Monday, September 27, 2004

In honor of the prairie...errr...Wetlands

For those who have never been to central Illinois (you know, part of the state south of Chicago), the landscape consists of more than corn fields. Currently, there are prairie restoration projects going on all over the area. I find a lot of beauty in the native landscape of the prairie.

According to this article in the New York Times by Stephen Kinzer, there were also Wetlands here at one time (before farmers drained the land for farming). Now there is going to be a restoration of the Wetlands too, which is expected to be a fairly quick process. So before I graduate, I'll be able to go canoe on the restored Wetlands that are also contributing to cleaning up some of the chemical runoff from the fields. Cool.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Britain on the way to forgiveness? The eradication of Third World Debt

As reported in today's New York Times, Britain is apparently offering to pay off 10% of the Third World's debt, which is mostly owed to the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank. Britain has also challenged other wealthy, first world nations to pay their share. The article does note that Kerry has already promised to forgive some of the debt during his campaigning. As I was reading this, I thought, "What a lovely idea, lets see if it really happens".

While I already knew that the Third World is facing horrible debt, and that this is keeping many poor nations, particularly in Africa, from serving their own poor populations, one particular point in this article caught me off guard: The IMF has devalued its own gold reserves, saying that its worth $40 an ounce, while the market price is $400 an ounce. The IMF has more than enough gold to sell some off and forgive the debts. What confuses me about this debt is why the First World is so set on keeping Africa and other impoverished nations in poverty. In the long run, if Africa is able to improve its economy, and the standard of living of its population, the First World will benefit from having another area to produce goods, to trade with, etc. Or from an exploitive capitalist standpoint, more sweatshop laborers. I understand there are few more hurdles for African to jump, including overcoming corruption in government, and slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, boosting the economy could help with both of these hurdles too. Since I have actually done research on the AIDS epidemic, I can make the connection there: the standard of living in Africa gets better after the debt is forgiven because the government is spending more money on healthcare. People have more resources available for them, and can get treatment extending their life span if they are already infected with HIV, and obtain condoms and be advised how to avoid the virus by healthcare providers if they are not. Africans have longer, healthier lives, with fewer sick family members to care for. (Note: in countries where HIV prevalence rates are extremely high, HIV infected adults have to care for sick elderly parents, and their children, some of which are infected with HIV themselves. They don't have as much help from siblings because each sibling may be facing a similar dire situation.) Healthy workers are much more productive than sick workers, giving another boost to the economy.

In any case, I am interested to see what happens with Britain's promise, as well as if Kerry gets elected. Also, if anyone has more insight on the IMF and what their rational is for valuing their gold at only 10% of market value, please enlighten me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

American Indian people and representations of them

During the DNC I felt really horrible when they had the American Indians sing the "Star Spangled Banner" in their native language from their reservation. All I could see was colonization. I was already jaded, and this made it worse. What percent of American Indians are in poverty again? To me it was the wrong to use them as a symbol of wonderful multiculturalism. Then later, I was able to breathe easier after hearing Obama.

On our own campus the mascot is "Chief Illiniwek," which is a divisive issue that ultimately caused our campus to lose a great Chancellor, who still hasn't been replaced. The mascot is a white man (undergraduate) dressed up like a Lakota Souix Chief, who dances at half-times to a song written by a U of I band director. This is our dirty laundry.

There is a new museum in Washington D.C. for American Indian history. Only a generation ago it was common practice for American Indian children to go to boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their language.

The problem I have is with the various representations of American Indians as symbols, mascots, nostalgic peoples of long ago who occupied this land. Alongside of these representations is a huge abyss, the violent history associated with the building of the United States and removing the people in the way through whatever means necessary. This is too often never part of the discussion, which is why AIM was none too impressed with this new museum as that history is still not told. Not only missing is this history, but discussions of actual living breathing American Indians; they did not all get exterminated, nor are they a timeless relic of the "west".

This museum was partly to commemorate people who have been excluded from the nation's capitol and given a selective and partial history with regard to the nation. It serves as recognition for their cultures and the people still here today. But it doesn't erase the history it refuses to tell. This (along with poverty and self-serving uses of their representations) is why I was uncomfortable with the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner" and why the "Chief" is offensive, and why the museum is good, but shouldn't get too many people patting each other's backs. There's a lot of other work left to be done.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Soldier Demography

I've been wanting some statistics on the soldiers in Iraq. Since I'm working on my dissertation proposal, I don't have time to search for the data.

So, somebody looking for a paper to write for stats, or an op-ed to write (maybe if you get some really interesting results a paper to publish), I'm interested in the soldiers over there. What percent are career? What percent are citizen-soldiers, like National Guard? What's the racial, gender, socio-economic breakdowns? What are their ages? What percent are from rural, suburban, urban areas? Here's what I'm especially interested in knowing: What's the demographic profile of those dying? Who's getting injured? Is there a significant pattern? Then, all these same statistics run for the one's doing the war-making decisions, for a nice juxtaposition. My hypothesis is that there is a disproportionate number of rural Guardspersons dying. The juxtaposition would just highlight the obvious class issues. Also, I'd venture that there is a disproportionate number of persons of color represented the deaths compared to the entire population.

I would have a lot more questions to throw out if I had some numbers to look at. I'd be happy to share them if anyone would like to take this up. If I was teaching a stats class, I'd make this the class project, if the data was available and doesn't it have to be somewhere?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Colorblind Racism: Blocking the Vote

Bob Herbert has a column today on John Pappageorge's statement that the Detroit vote needs suppressed.

More than 80 percent of the population of Detroit is black. This is very well understood by John Pappageorge, who is white and a Republican state legislator in Michigan. "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote," said Mr. Pappageorge, "we're going to have a tough time in this election."

Oops! Republicans aren't supposed to actually say they want to suppress black votes. That's so retro. It's so Jim Crow. This is the 21st century, and the thing now is to do the dastardly deed, but never ever acknowledge it.


He's still not acknowledging outright that race has anything to do with the acceptability of forming a plan to suppress the Black Detroit vote. So even if this is racism, he's not a racist.* It's just political strate(r)gy right?

Herbert has a number for the Election Protection Coalition: 1-866-OUR-VOTE, in case we see vote blocking going on.

*Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has a book called Racism Without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States that seems pretty relevant here.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Open Letter to Bush by Brooke Campbell

"To Whom it May Concern,

I found out that my brother, Sergeant Ryan M. Campbell, was dead during a graduate seminar at Emory University on April 29, 2004. Immediately after a uniformed officer knocked at my mother's door to deliver the message that broke her heart, she called me on my cell phone. She could say nothing but "He's gone." I could say nothing but "No." Over and over again we chanted this refrain to each other over the phone as I made my way across the country to hold her as she wept.

I had made the very same trip in February, cutting classes to spend my brother's two weeks' leave from Baghdad with him. Little did I know then that the next time I saw him would be at Arlington National Cemetery. During those days in February, my brother shared with me his fear, his disillusionment, and his anger. "We had all been led to believe that Iraq posed a serious threat to America as well as its surrounding nations," he said. "We invaded expecting to find weapons of mass destruction and a much more prepared and well-trained Republican Guard waiting for us. It is now a year later, and alas, no weapons of mass destruction or any other real threat, for that matter."

Ryan was scheduled to complete his one-year assignment to Iraq on April 25. But on April 11, he emailed me to let me know not to expect him in Atlanta for a May visit, because his tour of duty had been involuntarily extended. "Just do me one big favor, ok?" he wrote. "Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you."

Last night, I listened to George W. Bush's live, televised speech at the Republican National Convention. He spoke to me and my family when he announced, "I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong."

This is my reply: Mr. President, I know that you probably still "don't do body counts," so you may not know that almost one thousand U.S. troops have died doing what you told them they had to do to protect America. Ryan was Number 832. Liberty was, indeed, precious to the one I lost-- so precious that he would rather have gone to prison than back to Iraq in February. Like you, I don't know where the strength for "such pride" on the part of people "so burdened with sorrow" comes from; maybe I spent it all holding my mother as she wept. I last saw my loved one at the Kansas City airport, staring after me as I walked away. I could see April 29 written on his sad, sand-chapped and sunburned face. I could see that he desperately wanted to believe that if he died, it would be while "doing good," as you put it. He wanted us to be able to be proud of him. Mr. President, you gave me and my mother a folded flag instead of the beautiful boy who called us "Moms" and "Brookster." But worse than that, you sold my little brother a bill of goods. Not only did you cheat him of a long meaningful life, but you cheated him of a meaningful death. You are in my prayers, Mr. President, because I think that you need them more than anyone on the face of the planet. But you will never get my vote.

So to whom it may concern: Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you.

Sincerely,
Brooke M. Campbell
Atlanta, GA "

For more information click here.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

There's nothing to fear...

I was surprised to hear Dick Cheney's comments that Americans should be afraid of another terrorist attack if John Kerry gets elected. I don't like the idea that Cheney is using threats and fear to profer votes from people. Let me remind you that this is the administration that already has one terrorist attack on their record and there is evidence that Bush knew about the possibility of a terrorist attack days before 9/11 (and perhaps could have prevented it). And now I'm supposed to "fear" what will happen if George W Bush doesn't get elected again. Thanks, but no thanks Dick Cheney. I think that I will take my chances.
As we come upon the anniversary of a tragic event in our history I have to ask, how has the Bush administration fought the war on terror? We heard about duct tape and the need for bottled water, we have a terror alert color system (which from what I understand doesn't actually change how people live their lives but just acts as a constant reminder of the "threat" of a terrorist attack), "advanced" airport security and an unrelated war in another country. Yes, I feel so much safer now. Need I remind Dick Cheney what his running mate said a week earlier? GW believes that the war on terror will never end. So what am I supposed to fear? If the war on terror is ongoing, then why not see what will happen if we elect someone else?
One of the famous quotes from the Great Depression is FDR's statement that "There is nothing to fear but fear itself" and I believe that Americans are a group of people who do not want to be led by fear. I hope that they take a stand this November and prove the truth in this statement.

More on the Futility of the Corporate Media: Not Stating the Obvious

This article discusses the same issue I've been having with the media, the double standards in their treatment of Bush and Kerry. While the Bush administration has fed the media the "flip flopper" lines, and they have swallowed them whole, they haven't looked at those same assertions when it comes to Bush. And all they would have to do is state the obvious: Enemy #1 moves from Osama bin Laden to Sadam Hussein, focus on War on Terror becomes War on Iraq, reasons for said war moves from weapons of mass destruction to "he killed his own people" (ahem, while the U.S. looked the other way). Further, they also don't hone in on the biggest issue of comparison, which is what's worse, changing one's mind, or flat out policies of misinformation to lead the public into going along with them. Misinformation about potential of nuclear weapons development, misinformation about how much was known prior to 9/11 about potential terror attacks, and finally even more misinformation on Abu Ghraib.

Why can't we call a liar a liar?

UPDATE:I have to give Paul Krugman credit. He has been speaking out all along. In today's op-ed he supports my argument that W is liar (or a non-truth-teller) even more.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Over 1,000 Soldiers Killed in Iraq

First, take a look at Brian's post at Pub Sociology about these deaths.

After “Mission Accomplished” was announced by President Bush, more soldiers have died in Iraq than prior to the utterance of those words. Over 1000 soldiers have died in Iraq. Two from around my hometown yesterday. The same company to which my brother is returning today after his two-week leave. Estimates of Iraqi deaths, mostly civilian, are around 13,000.

I am a member of Military Families Speak Out. These soldiers dying are real people with real families. So as Brian says, sometimes I do have an inclination to grab someone (in spite of my own nonviolent aspirations) who speaks about the war flippantly. I don't have a sense of humor about any of this. Bush’s indefinite wars, and the one consistency in his administration, misinformation, has to be voted out in November. Anything else will be read as a mandate on his policies and it has already cost us too many lives all around. The media characterization of Kerry as a “flip flopper” is telling of the mainstream media’s futility at conducting thoughtful analysis given the lack of comparison with Bush's own prevarications and hedging of the facts.

I have no earth shattering analysis to make sense of these losses. There is no sense to be made. But I do hope that you vote.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Path for Transsexual Marriages in Japan?

On July 16, 2004, the Japanese government has enacted a new law entitled "Sei Doitsu Shogaisha no Seibetsu Toriatukai no Tokurei ni Kansuru Horitu [the law regarding the issue of GID (Gender Identity Disorder) patients' sex ]". Basically, this law allows GID patients to change the description of their biological sex on the family registry form (Koseki Tohon). The law only includes singles with no childern and who have undergone medical and mental treatment in the past, meaning that the person has had "mental disorder" because of being transgender and had a surgery to change his/her original biological sex to the other. OK, I have a lot of things to say about this law, but I'll skip that part. Otherwise, it's going to be too long. Anyhow, Okinawa, Hiroshima and Tokyo Katei Saibansho (a domestic court -- one type of lower court that deals with divorces, juvenile deviance, etc., it is a place for negotiation and not for accusation) approved some applicants' allegation to change the description of their biological sex in the family registry form.
Well, what's so important about this? To file a marriage in Japan, you need to submit family registry forms (1 from each person) along wit the marriage form to the municipal office. A family registry form shows the track of your family members, such as name, age, the place of birth, relation to the head of household, and sex (the submission of this form is still very controversial, because one can easily detect his/her national origin, social class, etc.). Technically speaking, as long as the sex on the family registry form is the opposite sex, i.e. one is from a male and the other is from a female, there is no legal barrier for transsexuals to gain a legally sanctioned marriage. I haven't seen such cases yet, but I think we'll see them in the near future.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Why are we launching pre-emptive strikes against Americans?

After reading article after article about the arrests of protestors in NYC, I have to ask myself, "Why are we launching pre-emptive strikes on Americans?". In a front page New
York Times' article, writers noted how police have been trying to stop protests before they even start. As if W.'s pre-emptive strike in Iraq was not enough, now it seems to be okay for those in power to launch an offensive before an event happens on the streets on New York. While I think we all agree that the NYPD must keep the city secure and in working order, are the 1,000 arrests that have been made since the RNC began necessary? Are the unsanitary and inhumane conditions which people are being detained in necessary? I highly doubt it. Last I checked we lived in a country where peaceful protests were not a threat to national security. Thank you George W. Bush for taking away some of the freedom that you are allegedly trying to bring to other areas of the world.

"Let Freedom Reign"(?)

I watched Dick Cheney's speech last night. While, I wasn't surprised by anything he said, I was surprised by some of the signs in crowd reading "Let Freedom Reign". Reign? Even Sean Hannity's book is titled, Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism. After a google search, I found that "let freedom reign" was the phrase penned by Bush after the "transfer of power"* in Iraq occured. This occurred around a time when I could viscerally take only so much of the Bush rhetoric, so it makes sense that I missed it.

So I'm going to deconstruct this phrase a bit now. I'll just use dictionary definitions to make my points.

Reign:
\Reign\ (r[=a]n), n. [OE. regne, OF. reigne, regne, F. r[`e]gne, fr. L. regnum, fr. rex, regis, a king, fr. regere to guide, rule. See Regal, Regimen.] 1. Royal authority; supreme power; sovereignty; rule; dominion...

2. The territory or sphere which is reigned over; kingdom; empire; realm; dominion. [Obs.] --Spenser...

3. The time during which a king, queen, or emperor possesses the supreme authority; as, it happened in the reign of Elizabeth...

[Free Trial - Merriam-Webster Unabridged.

reign

\Reign\ (r?n), v. i. [imp. & p. p. Reigned (r?nd); p. pr. & vb. n. Reigning.] [OE. regnen, reinen, OF. regner, F. r['e]gner, fr. L. regnare, fr. regnum. See Reign, n.] 1. To possess or exercise sovereign power or authority; to exercise government, as a king or emperor;; to hold supreme power; to rule. --Chaucer...

2. Hence, to be predominant; to prevail. ``Pestilent diseases which commonly reign in summer.'' --Bacon.

3. To have superior or uncontrolled dominion; to rule.

Syn: To rule; govern; direct; control; prevail.

[Free Trial - Merriam-Webster Unabridged.]

reign

n 1: a period during which something or somebody is dominant or powerful; "he was helpless under the reign of his egotism" 2: the period during which a monarch is sovereign; "during the reign of Henry VIII" 3: royal authority; the dominion of a monarch [syn: sovereignty] v 1: have sovereign power; "Henry VIII reigned for a long time" 2: be larger in number, quantity, power, status or importance; "Money reigns supreme here"; "Hispanics predominate in this neighborhood" [syn: predominate, dominate, rule, prevail]


O.k. now for freedom:
freedom

\Free"dom\ (fr[=e]"d[u^]m), n. [AS. fre['o]d[=o]m; fre['o]free + -dom. See Free, and -dom.] 1. The state of being free; exemption from the power and control of another; liberty; independence...

2. Privileges; franchises; immunities...

3. Exemption from necessity, in choise and action; as, the freedom of the will.

4. Ease; facility; as, he speaks or acts with freedom.

5. Frankness; openness; unreservedness...

6. Improper familiarity; violation of the rules of decorum; license.

7. Generosity; liberality. [Obs.] --Chaucer...

Syn: See Liberty.

[Free Trial - Merriam-Webster Unabridged.]

freedom

n 1: the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints 2: immunity from an obligation or duty [syn: exemption]


Clearly, these terms are diametrically opposed. Freedom does not reign by definition, and any reign defies freedom. So what is reigning if not freedom? Well, this question opens a huge can of worms, but one word could encapsulate most of it, imperialism. And while I'm at it,
imperialism

n 1: a policy of extending your rule over foreign countries 2: a political orientation that advocates imperial interests 3: any instance of aggressive extension of authority

Even Sean Hannity didn't conflate freedom with some sort of reign directly. He inserted a colon. So Bush decided, no colons necessary; let freedom reign. I try to stay away from Orwellian comparisons, but come on? Doublespeak?

And the most disturbing part of it all was that there were many people holding these signs and cheering the empty rhetoric and attacks spouted by Cheney. For about a half hour last night, I wished I'd never read 1984.

*yes, these are scare quotes.