Monday, August 24, 2015

Ukrainian Independence Day

A friend writes: Today, Aug 24, Ukrainian Independence Day! Слава Україні! Героям слава! синій і жовтий! He posts a Ukrainian flag.

I was transfixed by the image, then was deluged by memory. The trident and its hidden sword—I remember the day the Ukrainian flag was raised in Cherkassy. One hot August afternoon, in 1989, we attended a special cultural event, my translator explained, thinking I might find it interesting.

The old Soviet style wood-paneled hall, decorated with sheaves of wheat surrounding hammer and sickle, was oppressively hot, no air conditioning. People, dressed in their Sunday best, circa 1950, were packed in like sardines. It looked as if the entire town had turned out for the event. For us, it was standing room only. Our clothing stuck to our backs as if we'd been working in the fields. We were a rather damp cultural conspiracy.

How I got to the USSR, in particular, the heartland of the Ukraine was through a Sister City cultural exchange with Santa Rosa in California, and Cherkassy. (See my blog links below for that story).

The cultural event turned out to be a variety show. Performers dressed in embroidered peasant garb, sang ancient folksongs accompanied by banduras and balalaikas. Floral-wreathed maidens sang sweetly, and Cossacks exuberantly squatted and danced.

There were classical piano recitals, and kids reciting the poetry of Cherkassy Oblast's own native son, Taras Shevchenko. We all applauded heartily during their final bows. But something more was afoot. 

At the end the event, a grizzled actor still dressed in his cossack attire, came on stage and began to sing "Ще не вмерла Україна," the Ukrainian National Anthem. The audience hesitantly began to join in. As they found their way, remembering the old melody and words, they soon sang with vigor. It was positively electrifying. The walls resounded like the inside of a drum.

Then the actor unrolled an old Ukrainian flag made of silk, bordered with a golden fringe. A flag of blue sky and yellow wheat from 1917. The audience became still as death.

My translator was transfixed—caught up in the moment—he forgot to translate. I was lost between worlds. Something momentous was happening and I couldn't understand a word of it. He said: This is something that has never happened in my lifetime. I never thought I would live to see a day like this. I could only dream of such a day.

The actor gave an impassioned speech and saidГероям слава! Glory to the Ukraine. The crowd exploded. A cultural event suddenly turned into a political rally, my excited Ukrainian host explaining the significance of the song. Ukraine has not perished. 

People were prosecuted as criminals and arrested for merely owning the Ukrainian flag, let alone, raising it, he said. It had survived, hidden all these years. I remember shivering that hot August day—wondering if we were all going to be disappeared to the gulag.

This was before the fall of the USSR, during the heady days of Glasnost, but revolution and the idea of freedom was well on its way during the summer of 1989. The stifling heat along the vast Dnipr River Valley no longer oppressed us. 

And Neptune's trident (some say it was a hovering falcon and a cross), held aloft against a cerulean sky and endless golden wheatfields, so far from the sea, offered promise of a cool breeze at the back of our necks.

 As we walked home, the leaves of the linden trees whispered secrets, then as the breeze picked up, they applauded the sky.

A forerunner of things to come.

Flag of Ukraine History and significance
Coat of arms of Ukraine a medieval symbol of a flying falcon with a cross above its head, was not a trident, but the sound of the letter U as in Ukraine.
Shche ne vmerla Ukraina  On the Ukrainian National Anthem.

(in no particular order)
The New Zamizdat
Hermitage Group 5/14/92
Letter to Valentin Yemelin—The Putscht
Letter to Valerie Stupachenko—Putscht
Dark Winter Days at the Hermitage

I have many Soviet poems as well:
Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost translations
Poetry Unites the World by Dr. Andrei Bantaş review
Letter from Oleg Atbashian on translating & Cyrillic typography

This was the 2nd Facebook draft; after 9 revisions, I decided I'd better just blog it...
The trident, yes. I remember the first time it was again raised in Cherkassy. A big rally, my host explaining the significance. People were prosecuted as criminals and arrested for merely owning the flag, let alone, raising it.I remember shivering, wondering if we were all going to be disappeared. This was before the fall of the USSR, but it was well on its way in 1989-90.



Dawn on the Black Sea
White swans emerge from the fog
riddled with streetlight.

(From this video)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Midgies vs Mosquitoes

Are you a midge or a mosquito? Inquiring minds need to know.

In Vancouver people kept warning us: Beware the midges! —like it was the Ides of March come to visit us all toga-ed up during the dog daze of August. Et me, you brutal midgie? Take that!  Talkin' smack, here. Fkn bloodsuckers.

I asked: Did you mean small mosquitoes? (In the Sierras, Alaska, and upper BC, mosquitoes the size of small helicopters, bloodthirsty packs have been known to drain a caribou dry in a single night). No? What were they referring to?

On the other end of the biting insect spectrum are the no-see-ums. They do bite. But not all small flies suck blood or bite. Most of them just don't. Well, it turns out that it's a case of generic mistaken identity. I always assumed midge stood for midget mosquitos, mosquitoes being a Spanish word, and we all know how the British like to masticate and mangle foreign words. (That's masticate, you durty bird).

Some of those small UFO clouds of hovering flies that try and crash-land in our nostrils, mistaking them for hangars, are also sometimes called midges too. (We called them gnats and mayflies in Marin). Nothing quite like breathing in a fresh cloud of gnats.

It also seems that folks in the UK have a pathological fear of all one thousand and one varieties of mosquitoes—especially she-who-shall-not-be-named. And they erroneously assume that all mosquitoes are tropical poseurs, and they carry all manner of deadly diseases (so not true). We'd all be dead in North America if that were so. (Well, there is the West Nile Virus.)

I found conflicting information that midges do (or do not) bite—at least in Scotland they do. Apparently all Highland midges carry small bagpipes and a big proboscis. It's not just a case of Scottish DTs in progress as no unidentified flying pink elephants were involved. 

Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are all about the meeeeeeeeeee generation. You can hear them coming in for a soft landing at 3 AM. And of course you do know that the word "mosquito" (mosca and diminutive -ito) is Spanish for little itty-bitty fly. Make that bite-y fly. All thousand and one-two-three species of them.

But do we have midges in Western North America? I think they do have midges on the East Coast. They're called 
no-see-ums or punkies. Punkies! Or is it merely a case of mistaken identity, or a case of mistaken similarity, in the case of our Vancouver midgie friends—like old and new world robins?

Have you ever seen a British robin, he's the size of a midge, er, minute, compared to our American robin red breasts. I had one boldly hop up to me on Callendar Bridge, and I was dumbfounded as to what he was, until the Robin Red Breast rhyme came to mind. A tiny bit of orange fluff on twig legs, not at all like our pigeon-sized robins.

In any case, back to the story of True Blood. Those blasted broody female midges and mosquitoes are ardent Dracula fans. I vant you for your blood! The bhoys midges and mosquitoes, on the other hand, are content with supping and sipping on flower nectar all day long, not feasting on our necks. Better 
bless those bats who are the first line of defense against the bloodthirsty mosquitos and midges.

Will the real midgie please stand, er, fly up?

    Blephariceridae, net-winged midges
    Cecidomyiidae, gall midges  (The gall of it all.)
    Ceratopogonidae, biting midges (also known as no-see-ums or punkies in North America, and sandflies in Australia) (Take that you little punkie!)
    Chaoboridae, phantom midges  (For ghost itches.)
    Chironomidae, non-biting midges (also known as muffleheads in the Great Lakes region of North America) (They sound so Republican.)
    Deuterophlebiidae, mountain midges  (Oh, the trees they do grow high...
    Dixidae, meniscus midges   (You can't see them coming on the horizon.)
    Scatopsidae, dung midges (no shit, Sherlock!)
    Thaumaleidae, solitary midges (Sung to the tune of Solitary Man.)

My next burning question: how many toes does a mosquito have? I think maybe I've had a tad too much tea this morning.

I know you're itching to know...

midge or mosquito


Highland Midge

Kenneth McKellar - The Midges  (song)


The midges, the midges, I'm no gonnae kid ye's,
The midges is really the limit,
Wi teeth like pirhanas, they drive ye bananas,
If ye let them get under yer simmit!

1. The Lord put the Garden of Eden on earth,
And it's north of the Tweed, we believe,
Aye, Scotland's the place, and the whole human race,
Started of with MacAdam and Eve!
In six days or under, he finished this wonder,
Except for the Forth and Tay Bridges,
Then always a bloke for a practical joke,
He made Scotland the home of the midges!

2. Back in 1314, proud Edward was keen,
To take Scotland into his care,
But he made a U-turn when he reached Bannockburn,
Just a few weeks before Glasgow Fair!
The midges let loose by King Robert the Bruce,
Straight into the English they tore,
So they ran off in tears, and for six hundred long years,
They've been blocking the A74!

3. Now never forget, when the sun's going to set,
And the midges arise on Loch Eck,
Like the vampires you see, played by Christopher Lee,
They'll give you a pain in the neck!
You can smack them and whack them; in vain you'll attack them,
They know every move that you make,
If you manage to kill yin, another half million,
Are ready tae come tae the wake!

4. Now Torquil the piper's a giant of a man,
With a sporran as long as your arm,
And in Oban he's known, for the sound of his drone,
And a pibroch of real highland charm!
But they're sighing and sobbing, the ladies of Oban,
Torquil is not what he was,
Since a midge in Glenbranter, got hold of his chanter,
And carried it off in its jaws!

Andrew MacRae's favorite midge... 

Mosquitoes: There are thousands of species!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Jane Bernadette Reilly

During the late 1960s, my aunt Jane Reilly, left a job where she had been a data processor at (Southern Pacific) Pacific Fruit Express for 17 years. (After graduating from Star of the Sea Academy, Jane studied accounting at Golden Gate College.) But she decided there was more to life than crunching data.

After a long overdue Hawaiian vacation, Jane joined C&H Sugar Company in San Francisco as a claims accountant and IBM tab operator, to work with their big IBM mainframe computers, but in 1969, it was a man's world. So, she saved her pennies. In her early 40s, Jane threw it all over. Emulating Julia Child, who inspired the American public with her television series, The French Chef, in 1973, Jane followed her dream and flew off to Paris to garner her Grand Diplôme at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France.

Jane's Grand Diplôme signed by Madams Brassart, herself.

When Jane returned to San Francisco in 1975, flat broke, with diploma in hand, she moved in with my grandmother and me. She sent out carloads of resumes, but didn't get a nibble, not even as a sous chef—because she was a woman. It was pretty much next to impossible for a female chef to land a job during that era. Especially in provincial Marin. it was still the 1970s.

So Jane diversified and made friends with the men chefs. Those connections landed her an itinerant position making pastries for Marin restaurants including San Rafael's La Petit Auberge. To make ends meet, she also cooked for the Marin Civic Center cafeteria. All the lawyers would line up when she placed her prized lemon meringue pies in the glass showcase.

In order to attend the French cooking school, Le Cordon BleuJane had to learn French from scratch, she attended night school at City College. Learning French from audio tapes was difficult enough, but once she got to France, she found it wasn't easy being a woman chef at the male-centric Cordon Bleu. There is still tremendous prejudice against women chefs. Julia Child crashed that male-dominated enclave, and my aunt was right on her heels. But the kitchen door swung shut.

The irony is that Le Cordon Bleu was founded by a woman, Marthe Distel, in honor of
 courtesan Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry. King Louis XV stated to Jeanne, his last Maîtresse-en-titre, that only male chefs were capable of producing haute cuisine. 

Madame du Barry (whose father was a cook called Gourmand), specialized in light flavorful dishes, said the French equivalent of Game on! and invited the king to Petit Trianon for a savory supper of pheasant consume, roast chicken with watercress salad, iced peaches and strawberries in maraschino, washed down with a vat of green walnut liqueur.

Louis was so enamored, he wanted to hire the chef on the spot for the court kitchens. Madam du Barry demanded that "he" first be awarded the coveted highest knight's award, Le Cordon Bleu, the blue ribbon. Then she introduced the chef. A woman. Alors! Said the king. Court food was forever changed. But when the king died, common-born Jeanne ran afoul with Marie Antoinette, and lost her head. So much for letting them eat cake.

Jane holding aloft some Cook's Champagne.

I learned to make Jeanne du Barry's fam
ous crème brûlée, and pâte à choux for profiteroles from Jane who was a top notch chef, and her pastries were divine. Jane used to make a killer chocolate gateau for my birthdays.... (devil's food cake kicked up several notches).

I learned many recipes from her, including how to properly make ratatouille, and who hasn't tried chicken Cordon Bleu or crème du Barry (chou-fleur soup)? But mon petit chou-fleur, my personal favorite was real French mousse au chocolat made with egg whites (not whipped cream). Jane brought me my first Sabatier vegetable knives, and a huge copper bowl for making mousse and meringues. Her lemon meringue pie was to die for. 

Jane had a secret fudge recipe she had purloined from See's Candies, a main customer of C&H Sugar, and those old IBM reels made perfect candyboxes at Christmas time. I still make a mocha variation of that infamous See's fudge during the holidays.

Jane cooked for a French family for room and board, and they treated her quite poorly. Despite their bad manners, they were her guinea pigs. and had no complaints about eating 3-star Michelin meals. When she left, they all resembled the rotund Michelin Man.

All was not a cultural desert in the realm of women chefs, in 1971, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley. But few women chefs have shattered that glass wall. Even today, only 19% of professional chefs are women, and they earn $20k less than men.

If Jane had been able to obtain the backing to open her own restaurant, or if she had been born a few decades later, her story may have been very different. She would've been celebrated on Master Chef, I'm sure. TV would've suited her.

Jane dancing the can-can at Old St. Mary's Church in San Francisco.

When Jane was young, she danced in a few amateur musical theater shows in SF, including The Mikado, and a Barbary Coast review, The Golden Nugget, an original musical performed by the Young Adult Players, where she was the lead can-can girl. 

At nearly 6 feet tall, Jane was statuesque, and looked like Maureen O'Hara, so photographers including Peter van Nghiem sought her out as a model for their portfolios. That exposure landed her the job as a model for the Gallo ad. (She even dragged me to the Eileen Ford Agency when I was 16.) She was an avid golfer and skier, but swimming was her main sport.

Jane remained interested in musical theater (my mom was also an actress at the Gate Playhouse in Sausalito). When Jack Aranson staged his one-man monologues of Moby Dick and Dylan Thomas at College of Marin, we catered the events. Ratatouille and lamb burgers. Jack was an old friend of Jane's from way back. Irish connections run deep.

A 1950s rendering of Jane on the back pages of of funny papers & magazines. 

Jane was the first model for Gallo's Paisano wine (they had to make her look Italian), and various permutations of this ad appeared in magazines and on billboards across the nation—including in Times Square. An image I saw throughout my childhood. I thought everybody's aunt appeared on the back page of the funnies. 

This half-page front section ad appeared in the Food section of the San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1954. Check out the price of wine. 

I found a version of the color ad in extremely poor condition in my grandmother's damp basement. With the help of Photoshop, I was able to mend the ad and the crumpled and torn photos. But time and dampness had reduced most of her memorabilia to pulp.

Jane holding the color ad that was a billboard in Times Square.

The Paisano trademark of E. & J. GALLO WINERY patent was filed on June 8 (1953), they opened for business in 1954, so this is really the first ever Gallo ad. There were supposedly also television ads as well, but I never saw them as we didn't have a TV. Later, Piasano was given its own label Carlo Rossi. Top salesman Charlie Rossi was a Gallo relation and starred in commercials during the 1970s. I wonder if Gallo even has Jane's ad in their archives. I never found one online.

This photo inspired the Gallo ad. No one—Jane, the photographer, nor the artist—were paid much for their time.

After Paris, Jane was bitten by the travel bug, and ran Valley Travel in Lagunitas for several decades. (Maybe it was all those years working for Southern Pacific that whetted her appetite for travel.) Many West Marin folks bought their airline tickets and planned their journeys with her, including myself. She returned to France several times, and traveled to Ireland* and Tahiti as well.

(*In 1964, Jane bought a one-quarter ticket on the Irish Sweepstakes, and took my grandmother to Ireland on her winnings. The Irish government literally rolled out a red carpet when they landed at Shannon Airport via Aer Lingus, as my grandmother had left Ireland before it was a republic, and had no passport. She was so embarrassed she sneezed and broke her false teeth, on the tarmac, so her first appointment in Ireland was with a dentist for a new set of choppers.)

Jane, a staunch Republican, was active in politics, and worked on Nixon and Barry Goldwater's campaigns. We never saw eye-to-eye on politics. I found Goldwater and Nixon buttons and autographed photographs of Dr. Rand Paul  (who, like Goldwater was against socialized medicine) in her abandoned belongings. 

Jane co-chaired The Coffee Bar, a Catholic social club, with Eileen Nugent. Jane also served as an officer for the San Francisco Toastmasters (it was then called the Toastmistress Club) whose focus was to enrich lives through communication, leadership & community.

I remember Jane preparing speeches when I used to visit her in San Francisco, when I was a teenager. With regret, I dumped boxes of her Toastmistress binders, when I was cleaning out the basement. Jane was also a member of the Mechanics' Institute Library and Chess Club, and I loved visiting the library when I was writing term papers. 

Jane also donated her time to Catholic and Irish charities. One project stands out—I think it was for Project Children, bringing together Catholic and Protestant Irish kids to America from war-ravaged segregated Belfast ghettos to facilitate mutual respect and understanding. The Troubles—the sectarian violence that began in 1969, had created a vicious self-perpetuating cycle of endless violence. 

The central focus of Project Children was to break the pattern of terrorism and despair, child by child, by lifting them out of Northern lreland and placing them with American host families for the summer to offer them some respite from the ravages of ongoing war trauma. I don't know how Jane got involved with this project, probably through the church or the travel agency, but her role as a host coordinator changed a lot of children's lives for the better.

My cousin with Jane Reilly on her 86th birthday, June 26, 2015.

I last saw Jane on her birthday, June 26th, a month before she died. We brought her a pot of pink lilies, some chocolate and a Trader Joe's cloth bag. She was very good at covering up her dementia but she didn't even know it was her birthday. When we showed her all the old photos I'd scanned, including the Gallo ad, which tickled her to see it again, her memory came trickling back, and she told us stories and names to go with the photos.

She said she had a scratch on her leg. It was melanoma. The doctor removed it, found bone cancer, then, he found uterine cancer. She'd had breast cancer a decade earlier but refused to take her estrogen blockers. She also refused implants or any medical aid, she paid for it all herself. Didn't want to be beholding to anyone. But hospice came in to transition the end and took care of her, along with my cousins.

Jane's memorial service will be held in Santa Cruz on August 15th, at 2 PM. RIP Gallo Girl, you were a real blue-ribbon champion to the very end.

6/26/1929 - 7/26/2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To Read or to E-Read a Book Question

I've a memoir of traveling across the USSR in Writing the Rails.

I love books. I love owning and holding books. I trill my fingers along their spines in bookstores. I have so many books, I no longer buy them. I pornographically stroke them, but I don't look under their hoods, or rather, I don't read them. Well. My eyes no longer work well. That's the real problem. Since my eyes refuse to cooperate with normal-size text, let alone, small text, even with glasses, I like having e-readers about. I can backlight and enlarge the text size, and escape into pure fiction. When I can't find a digital version of a book, then I resort to my hard-copy books. But I can't read them, especially those pesky 10-point footnotes, so I use my eye-Pad camera to enlarge the text and say, "Take that, you four-eyed suckers." Truth be known, even 12-point type, the industry standard, eludes my eyes. So I'm an e-reading anachronism with my iPad at the ready to enlarge the printed page.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Retro Rant on Reaganomics

A self-appointed Facebook troll began posting multiple FOX News style comments under my old photo a friend had reposted. He managed to construe an entire political right-wing agenda from a photo comment.
Who remembers when Sir Francis Drake High School took away our school buses so we had no way to get to school? Most people in The Valley didn't have cars, and it was one of the most economically disadvantaged regions of Marin. We found that it was a long walk to Drake. Then home again. How I learned to hitchhike. Ca 1969.
(In February I posted a blog: Shank's Mare and Reaganomics if you want to read more about it).

My high school friend Zana, who said she was proud of what I had done, commented on my photo: "Ah, the early Reagan as Governor years. School funding cutbacks. Read Maureen Hurley's Facebook comment. All the others as well for that matter." 

And it was off to the races for Mr. M. Round one!
"You do know that even today districts do not have to provide bussing to their students... right? If you do it just has be done consistently. AND the great state of CA still doesn't provide all the money that it cost to operate those buses. So it's not just Reagan and buses, its Democrat Jerry Brown and buses.... need to know your really don't want to play this game with me."
I said to Mr. M: Take your axe elsewhere. Dull blades are not of much use. Did he really say that? And on my page too? Game on.

Zana responded:
"Reagan's disciple has cut funding so much that it is passed locally. Yes, STATE property taxes are down but local, municiple and local school taxes are way up. Poorer rural areas are getting the shaft. More and more of what the state does have for schools goes to private and religious schools through the voucher system. Wealthy kids who never have been to schools receive money for their private education drawing money from public schools."
I was glad that Zana took Mr. M on, replete with facts. People like Mr. M make me angry, I can't talk to them because they're so hostile. Don't get mad, get even seems to be the best approach! I told Zana to keep on posting rebuttals to Mr. M's myopia. He's a revisionist, and his ill-construed rant is unfortunately sitting dead square on my Facebook page.... It's like having my own personal FOX News spewing cherry-picked "facts." 

Mr. M, who admires, nay claims he LOVES Wisconsin Republican governor (and presidential candidate), Scott Walker about as much as Walker has professed to love Ronald Reagan, is sadly misinformed. Mr. M posted:  "When we had republican govs we were the envy of every state."  (stet.)

Um, Mr. M, that was under Democrat leadership when higher education was free. Reagan destroyed that. (See my rant below). And that other bad Republican actor, the Governator was named one of 11 "worst governors" in the United States over ethics issues; he left office with a record low 23% rating.

Does anyone see the irony in Mr. M's statement: "People literally use to move to California just to enroll their kids in our schools." use to??? Really? Clearly the school system didn't work for Mr. M. Score one for the Grammar Police. There are more points to be had. Easy pickings. But I'm being catty.

And Mr. M continued to rant ad nauseum in several more comment boxes: 

 "Scott Walker has freed your schools from the insurance stranglehold that unions had on your schools. He's freed your universities from tenure rules that kept incompetent professors."   
And "I would party for a week if just one of those happened in CA. Freed your schools and broke the unions straggling of public tax money.... you guys need to stop worshipping at the feet of the socialist unions."
I wrote: "Wow, Mr. M, most highly qualified professors I know are already living at poverty level, because they can't get full time work, and have no benefits. And it's not because a tenured professor is hogging the slot. (Universities and businesses can get away with part-time hiring because the unions went bust.) And those in the front lines of education, public school teachers are grossly underpaid. You should target middle management, Mr. M. Principals and superintendents and school board members. Cut the fat." 

Apparently Mr. M's a rather smug California school board member. He yowped:
"No accountability!!!! B.S. Public schools and unions are the most unaccountability syayems anywhere. With a private school the customer picks and chooses... in public school there is no market... you're just screwed. Liberals don't like vouchers because poor kids would get a great education and become capitalists....if I could move my business to Texas I'd save $136,000 just on Workman's Compensation Insurance a year."

Well, first, Dear Reader, I must mention a caveat. I woke at 3 AM, on the wrong side of a one-sided bed, and after reading Mr. M's diatribes, I was irate as a rhinoceros. Cranky as a bear. I broke my vow of silence. Don't feed the troll. Or if you do, hose 'em with facts. So my comment to Mr. M morphed into an itchy trigger-fingered rant on Reaganomics.

I don't like politics, I dislike writing about politics even more. There are far more interesting things to write about. But as I researched Mr. M's claims, I realized that I did need to address them, as it was part of a much larger picture of an era that I had witnessed, and its consequences had shaped my life. Talk about a stroll down memory lane.

Open Letter to Mr. M:

Ronald Reagan began his political career as a Democrat, until he decided they were commie sympathizers and socialists. He was hired by General Electric, and influenced by an anti-union conservative GE CEO, he switched teams and the Gipper became a Republican. A switch hitter who played for the other team.

Reagan was the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to1975. When Medicare legislation was introduced in 1961, Reagan made an ad for the American Medical Association warning that the legislation would mean the end of freedom in America. "We will awake to find that we have socialism." In 1965, he said that Medicaid recipients were "...a faceless mass, waiting for handouts."

Reagan's controversial Barry Goldwater speech led him to seek the CA governorship. The Great Communicator's scorched-earth campaign ticket was "to send the welfare bums back to work,” thus targeting single mothers, and children. As governor, he closed the doors to the state mental institutions, and single-handedly created a massive homeless population. Said he, they were "homeless by choice." My mother was one of them. And some of our classmates. And not by choice.

Reagan implemented major cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, aid to families with dependent children, and to school lunch programs. Under both his state and national watch, the number of families living below the poverty line increased by a third. This is the same president who also cut survivor benefits for families of the disabled.

Before Reagan took office, California had the nation's finest public college system. Reagan launched his political career by slashing state funding for higher education. He led an assault on UC Berkeley. And his voting ticket was "to clean up the mess at Berkeley" in order to suppress the free speech movement—by any means possible.

Reagan cut the UC budget, and proposed that UC should charge tuition, saying that dissenting students "don't deserve the education they are getting. They don't have a right to take advantage of our system of education." Make them pay for it, he said. Before Reagan took office, higher education was free. He suggested that Berkeley should sell off its collections of rare books in the Bancroft Library to make up for the budgetary shortfall.

Reagan was responsible for the People's Park riots, and the "Bloody Thursday" peremptory strike brought in 2000 National Guard troops to violently occupy the city of Berkeley, thus inflaming the situation. With that, he turned California into a police state. Someone noted that behind every university fee hike, there's a new line of riot cops. Reagan's draconian policies shepherded in a death knell for public higher education in the United States.

As the 40th President of the United States (1981- 1989), Reagan vigorously campaigned to restore prayer to the schools, thus mixing church and state, he also awarded vouchers to segregated schools. He fired 11,345 air traffic controllers, and brought the military in, thus busting government unions. The labor movement never recovered. He slashed federal grants for poor students.The schools are still praying for recovery.

During Reagan's tenure, we saw a 40% increase in defense spending. The Teflon President raised taxes ELEVEN times during his presidency. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), was the "largest peacetime tax increase in American history." Reaganomics ushered in massive tax cuts for big business, and lowered the taxes of the wealthy.

His "trickle-down economics" theory—the belief that tax policies that benefited the wealthy would create a "trickle-down" effect to the poor, didn't exactly work. They kept it all for themselves. It was pissy logic, at best. A major tax cut was followed by a long recession and unemployment hit ten percent. "Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders,” said Reagan in 1966.

Reagan also froze the minimum wage at $3.35 an hour. He eliminated the antipoverty Community Development Block Grant program, slashed the budgets for Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs and the EPA. He purged people with disabilities from the Social Security disability rosters. We see them living on the streets today.

Then there's the the greatest financial scandal in American history: the savings and loan crisis, largely responsible for the stock market crash of '87. Under Reagan's lax watch, the S&L industry gambled, invested money recklessly; the cleanup cost the public over $150 billion. Under Reagan's watch, deregulated lending became a wildcat enterprise. Fannie Mae did right well indeed. The Reagan administration was one of the most corrupt in American history. Some 31 of his cabinet members were indited for criminal activity for the Iran-Contra, and the Department of Housing & Urban Development scandals.

Meanwhile the national debt soared from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion. TRILLION. How many zeroes is that? His tax cuts reduced revenue and his unbalanced redline budgets created a perfect storm. He managed to triple the federal debt in less than eight years, Reagan's policies pretty much ushered in today's fiscal hot mess when he undermined Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1930s regulatory programs aimed to promote transparency and fairness in economic competition—bank insurance and the FDIC. Said Reagan, "Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal." The New Deal gave us Social Security too.

Reagan also ended price controls on domestic oil. Big Oil's been laughing its way all the way to the bank ever since.

The Reagan administration was responsible for the massacres in El Salvador and the war and embargo against Nicaragua. US government officials planned for a possible military/civilian coup. His uninformed political decisions sent 241 Marines to their death in Beirut, Lebanon, and his absurd invasion of Grenada, oh my. Noriega much? Then there's Lybia. He thought the Contras and the Taliban were "... the moral equal of our Founding Fathers." Reagan wasn't a president, he was only an acting president. Take the Star Wars FEMA plan. "Facts are stupid things," said Reagan, who authorized $640 Pentagon toilet seats—no shit!

As president, about the only thing Reagan ever did right was to end the Cold War, and the claim that he won the Cold War is outright propaganda. This was the man who said trees cause pollution. Yeah, the CIA lied.

And I haven't even gotten to the part where Reagan destroyed and gutted public schools in California... there was so much else to choose from. When Reagan was governor, he actually raised taxes. Proposition 13, the antitax measure, destroyed Califronia's public infrastructure, including school funding. I won't mention how he tried to cut school lunch milk rations and declared ketchup "a vegetable" in order to save some money on mandatory hot lunches for low income students. Wow.
Reaganomics: "Throughout his tenure as governor Mr. Reagan consistently and effectively opposed additional funding for basic education. This led to painful increases in local taxes and the deterioration of California's public schools. Los Angeles voters got so fed up picking up the slack that on five separate occasions they refused to support any further increases in local school taxes. The consequent under-funding resulted in overcrowded classrooms, ancient worn-out textbooks, crumbling buildings and badly demoralized teachers. Ultimately half of the Los Angeles Unified School District's teachers walked off the job to protest conditions in their schools.[5] Mr. Reagan was unmoved.
Ronald Reagan left California public education worse than he found it. A system that had been the envy of the nation when he was elected was in decline when he left. Nevertheless, Mr. Reagan's actions had political appeal, particularly to his core conservative constituency, many of whom had no time for public education. In campaigning for the Presidency, Mr. Reagan called for the total elimination the US Department of Education, severe curtailment of bilingual education, and massive cutbacks in the Federal role in education. Upon his election he tried to do that and more. Significantly, President Reagan also took steps to increase state power over education at the expense of local school districts. Federal funds that had flowed directly to local districts were redirected to state government. Moreover, federal monies were provided to beef up education staffing at the state level. The result was to seriously erode the power of local school districts.[6] As in California, Mr. Reagan also made drastic cuts in the federal education budget. Over his eight years in office he diminished it by half. When he was elected the federal share of total education spending was 12%. When he left office it stood at just 6%." —The Educational Legacy of Ronald Reagan 

Good old Reaganomics. Back in high school, we were the first to feel the ramifications of it, as few families had cars, the San Geronimo Valley was poor. Yeah, I walked to school, 8 miles each way. No car, no transport. No transport also meant that there were also no extra curricular activities after school because the hitch-hiking ride pool to West Marin dried up after dark. Too hard to get home via shank's mare. Terrifying after dark. And that newly imposed tuition meant that I couldn't afford to go to the university. Reagan's skewed political shenanigans were a lasting gift that kept on hurting the economically disadvantaged  to this day. Win one for the Gipper. Yeah.

Maybe you should move to Texas, Mr. M. We'll even start up a collection.

This post was restructured from a Facebook thread. Yep.