Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hijacking Four Delegates

I was initially puzzled by the following statement from Harold Ickes:
"Hijacking four delegates is not a good way to start down the path of party unity."
I mean, why four, why not just say however many you want to say, which has got to be more than four. Why not 300?

Oh, because Obama has hijacked four delegates the same way that Osama hijacked four planes? That is so clever.

Worry not about the SUV or truck that you can't afford to put gas in and can't trade because its value has plummeted, the house you can neither pay for nor sell, the impending bankruptcy that you can no longer declare. Just relax and and let these simple, soothing little associations set you free. There will be plenty of them.

Calming the Nerves

This video, a lecture by Jill Bolte Taylor, has worked very well for me.

I'd post it here, but there's an error in the embed code.

Background from NYT:

JILL BOLTE TAYLOR was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana.

But she did it by having a stroke.

On Dec. 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor, then 37, woke up in her apartment near Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain had popped. Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.

The incessant chatter that normally filled her mind disappeared. Her everyday worries — about a brother with schizophrenia and her high-powered job — untethered themselves from her and slid away.

Her perceptions changed, too. She could see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy. Continued

Friday, May 30, 2008

I'll Say It Yet Again

I write this not because of the propagandized narrative that Clinton can still pull ahead in this campaign but rather because of the assaults on humanity and reason that she has considered evidence that she is fighting for "us" (whoever "us" may be, in her estimation).

As I have said here repeatedly, before Campaign 2008, my attitude was thus: I had expected Clinton to fight for "us" (everyone living in the United States) after 9-11, when it was clear to anyone paying attention that 9-11 was an excuse for an imperialist war, anti-immigrant sentiment, the previously unimaginable revocation of the Bill of Rights, and the transfer of the U.S. treasury to the military-industrial complex. She did not. I had expected her to fight for "us" (the working- and middle-class) when corporate predators of all stripe sought to transfer our personal assets to their stockholders and CEOs. She did not. When I lived in New York City, worked for the Family Independence Administration, and saw funds transferred from needy families into the hands of vendors--big, powerful corporations who claimed to be providing "job training" or "child care,"--I expected her to fight for "us" (everyone who has ever or may ever need a safety net). She did not. She was in my estimation yet another Democratic politician who had let "us" down. A list of all of her counterparts in U.S. government who had done exactly the same would be nauseatingly long.

I bear no animus toward her for the reasons that the notorious Clinton bashers of the 1990s did: that her husband is/was sexually compulsive, that she refused to spend her time as First Lady quietly obsessing over place settings and luncheons, that she claimed an active role in political leadership. In fact, I fought for her against the rabid right wingers and/or misogynists who attacked her for those reasons.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama had won his Senate seat despite standing up for "us"--on the war, on civil liberties, and against financial predators. He was one of few Democratic legislators whom I had seen take principled positions regardless of the very real political risks of doing so. His record is not perfect but has addressed "our" concerns much more directly. His fundraising success with donations of less than $200 was evidence of the groundswell that he created, the first positive one I had seen in my lifetime. He had a much firmer grasp on effective international relations. His books demonstrated to me that he is a first- rate thinker. The contrast was clear and the choice was easy.

In the aftermath of Presidential Primary Campaign of 2008, I do bear especial animus toward Clinton for her blatant emboldening of and subsequent exploitation of racist sentiment, for her coercive attempts to further a personal agenda at the cost of her party, for her rallying cry to white women to mobilize against her/their imagined mistreatment at the hands of Barack Obama, and for her attempts to retrocatively transform all the rules and the mathematics that resulted in her defeat.

Update: Check out this lady getting ejected from the RBC meeting for repeating Clinton campaign talking points:

(h/t Bark, Bugs, Leaves, and Lizards)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Louisiana Legislature Moves to Better Serve Troubled Youth? I'm Unconvinced. [UPDATED]

The legislation linked below sounds like a fine idea: Close the overcrowded Jetson Center for Youth, the largest youth detention center in the state, which has lost its accreditation and is plagued by violent episodes between youth and guards, and move its residents to smaller, "community-based" facilities with a real focus on rehabilitation and recovery.


Yet I hear from inside one of the state's other existing youth centers that there is much concern over the fact that the three new facilities promised below or the "13 or 14" to be established or built at some vague point will not exist when the Jetson Center is closed. In fact, Richard Thompson, head of Louisiana's Office of Youth Development, admits that "No decisions have been made on location of the regional juvenile facilities because there must be discussions with community leaders and support 'to move a center like this into a community.'"

Approximately 221 youths will be transferred to other existing centers throughout the state, thereby overcrowding those youth centers, laying off some staff (or giving them the option of working in state adult correctional facilities) and overtaxing the remaining staff and resources. Bobby Jindal warmly supports the legislation. It seems to me that closing one center and overtaxing others without a clear plan, clear funding allocations, and a clear commitment to establish and staff new centers would save the state some money. It seems to me that Bobby Jindal has been known to cut back on critical state services before.

I'll be more than happy to be pronounced cynical or even paranoid if the youth of Louisiana ultimately benefit from this legislation. But I cannot find specific information about the funding in place to establish and staff new facilities when and if locations are approved. Isn't the cart in front of the horse here?

Also, why does the bill change the name of the "Office of Youth Development" to the "Office of Juvenile Justice" if its aim is to focus on youth development and not retributive "justice"?

UPDATE: Well, so much for finding out that this post was either cynical or paranoid. I wish for the sake of everyone who is in a youth detention center in Louisiana, everyone who knows or loves someone who is, and all of us whose lives will be touched by former youth detainees that it were.

But no.

An informed source tells me the following: There is no existing plan to establish youth centers throughout the state to better serve the 220 youths now warehoused in the Jetson Center. All that is mandated by SB 749 is closing the Jetson Center for Youth and sending its residents to already existing youth centers, which already operate at high capacity.

The Juvenile Justice Implementation Committee met on Friday. The Committee is led by Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, and among its members are Richard Thompson, Representative Don Cravins, and Representative Jetson. Richard Thompson, Jindal's Head of the Office of Youth Development, when pressed by other committee members for specific information about plans to open additional youth centers, clearly stated that he did not have a detailed plan. The Committee requested that he bring the (or a) plan to its June meeting. However, since the legislature will be out of session in June, there will be no venue to ask for funds at that time. Richard Thompson's details, when and if he provides them, will be too late: By then, if SB 749, which enjoys bi-partisan support, has passed, the Office of Youth Development will be forced by law to close the Jetson Center for Youth.

Currently, LSU provides medical and mental health services to the Office of Youth Development. There is speculation that Jindal's broader plan for "reform" involves removing LSU from this equation altogether. If he did so, where would social services for juvenile offenders come from? Or would social services come from anywhere at all?

What we see here is a blatant plan to warehouse troubled youth in Louisiana by further crowding and stressing the system. What's even more maddening is that the Louisiana Legislature is doing so under the guise of improving the lives of troubled youth and relieving an overstressed system.

Please join me in contacting all members of the House, urging them to vote No on SB 749, reminding them that the bill includes no plan to even attempt the reform it promises! Fellow bloggers, please help to get the word out about this literal miscarriage of justice.

Here is scant media information on SB 749:

The troubled Jetson Center for Youth would close in 2009 and its juvenile offenders transferred to smaller community-based facilities under a bill that cleared a state Senate committee on Tuesday.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary B endorsed a reworked Senate Bill 749, then shipped it to the full Senate for debate.

“It’s an old physical plant and part of an antiquated system” that fails to save juvenile offenders from lives of crime, said Sen. Don Cravins Jr., sponsor of the legislation.

Cravins, D-Opelousas, said it is long past time to change to a community-based system of rehabilitation that involves parents and local resources from education opportunities to mental health care.

He said 40 percent of juvenile offenders have mental health issues.

Today, Jetson is home to about 220 male offenders who range in age from 14 to 20 years old. They are incarcerated for crimes ranging from purse snatching and drug offenses to murder and armed robbery. The facility is on Old Scenic Highway near Groom Road in Baker.

Jetson has been plagued by violence, reported rapes, and guards and juveniles injured during confrontations. The state’s largest juvenile facility has lost its accreditation from the American Correctional Association.

Under SB 749, Jetson would shut its doors by June 30, 2009. A provision would allow for an extension until November 2009 if problems develop.

The state would initially open three, 48-bed secure juvenile facilities in different regions into which Jetson residents would be transferred. No more than 12 juveniles could be housed in a unit.

The number of community facilities would rise to 13 or 14, spread throughout the state in the coming years.

“This bill is going to be very productive,” said Richard Thompson, the head of the state’s Office of Youth Development. “It gets us from talking about reform to actually beginning the process of reform.”
(continue reading)

Monday, May 19, 2008

An Unfortunate Narrative

Like every other woman, I face sexism in some form, every day, in both my public and private lives. Whether it manifests in cat calls or unwarranted comments from strangers about my appearance; sexual harassment or, on a good day, mere discrimination in the workplace; constant comfirmation from all mainstream media that my weight, age, and overall appearance dictate my worth; lower salary and less career mobility than men doing the same work; automatic assumptions that I am stupid and/or incapable; denial of credit for my accomplishments; or in other ways that I can continue to enumerate, ad nauseum, I face sexism constantly. And if you are a woman, you do, too.

I teach literature from a feminist perspective. I am quite familiar with feminist theory. I act politically on behalf of women's rights and for gender equality both locally and globally.

I've been infuriated to sit on a few hiring committees who have passed over the most qualified and informed candidates (because they haven't been deemed "assertive enough") for less qualified and informed but louder, more "authoritative" male candidates.

I was raised by a single mother who never made a penny more than 18K/year in her working life. Her two brothers went to college. She was not given that option.

In short, you can bet your last dollar that I care about gender equality. You can also bet that I understand that my generation has fared a lot better than the last.

I am also aware that the vast majority of my successes and failures in life have not been the result of gender inequality. That I've been denied jobs for which I was less qualified than others is not a function of sexism. That I've alienated others by acting badly is not a result of sexism. That I must take responsibility for my own actions is not a result of sexism. That I consider myself an individual human being and expect others to do the same is not a function of sexism. These levels of awareness defy sexism.

For this reason, I am extremely disappointed by the narrative emerging about gender and the Clinton campaign. Many fail to recognize that HRC's campaign is not about women. Her campaign is about Hillary Rodham Clinton. And if we lived in a equitable society, that would be obvious to everyone. All those, male and female, who fail to understand this simple point are working at cross purposes with the very notion of gender equality. Basing attitudes about an entire group of people on the successes and failures or strengths and weaknesses of one person is the very definition of stereotyping, not its antidote.

The following segments from the New York Times article "Gender Issue Lives on as Clinton's Hopes Dim" spin the narratives that bother me the most:
Along with the usual post-mortems about strategy, message and money, Mrs. Clinton’s all-but-certain defeat brings with it a reckoning about what her run represents for women: a historic if incomplete triumph or a depressing reminder of why few pursue high office in the first place.
This false dilemma is galling, as is the assumption that follows: that Clinton's campaign has been unsuccesful simply because of her sex. Has Clinton failed to draw the male vote in larger numbers than any other runner-up in a political primary? No. Are opinion polls demonstrating that a significant number of voters are opposed to voting for a woman? No. Has the campaign strategy of any of Clinton's opponents been to suggest that the nation is not ready for a woman as president or that a woman wouldn't have "a broad enough coalition" on which to base a campaign? No.

“Women felt this was their time, and this has been stolen from them,” said Marilu Sochor, 48, a real estate agent in Columbus, Ohio, and a Clinton supporter. “Sexism has played a really big role in the race.”
Women felt this was their time? For what? Forget that the very phrasing is the same as the Victorian euphemism for menstruation. The idea that a woman in the Oval Office means other than symbolic progress for women is at best erroneous and at worst dangerous, in the same ways as assuming that any racial minority in power will see to the needs of all racial minorities. What, besides taking a pro-choice stance, has Clinton done to protect women from gender inequality? Especially women living in poverty. She promoted welfare reform, decreasing the availability of aid to mothers. In the face of overwhelming evidence rendering the rationale for war with Iraq deeply flawed (to state it nicely), Clinton supported that war. Our economy is drained as a result, and since women are still less educated, make less money than men, and are more likely to be raising children alone, women are in a more precarious position because of her actions. The war has also made conditions for women in Iraq far worse than they were under Saddam Hussein. Clinton has repeatedly supported exploitative trade agreements that grind under female workers in developing nations and outsource American jobs. Clinton seems to forget when she is asked about her stance on affirmative action that white women in her own age group have been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action, implying (appealing to a commonly held racist belief) that it aids only racial minorities. And Marilu Sochor, where is the evidence that "sexism has played a really big role in the race"? It's been "stolen" from women? In what other presidential campaign have voters been accused of theft? In what other campaign has the actual leader in delegates and popular votes been accused of stealing the nomination?

While the article does confront some of these questions, it goes on to quote another less than authoritative source on women's "progress":
“She’s raised this whole woman candidate thing to a whole different level than when I ran,” said Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter and the first woman to be the vice-presidential nominee of a major party, contrasting her own brief stint as a running mate in 1984 with Mrs. Clinton’s 17-month-and-counting slog.
Ferraro's language exemplifies the sloppy thinking of those who believe that voting for a woman on the basis of her sex is a shared sisterly duty. Only three words are operative here--woman, candidate, and level. So Clinton's anatomy, her bid for the presidency, and her level of success in that pursuit are the only issues worth consideration? Not her policies or suitability to meet the needs of the U.S. populace in the midst of two wars, environmental disaster, and economic meltdown?

Apparently the former is true for many of Clinton's supporters. The comments of this one were the impetus for this entry:

Cynthia Ruccia, 55, a sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics in Columbus, Ohio, is organizing a group, Clinton Supporters Count Too, of mostly women in swing states who plan to campaign against Mr. Obama in November. “We, the most loyal constituency, are being told to sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus,” she said.
First, Cynthia Ruccia, those who support the losing candidate have always been expected to accept their candidate's defeat, and they always will be expected to do so. Though it's not clearly stated, I assume that Clinton Supporters Count Too [sic] prefer McCain? Yet they consider themselves the most loyal constituency, I assume, of the Democratic Party?

A word of advice to you, Cynthia Ruccia, and to Clinton Supporters Count Too [sic]: Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain and the Republican Party will waste no time in telling you to "sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus." If you don't, they'll just throw you under it. Please consider this advice carefully before you fling the rest of us down there with you.

Nobody Can Pan Out Like Obama:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Working Title: What. The. FUCK???

From CNN:

During a speech before the National Rifle Association convention Friday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — who has endorsed presumptive GOP nominee John McCain — joked that an unexpected offstage noise was Democrat Barack Obama looking to avoid a gunman.

“That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair, he's getting ready to speak,” said the former Arkansas governor, to audience laughter. “Somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.”

Obama supports extending the assault weapons ban, limits on gun sales, and a national law against carrying concealed weapons, with exceptions for retired police and military personnel. John McCain – whose legislative record was awarded a C+ rating by the NRA in 2004, but has received a perfect score – will address the group later Friday afternoon. His speech will include remarks "on the issue of unconditional negotiation with state sponsors of terror" that aides tell CNN’s Dana Bash are a direct response to Obama’s comments earlier Friday.
How the fuck does any of what Huckabee said make sense? How? Just how? How does it lead the reader into a paragraph about Obama's position on guns? What the fuck is this?

Revised title, now that I'm calmer: Baptist Preacher Mike Huckabee Tells a Bunch of Crazy Motherfuckers He Thinks It's Funny to Imagine Barack Obama Being Threatened with a Gun. Then Those Crazy Motherfuckers Laugh with Him.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I've been disappointed in both of the Democratic candidates in the past couple days for not taking more of an opportunity to discuss the disasters in Myanmar and China. What bothers me tremendously is that all of our politicians, Democratic and Republican, waste no time reminding us every chance they get that a "global society" is inevitable, and I agree. But when they say "global society" they seem to be employing easily decipherable code for the statement, "Look, there's nothing I can do to keep your jobs from being outsourced to countries where workers are worst exploited. The market is a fact of life that no one can change."

Yet, a global society is much more than a market. Living in one means understanding the scientific evidence that global warming/climate change, wrought disproportionately by the United States, does cause earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as cyclones, hurricanes, tsunami, flooding etc. And the difference between Myanmar now and New Orleans then is the far greater number of victims who are suffering unimaginably at the hands of a brutal regime that seems to want them dead. The difference between Chengdu now and New Orleans then is the far greater number of victims suffering unimaginably under a brutal regime that also refuses to acknowledge its own hand in the global climate crisis. (See here, here, and here for evidence that earthquakes are included in the symptoms of abusing the planet.)

And back to markets: if there are not fair labor protections in a global society, then labor protections in the U.S. are worth nothing except for those in the very few fields that cannot (yet) outsource jobs. And that number of fields and jobs is ever-dwindling with technological advance, as are labor protections. I'm wearied of politicians repeating the phrase "competition in a global market" when what they mean is "wage slavery."

I want to hear our politicians admit in bolder terms that we have blood on our hands.

(photo: earthworm)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thanks, Keith Olbermann

In case you missed Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" to Bush, this is really worth watching.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Too Little, Too Late

Photo: Ana Luisa Lima

From The Nation:
A few weeks ago, our foremost climatologist, NASA's Jim Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several co-authors. The abstract attached to it argued--and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper--"if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." Hansen cites six irreversible tipping points--massive sea level rise and huge changes in rainfall patterns, among them--that we'll pass if we don't get back down to 350 soon; and the first of them, judging by last summer's insane melt of Arctic ice, may already be behind us.
From NPR:
The U.N. chief called on Myanmar's military rulers Monday to "put people's lives first," saying hundreds of thousands of survivors from a devastating cyclone could die unless international aid workers are allowed to deliver food, water and medicine.

Speaking at the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the country's isolationist regime has repeatedly thwarted international efforts to get aid to as many as 1.5 million who have been affected by Cyclone Nargis, which made landfall on May 3.

"We are at a critical point. Unless more aid gets into the country very quickly, we face an outbreak of infectious disease that could dwarf today's crisis," the secretary-general said. "I therefore call, in the most strenuous terms, on the Government of Myanmar to put its people's lives first."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

Image by ms_mod

That which I am most passionate about my students learning: that every text they read, every text they write, and every "rule" they learn in either process is intended for their own synthesis, leading, I hope, to the discovery of a personal Truth whose result is liberating.

This is a response to a meme posted by Professor Zero. Here are the rules:

+Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for students to learn about.
+Give your picture a short title.
+Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt.”
+Link back to this blog entry.

I've cheated a bit because I'm using as the title "the whole is greater than any of its parts," which is original to the image.

Thanks, Professor Zero! I won't tag people, either, though I'd like to see G-Bitch's response.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clinton Claims White People

Well, HRC has finally come right out and said it:

Qtd. in Politico:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.
There sure is.

See GB's latest post "Calling a Cracker Vote a Cracker Vote."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thoughts on (Yet Another) Super Tuesday

I just noticed that Indiana University's start date for summer courses is today, 5/6. This detail, it seems to me, jeopardizes a lot of votes for Obama because most university students are in transition, having begun their summer vacations elsewhere. Nobody else is talking about this, so I hope it's a futile worry on my part. I just know that university towns become ghost towns at this time of year and IU has campuses statewide. It's said that university towns must be Obama strongholds by about 20 points. I invite you to slap down this idea as I really want it to be dead wrong.

Another thought: No matter what your greatest ambition is in this world, would you feel okay about accomplishing it like this [,HRC]?

(Image from Politico)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Laura Bush on Myanmar

(Photo Credit: Jacques de Goldfiem)

From CNN:

U.S. first lady Laura Bush blasted the military government, saying the lack of warning before the deadly cyclone hit was the latest example of "the junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs."
Update: Please check out this link to Burma Newsladder, provided in New Orleans News Ladder's comment below!

Update II: Here is a link to the U.K. site Campaigning for Democracy and Human Rights in Burma, which is accepting donations for cyclone relief in Myanmar.

Friday, May 2, 2008

More Guns in the Classroom?

From TP:

BATON ROUGE -- All college students 21 or older who have qualified for concealed handgun permits would be able to carry firearms to class and other parts of campus under a bill approved 11-3 by a House committee Thursday.

The Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice sent to the House floor House Bill 199 by Rep. Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chasse, its chairman. Wooton said he expects lengthy debate on the bill's merits when it hits the floor.

The bill drew support from college students who say they feel unsafe and inadequately protected when leaving campus late at night. Student leaders from several campuses teamed with Joseph Savoie, commissioner of higher education for the State Board of Regents, the agency that coordinates higher education funding, policy and curriculum, in asking the panel to reject the measure
Where to begin?

1) Weapons are currently prohibited on college and university campuses. I mean "prohibited" in that (on my campus) there are old, rusty signs suggesting such, but we all know that there is nothing else prohibiting students from bringing guns to campus, whether they have concealed firearms permits or not. That is already the case. The legislation proposed above encourages students to bring firearms to campus by reinforcing idea that they need firearms on campus.

2) Those college students who "feel unsafe and inadequately protected when leaving classes late at night" should be lobbying for heightened campus security. Under Bobby Jindal's current hiring freeze, however, there will not be more campus security on state college and university campuses anytime soon.

3) As usual, unsavory Louisiana legislators have aimed for a solution that costs the state nothing (except, potentially, lives) and essentially outsources campus security to those who will do the job for free, presumably students and faculty.

4) I may often sound grumpy when I talk about my students, but let me tell you, I take my responsibility to them very seriously. I care about every one of them, even those few who try my nerves to extreme levels. The vast majority are nice people. That said, I do not want them carrying guns. I do not want them to become the target of propaganda suggesting that it's their responsibility to themselves or others to do so. More guns on college campuses will not make college campuses safer but rather more dangerous.

5) In the event of a Virginia-Tech episode, crossfire is not the answer. But in the event that the state legislature encourages students to arm themselves, Virginia-Tech episodes are more likely. Of the two students in my long career whose potential capacity for violent outbursts concerned me tremendously, both would have probably qualified for concealed weapons permits and both possessed a mindset which would have led them to apply.

I'm contacting my representative about HB 199. Please join me.