Politics

Clearinghouse for Hurricane Victims (Toys and Children's Clothes)

Cooper and Emily of Been There are providing a way to get donations of supplies to families once they're in temporary housing. Hopefully they've got some readers in Baton Rouge, Houston, Atlanta, etc. who can run these goods to shelters, as I'm sure the temporary housing won't have computers and internet connections. Emily instructs:

If you have something to offer, respond to this post with what you have (and please be specific, for example if you have toys, say for what age group, how many, what sort of condition they're in). Families in need are invited to respond to your post directly.

Also, in comments to the post at Been There, Isabel answers a question I'd had for a while. What if you don't have any money, but you have goods you'd like to donate? I called the local Red Cross and the Salvation Army, but they're not taking any goods. Isabel wrote:

2) Goodwill Industries of Houston is accepting and distributing donations of goods. I spoke to the CEO, Steve Lufburrow, who personally assured me that packages marked for Distribution for Families of Hurricane Katrina will be distributed to families. They particularly need children’s clothing, goods, and diapers as Goodwill normally does not receive those goods. You can send your packages to:
Mailing Address
5200 Jensen Drive
Houston, Texas 77026
Phone and Fax
(713) 692-6221
fax (713) 692-0923
http://www.goodwillhouston.org

UPDATE: Lauren posted the address of another organization that's accepting goods.

UPDATE: FYI, I spoke to Goodwill in San Antonio, and they are not accepting goods.

Say it with me: People, not pipelines!

I know that gasoline will help people get out, and these two are not mutually exclusive, but still: Is anyone else watching Bush's speech? How much time did he spend talking about the people? How much talking about the oil industry?

Should Las Vegas high school students read Plainsong?

In early March of this year, Gerald McGee, a high school English teacher at Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, assigned Kent Haruf's Plainsong to his students, and then look what happened:

Seniors at Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, Nevada must have been confused when their English teacher took away books they were still reading: Kent Haruf's acclaimed novel, Plainsong. At issue was a brief sexual passage. Without submitting challenges to the novel to a review committee, the assistant principal ordered teacher Gerald McGee to "collect all the books, box them up and put them away immediately."

I'll admit, I haven't read this book (but I'm recalling it from my library), but Gerald is one of my best friends, and I trust his judgment when it comes to selecting books. High school students are not children, and the public high school English classroom should be a space where students discuss intelligently works of literature with sophisticated themes and moral complexity, such as they probably see played out in their own lives and surroundings anyway. A passage in a book isn't going to cause students' moral fortresses to crumble. But I guess the point is to repel "bad thoughts." Sigh. It's folly to pretend these students are sheepish, or to want them to be.

More at a thread in the Sierra Nevada High School MySpace group.

Also, Gerald writes:

1. Please view the post at the link below that is titled SIERRA VISTA MAKES THE NEWS IN NEW YORK CITY:

http://groups.myspace.com/SierraVista

2. Share your thoughts on censorship with my students.

3. American rights are eroding because we are not adequately educating our children.

Thanks for helping,

Gerald McGee, M.Ed.

PS You may have to sign up with this website to get a message to my students. The whole process should take less than five minutes, but I can't think of a better way to spend five minutes.

Pregnant at MLA

How'd I miss this Chronicle thread? Wow. Just read the whole thing. A woman going on the market this fall is going to be about six months pregnant at MLA and wonders if she should try to hide it with what I'm guessing would be baggy clothes, so that people would think it was just extra weight. Depending on the capaciousness of a woman's pelvis and her pre-pregnancy weight, keeping it a secret might work, but how messed up is it that we're in a situation in which pregnant women are so tempted to try to pass? Responses are mixed, some evidencing stunning misogyny:

I wouldn't hire someone visibly pregnant. Call it prejudiced, but they're just not going to be single-mindedly devoted to the position.

[. . .]

If you hire a women [sic] about to have a kid you can count on

1. erratic attendance at faculty meetings
2. sporadic participation in committee meetings
3. missed teaching assignments
4. (where relevant) no research activity

What you wind up with is an undependable faculty member that expect [sic] special treatment at the expense of her colleagues. Everyone else has to pick up the slack for the "new mom". What galls me is this new mom has the unmitigated gall to expect a different standard for tenure!

A few years ago our (female) department head instituted a standing policy that no woman with a child under the age of two would be hired. period.

We have never regretted that policy...

[To be sure, some posters on the thread thought this guy wasn't for real. I hope they're right.]

Several sympathizers to the original poster's predicament are expressing the "it's their loss, not yours" and "you wouldn't have wanted that job anyway" arguments. Other posters point out that given the way job searches go, it's next to impossible to prove that pregnancy and/or parenthood was the cause of a woman's not getting hired. The consensus favors (not just in the original poster's case, but for any women who are pregnant or who have children) keeping that information concealed if possible. Is this all we can hope for -- hide it, their loss, not yours? Some of the responses on the thread are heartening, but for the most part, what a downer.

Linkage: mostly outrageous, but two bright spots

Via Copyfight: After a reporter for the Pensacola News-Journal revealed in an op-ed that "more than 10,000 children of Wal-Mart employees are in a Georgia health-care program, which costs the state's taxpayers nearly $10 million a year," and "31 percent of the patients at a North Carolina hospital were Wal-Mart employees on Medicaid," at least one northwest Florida Wal-Mart banned the sale of the PNJ but then lifted the ban. Still, that's pretty awful.

More awful is this story about how lousy U.S. family leave policies are in comparison to other countries (Via Ms. Musings).

The good news is, today's Chronicle has an article about orphan works, which I hope will raise some awareness among scholars about the obstructive qualities of copyright. From the article (link added):

In response to the U.S. Copyright Office's request for comments, Cornell University librarians added up the money and time spent clearing copyright on 343 monographs for a digital archive of literature on agriculture. Although the library has spent $50,000 and months of staff time calling publishers, authors, and authors' heirs, it has not been able to identify the owners of 58 percent of the monographs.

"In 47 cases we were denied permission, and this was primarily because the people we contacted were unsure whether they could authorize the reproduction or not," says Peter B. Hirtle, who monitors intellectual-property issues for Cornell's libraries. "Copyright is supposed to advance the sciences and arts, and this is copyright becoming an impediment to the sciences and arts."

Restrictions on using orphan works, often imposed by risk-averse lawyers at colleges and museums, affect scholarly work in ways large and small.

Right on to that! Finally, G Zombie has it on good authority (see last comment in thread) that an essay in support of blogging will be appearing in the Chronicle soon.

"The personal," disrupted

I think I just had, to use Sam's term, a duh-piphany. Let me explain. Michelle's comments here in response to the recent pair of articles claiming that blogging will hurt one's career ("the mere act of opening up could cost you a job") made me think all of a sudden about what Mike has been saying about personal writing, and I finally put my finger on something. I'm sure it's blindingly obvious to the rest of you, but here's my new understanding: Due in part to blogging and other kinds of quickly, easily, and widely disseminative self-publication that the internet makes possible, as well as a complex confluence of factors in the social and political milieu (shifting notions of public/private, to offer one example), and the market (imaginary rather than material capital, middle class' living paycheck to paycheck, carrying debt, depending more on the market's caprice*) the context and meaning of personal writing have changed. "The personal" is becoming a site of struggle. To put it another way, "opening up" is set in opposition to "corporate values,"** and I'll admit that "the demonization of the personal" is a strong phrase, but judging from the articles in the Chronicle (and the subsequent forum discussion) and The New York Times, the personal is obviously seen by a lot of people as being to a considerable extent verboten.

So "the personal," in composition theory, can be conceptualized in terms of rights, as something at stake to which students have a right, a right that they should exercise. In the current context, I think one could make a persuasive case for this.

Viewed in this manner, any personal writing, regardless of subject matter, is political precisely because of its status as "the personal," which is in a very dramatic political and economic sense being called into question.

* Not to say that living hand-to-mouth is anything new. I'm probably way off on this point. I'm thinking of stories like Prof. B.'s, just to provide a reference.

** Edited to clarify: not just "corporate values," but one's status or potential status as a producer, one's means to make a living, as well as the right to express publicly an identity other than "worker."

Looking for feminist activist (paid) work in the Twin Cities?

Apply for this position as a Grassroots Organizer with NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota.

Reading around

Three good essays I've read recently:

  1. Via Feministe and Strangechord, the article by Vandana Shiva in Ecologist Online. A couple of excerpts:

    If I grow my own food, and do not sell it, then this does not contribute to GDP, and so does not contribute towards ‘growth’. People are therefore perceived as poor if they eat the food they have grown rather than commercially produced and distributed processed junk foods sold by global agri-business. They are seen as poor if they live in self-built housing made form ecologically adapted natural materials like bamboo and mud rather than in cement houses. They are seen as poor if they wear garments manufactured from handmade natural fibres rather than synthetics. Yet sustenance living, which the rich West perceives as poverty, does not necessarily imply a low physical quality of life.

    [. . .]

    Because of dumping and trade liberalisation, farm prices in India are tumbling, meaning that the country’s peasants are losing $26 billion each year; this at a time when ‘development’ is all the while creating markets for costly seeds and agrichemicals. Unable to exist in the world that has been created for them, these now poverty-stricken peasants are committing suicide in their thousands. Patents on medicines increase the cost of Aids drugs from $200 to $20,000, and cancer drugs from $2,400 to $36,000, for a year’s treatment. Water is privatised and global corporations profit to the tune of $1 trillion by selling once free water to the poor. So, too, the $50 billion of ‘aid’ trickling North to South is but a tenth of the $500 billion being sucked South to North thanks to interest payments and other unjust mechanisms in the global economy imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.

    I'm much inclined to trust Shiva's expertise, but I'd be interested to know what sources those numbers came from. At any rate, it doesn't seem right to equate sustenance living with poverty. I would appreciate hearing a libertarian's take on Shiva's essay; I'm thinking here of that exchange between Laura and Megan McArdle a while back.

  2. What We Know, by Noam Chomsky. Good stuff that exposes some flaws in the reasoning of some occupants of positions of power. One example:

    In 1991, the chief economist of the World Bank wrote an internal memo on pollution, in which he demonstrated that the bank should be encouraging migration of polluting industries to the poorest countries. The reason is that “measurement of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality,” so it is rational for “health impairing pollution” to be sent to the poorest countries, where mortality is higher and wages are lowest. Other factors lead to the same conclusion, for example, the fact that “aesthetic pollution concerns” are more “welfare enhancing” among the rich. He pointed out, accurately, that the logic of his memo is “impeccable,” and any “moral reasons” or “social concerns” that might be adduced “could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization,” so they presumably cannot be relevant.

    The memo was leaked and elicited a storm of protest, typified by the reaction of Brazil’s secretary of the environment, who wrote him a letter saying that “your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane.” The secretary was fired, while the author of the memo became treasury secretary under President Clinton and is now the president of Harvard University.

  3. The Power and the Glory: Myths of American exceptionalism, by Howard Zinn. In it, Zinn historicizes "American exceptionalism," the idea that "the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary," reminding us that it's a long-standing tradition that goes way past the George W. Bush Administration. Chomsky's essay provides some other "okay, but we're exempt from this rule" examples and is a good complement to the Zinn piece. I'll confess, I haven't read any Zinn, but I'd guess that this essay (based on a talk he gave recently at MIT) is a standard representation of the other work he's done. Is that the case?
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