I am now a mix of the look of Friar Tuck with the muscled calves of an Olympic marathon runner. Oh, joy.  Oy, but the knees!  The knees!  My poor aching knees! I have daily pains either somewhere inside, to the side, or in the back.  ooof.  Yes, I’m stretching.

On why I came here: today, another day of rest and writing. Yesterday, I cooked a lunch of chicken and vegetables for the family since it is their larger meal of the day and I wanted to do something to help out since the elder Mom fell and broke her arm the other day while I was traipsing around Ghent and Bruges!  Pobrecita!  And poor Teresa, too, who is the most amazing host and now has so much more on her hands. So, I thought I’d help by cooking…Happy to report that it tasted great and everyone enjoyed it.  “Es una comida tipica en los Estados Unidos?” asked Lala, eating with her only available left hand which is not her go to.  Since it was a stir fry, I mentioned that it combines elements of Chinese cooking, but realized that, however I said it with my limited Spanish, it was misunderstood as being “Chinese food” and I had to correct.  “No se si tipica en el pais, pero en mi casa, si.” (I don’t know if it’s typical in the country, but in my house, yes.)

The little shop from which I was excited to buy the fresh chicken and vegetables was closed on Thursdays (?), so Hugh and I went into the Carrefour Supermarket to obtain what we needed to make lunch. What we didn’t realize was the way one must pre-weigh and place a price sticker on each vegetable and fruit before going through the checkout line.  Um, big ooops.  When the cashier got to the fruits and vegetables, she said something angrily pointing behind us.  I had no idea.  I asked her to repeat it slowly in French.  (Crap, I had never heard those verbs and nouns before.) We looked where she was pointing and wondered if there was a separate cashier one purchases the fruit and vegetables. “Should I pay for the rest of this now?” I inquired in some French perhaps mixed with Spanish. “No!” she said, still pointing. She sent us walking as we held up the line of Belgians.  We found a weighing machine with a touchscreen. Voila! The words “légumes”, (vegetables) and “fruit” (fruit) were easy enough, but once you pushed that, you had to find the EXACT name of each item to price it and that’s when we started taking longer to search through the names and pictures.  Damn, I knew peche is peach, but what the hell is a zucchini in French or Dutch?  How about a red bell pepper? Oy.  We were finally rescued by the exasperated cashier who didn’t speak English. (She was the first Belgian I have found who doesn’t speak English, btw. I guess they don’t think tourists will be shopping in the Carrefour.) She laid each piece in the basket separately and clicked on the fruit or vegetable and a little sticker popped out that she would press to the piece.  We had 8 different things, so it took a bit of time.  Then we had to make way back to the register after holding up the entire line all of this time, and it was 11:30a, close to lunch.  Ooops.

A few other interesting asides: in Ghent, we decided to take a cab to the AirBnB condo we rented for the night because it appeared we would have some expedition to embark upon around canals to get there and I wished to save my legs for visiting the historic city center. We told the cab driver our address and poof!  We were off in a flash and he drove QUITE quickly.  The hundreds of bicycles that we saw parked at the train station multiplied into hundreds more speeding on the motorways nearly as fast as the cars. Our driver deftly maneuvered around all of them and it was quite a surprise that everyone remained alive. He promptly dropped us off at 25 something street, took 10 Euros and sped off. I rang the buzzer.  Nothing.  I knew that Andreas was awaiting our arrival since he said that he had a short window after work and before a volleyball game he was playing (between 6 and 7:30).  We arrived at the safe time of 6:30.  More ringing.  Nada.  Hugh asked his last name as there were 3 buzzers with last names, but they were not numbered.  Well, I explained that AirBnB does not reveal last names for security purposes.  Harumph.  I tried another buzzer.  A man came down. No, Andreas here.  Uh-oh.  Well, it was the wrong street!  And when Hugh connected his map program he discovered that we were several streets over and across a canal!  AYiiii!  So, we dragged our luggage across several streets (which are marked oddly, btw) to where we needed to be.  Andreas was there awaiting us as planned.  Phew.  Great condo right on a canal, but our rooms were four full flights up and I was already tired before we commenced upon the actual walking tour of Ghent.

Cafes after cafes after brasserie after brasserie after restaurant and more cafes…I’m drinking a LOT of coffee as well.  One walks 500 yards, “Let’s have an espresso.” Another mile or two, “Let’s stop for a beer.” Another 100 castles, churches, rooftops, statues, and people, “More coffee…”

Sit back, drink some and watch it here.

 

 

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It’s Been A Long Time Gone

I’m hearing David Crosby crooning the lyrics in my head as I sit at my little desk here in Martin’s Brugge Hotel. I haven’t posted here (my more politically-minded rants and social commentary blog) for some time (May 15 was the last) because I’m not at all in that mindset at the moment. I’m traveling and taking the break I so need and haven’t made time for in the past five years. This feeling of freedom, doing what one wishes from day to day, walking miles through various cities and landscapes, and watching for one’s safety as bicycles careen around corners and through alleyways, along canals, and across streets.  My head is always looking up because beyond the amazing rooftops and spires which can keep me preoccupied for hours,  there are actual CLOUDS here that are filled with water ready to dump at any minute.  I forgot what that feels like since my drought-ridden home drops no rain. I no longer feel the need to rant (at least for 21 more days!) so this blog shall be temporarily hijacked into the further recesses of my brain processing places, memories, and subjecting my poor readers to invariants under the conjugation map on G.

The hemming and hawing of another has just hit my last nerve. This is one of the reasons why I originally planned to travel alone, but have added a companion for a time in the midst of travel in Belgium.  That addition now bears the weight of someone who “cannot connect to the mothership” and shows every sign through vacillating short breaths of indignation.  I, on the other hand, try my best to just move on when something doesn’t work here.  There is far too much to look at and do than make constant repairs to the small spaceship in my hand that refuses to connect to the world.  Be Here Now. I breathe in.  Be here now.  I breathe out.

Alas, there are some excellent things to see and do and I’m in the heart of the center of Brugge at the moment.  I keep hearing the glorious bells of the Belfort tower.  Time to go and collect them as I pack my handy Zoom H4N along with the small windscreen. Perhaps I will stop for an afternoon beer.  After all, it’s 4:05p!

Ghent lit up last night in charming Ghent  Ghent_Lights on Canal

Try UAudioU as well for more pleasures of my travel. If you seek more politics and social commentary, I’ll be back in July and just might lay one or two out here before then.  After all, Italy and Spain are “next stops”.

All photos c.2015 Hugh Lovell

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“Re Re RE: Kick ‘Em in the Other Knee”

Dear Diary,

I’m comin’ to you live (half-baked and barely) from the land of the diabolic cheer that begins with “Re”.  It’s about kicking a person when they are already down and it is exactly that I wish to impart to you this day to get it out of my system.

REformers wish to put all of us in the trenches of education into a “RE” pattern.  A RE-DO, if you will.  At my public college, we have been simultaneously experiencing three “RE”s all at once:

REstoration

REconsideration

REorganization

The first is a bogus plan schemed up by a scary group of college administrators (some who have been given a vote of “no confidence” at their colleges) who are now at the top of the accrediting game for 2-year colleges in California.  The ACCJC call this plan, “Restoration”, which implies that something was lost and needs to be restored.  Yes, they terminated the accreditation of one of the largest public colleges in the United States in 2013 though the college had been and continues to provide the highest quality of education in the state among the 112 California Community Colleges.  The current president (I can’t even capitalize the title anymore) of the ACCJC has had our college in a headlock, noose, and executioner’s blindfold for the past 3 years spinning us in circles for one last gasp of hard labor while  she happily tugs at the rope around our neck, threatening closure.  It’s a sick game. Yet still, 3 years into this, and even with the law on our side in another court-ordered process known as REconsideration, she laughs, dancing around the judge’s order to provide evidence as to why she refuted an entire Visiting Team report on the college in 2013 to make the decision to terminate. Her report to the college completely lacks evidence.  But she cares not, knowing full well that our college is stuck in a quagmire of top-tier administrators that have only been here a short while and continue to do anything she directs them to (so it appears in their decision-making).

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors have supported the faculty, students, and staff throughout this entire upheaval by demanding a return of our democratically-elected Board of Trustees as we have been under the rule of a single overlord known as a Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers for 2 years.  California state politicians (both Democrat and Republican) during an audit of the ACCJC found a haughty and dismissive president in their presence.  But still, she carries forward her torch to deny CCSF a true reconsideration.  We are expected to write yet another report (due June 27) to provide the commission a reason to reconsider their original decision to terminate.  It’s laughable.  As if.

Yet no one is laughing at our college as we just discovered that our administration decided to hold a “closed session” with our Board of Trustees (who are slowly, drip-by-drip returning to power) to discuss whether a letter should be written to the City Attorney’s Office to request that the Judge look at the document delivered by the ACCJC to City College of San Francisco on April 8th. It is a pretense to fulfill the requirement of the court order, but, instead, boldly refutes the will of the Judge.  They provide NO EVIDENCE and NO DATA to back up their decision to terminate, exactly what the judge ordered them to provide.  Though the faculty, students, and staff wish for the college to make a public statement about this in a letter to the City Attorney who filed a lawsuit in 2013 to save CCSF on behalf of the People of the State of California, the administration has delivered a message: “The Board has directed us to not write a letter, so we will continue forward with responding to the ACCJC’s reconsideration.” At the same time, we have another year of restoration as well.  This is a two-year, new plan the ACCJC schemed up just for CCSF to  force us into full compliance on the ACCJC’s newly written 2014 Accreditation Standards, something that everyone agrees is impossible.  100% compliance is unattainable for any entity whether it be a business, a public non-profit, a government, a club — when was the last time you found anything in 100% shape?  Think about it…

Reorganization?  You’ve all heard of that. It’s the new way in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  The recipe is to take something that works, though it may need a bit of sprucing up here and there with better funding and such, and decide from the top-down that the best way forward will be to just flip the entire organization over, slice-and-dice it, toss it all back into the pan, and stir it up to make some new meal out of it.  The more heat you put on it, the more you might control that microbial growth. Yes, that has been bandied about for the past  year as well in our college. You can imagine how exhausting it is to just wake up every day.

{Sports-announcer over the PA system} “The quarterback goes back for the throw!  The football flies through the air 35-yards down field!  In a fantastic jump catch between 3 defenders, the wide-receiver grabs the ball, lands and runs toward…Wait!  This is something we have never seen!  The goalpost!  The end zone!  It’s moving!  The closer the receiver runs to make the touchdown the further the post moves!  This is astonishing, people!  What game is this?”

Re Re Re:  Kick ‘Em in the Other Knee!

moving goalpost    Cheerleading F

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Predatory Purveyors of Pedagogy

Dear Diary,

This line from an article in the Portland Press Herald encapsulates the points that I will undertake in my writing to you today:  “Corinthian Colleges once ran 107 campuses that served more than 100,000 students. It was a Wall Street darling for its lucrative model of offering degrees to low-income students who borrowed heavily from the government to pay tuition.”

I’ve been doing some research to discover that in 2013, the top 5 executives of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. earned a combined $6.5m in executive pay and other compensation packages while 85% of its revenue source came directly from the federal government.  When you follow the money, you see that these pirates purposefully plundered the United States Treasury for their personal profit. They baited low-income students and veterans of the military whose higher education dreams were shattered when weeks before graduation, 16,000 students arrived at shuttered doors and a news media eager to report the drama of their indebtedness with no degree to show for their hard work. And what of the thousands of students who continue to pay their student loans who now hold a worthless piece of paper embossed with the Heald, Everest, and WyoTech logos?

I must repeat this: “It was a Wall Street darling for its lucrative model of offering degrees to low-income students who borrowed heavily from the government to pay tuition.” Who pays for the crumbled corporation now?  I do. You do. We all do. The middle class pays her taxes to keep this country afloat, bankrolling these insidious cheats.  CEO Jack D. Massimino earned $3M in 2013 while the for-profit education giant was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

From an article in the Atlantic MonthlyUltimately, several deals Corinthian had hoped to make didn’t happen. Corinthian’s CEO, Jack Massimino, said in a statement Sunday that “the current regulatory environment” prevented the company from ensuring “a seamless transition for our students.”

Therein lies the culprit: “the current regulatory environment,” spoken by this $3M-annual-salary-package CEO, stated that regulation was the problem for them to do the right thing for their students. Well, Diary, it is exactly the (lack of enough) current regulatory environment that kept these sham colleges open and continued their eligibility to receive government funding for the students that lead up to the abrupt closure last week. The grand government puppets of the plutocrats advocated for Corinthian while they were under investigation. While the “U.S. Department of Education alleged the enterprise misrepresented job placement data and altered grades and attendance records,” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio asked the U.S. Department of Education to “demonstrate leniency” toward Corinthian Colleges by permitting the wealthy for-profit company to continue accessing millions of dollars in federal financial aid while it was cooperating with a federal investigation. (Rubio’s Advocacy For Corinthian Colleges Draws Scrutiny)

My heart hurts when I read this line in the aforementioned article: “…[Corinthian Colleges, Inc.] institutions that pledged to provide affordable, efficient vocational training to nontraditional college students: single parents, military vets, high-school dropouts who wanted to get back on track.”  I cannot imagine what it must feel like to pay $20,000 – $60,000 in tuition toward achieving a dream that you were told would bring you success in life only to be left completely shut-out. To be told that earning a college degree would give you a leg up and out of that low-income job you work while going to school, caring for your children, and transforming into a better self. I wonder if those students are at home on this Sunday with head-in-hands wondering what to do next while looking at an empty calendar that would have been filled with preparation for the end of a semester and possible graduation.  Most of the students that I teach at City College of San Francisco hail from under-served populations with low-income backgrounds, but they are the lucky ones who somehow avoided the predators. They came to CCSF at a $46 per unit fee (it was once 1/2 that fee and even lower in the early 2000’s) which offers them the true dream to aspire and achieve. Well, that is if the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges does not accomplish its goal to terminate the accreditation of the excellent and resilient CCSF – a college that continues to offer high-quality education and inspiration to thousands of students while entering the 4th year of extreme hardship delivered by a commission driven to destroy it from the inside out. Oddly enough, this is the same commission that accredited Corinthian Colleges up through 2013.  Isn’t that something, Diary?

Someday soon, I’ll write to you about the very strange 3-years that I taught part-time at the Art Institute of California-San Francisco on 1170 Market Street.  AiCA-SF is one of several for-profit colleges of the EDMC – Education Management Corporation. The Pittsburgh PA-based operator of post-secondary educational institutions was expected to delist from the NASDAQ in November of 2014 and has eliminated approximately 2,600 positions with campuses in the process of closing.  I guess this is how the CCSF administration has orchestrated a deal to move the classes once offered at our prized Civic Center campus into the first four floors at 1170 Market Street.

Endcap:   2013 – Combined salaries of the top 5 administrators at Corinthian Colleges, Inc. = approx $6.45M

(Though their stock options are now at $.01, this was 2013, and we all know what execs do with their stock options before the company crumbles.)

Here’s the breakdown:
Jack D. Massimino
CEO and Chairman of the Board = $3M
Base pay: $900,000, Bonus and non-Equity Incentive Compensation: $307,395, Stock award and option value:  $1,719,207,  Other: $91,257

Beth A. Wilson
Executive Vice President (EVP) = $877,786
Base pay: $451,140, Bonus and non-Equity Incentive Compensation: $100,491, Stock award and option value:  $283,156, Other: $42,999

Kenneth S. Ord
EVP and Chief Administrative Officer = $1M
Base pay: $530,450, Bonus and non-Equity Incentive Compensation: $141,789, Stock award and option value:  $322,937  Other: $26,521

Stan A. Mortensen
EVP and General Counsel = $787,816
Base pay: $396,550, Bonus and non-Equity Incentive Compensation: $88,322, Stock award and option value:  $248,894  Other: $54,040

Robert Owen
EVP and Chief Financial Officer = $783,968
Base pay: $400k, Bonus and non-Equity Incentive Compensation: $89,100, Stock award and option value:  $251,059, Other: $43,809

plutocrat (Image politely borrowed from MotherSky.com)

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Gouged & Gauged

Gouge_VT Gauge_VT

Dear Diary,

I feel less pain today as my fellow educators across the globe probe my writings to inform me of mutual discoveries in our places of learning. Our roles in society as teacher, educator, professor, lecturer, tutor, instructor, counselor, guide, and mentor were once titles that commanded respect and admiration.   The current onslaught of constant vilification by the very people paid 3 – 6 times more than those of us doing actual work with and for our students gouges all of our senses. Like a superhero, we deflect every arrow, sword, bullet and bomb, simultaneously protecting both our students and our mental health as we trudge forward to our classrooms, laboratories, and lecture halls. We do not cower from the formidable attack by top administrators and government officials.

“Onward toward earning your degree!” we shout in the foggy mists.

“Keep up; you’re nearly there! Final examinations are just around the next bend!” we encourage as we haul them through the last storm of writing papers and reports, reviewing texts, performing lab experiments, researching in the libraries, connecting to the world via online links.

Meanwhile, using every means possible, we are “weighed and measured” while support systems have been removed, salaries cut, and retiring faculty not replaced.

It is time, dear Diary, to walk on a lovely Spring day and set my mind to wander.

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