Tuesday, November 30, 2004

More On Casualties: Paris, IL

My hometown made the CBS Evening News for the same reason it's been making news other places, citizen-soldiers dying. Here is the internet version of the story.

The clips they showed on CBS presented the "quaint" little downtown. But they failed to show the downtown shops--they only showed the signs above--out of business, vacated, or the 24-hour Super(!)Walmart that helped put them out of business.

Why would they tell the story of how half of all the deaths for Illinois have come from the Paris National Guard unit, the 1544th Transportation Company, and not show the struggling economy of the community, in fact specifically obscure it. Why does being "quaint" trump economic hardship? Is it easier to sympathize with a "quaint" "all-American" town, than a struggling small community? I guess. I doubt most of them want sympathy. They want their kids and partners home, or they are the "superpatriots" who whill sacrifice everything willingly.

Although Paris is rural, the mayor was quoted as saying it was time for the 1544th, noncombat unit, to come home. They are transportation.

Update: To find the actual story you have to search for Paris at CBS News

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sociologist and Blogger in the Washington Post

Brian G., ASA dissertation award winner and blogger for Pub Sociology, is now also a public sociologist extraordinaire. He has an opinion piece today in the Washington Post in which he puts the casualties and injuries in Iraq into social and historical context.

In Brian's own words:
More than 1,200 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq so far. In the face of rising casualties, polls taken throughout the election season revealed the public's discomfort with our progress in Iraq but gave little indication of weakening support for the mission. This ambivalence about the war's human costs reflects perhaps both a belief in the cause for which our troops are fighting and a perception that in the aggregate their sacrifices -- while always tragic on an individual level -- are historically light. A glance at earlier wars seemingly confirms this latter sentiment. Compared with the more than 405,000 American personnel killed in World War II and the 58,000 killed in Vietnam, Iraq hardly seems like a war at all.

But focusing on how few military deaths we've suffered conceals the difficulty of the mission and the determination of the forces arrayed against the American presence in Iraq. A closer look at these deaths -- 1,232 as I write -- reveals a real rate of manpower attrition that raises questions about our ability to sustain our presence there in the long run.

Seriously, read the article. This is an example of what good sociological analysis can add to a public debate.

Update: Brayden has a good follow-up post regarding exit strategies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Grant Proposal Writing

I'm new to grant proposal writing. I've written my outline, and I'm ready to try to convince them as to why they should fund my research. Any good advice seasoned fellowship writers?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

In honor of World Peace Day: Arundhati Roy Speech

Here is Arundhati Roy's Sydney Peace prize speech.


For those who are materially well-off, but morally uncomfortable, the first question you must ask yourself is do you really want to climb out of it? How far are you prepared to go? Has the crevasse become too comfortable?

If you really want to climb out, there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that the advance party began the climb some time ago. They're already half way up. Thousands of activists across the world have been hard at work preparing footholds and securing the ropes to make it easier for the rest of us. There isn't only one path up. There are hundreds of ways of doing it. There are hundreds of battles being fought around the world that need your skills, your minds, your resources. No battle is irrelevant. No victory is too small.

The bad news is that colorful demonstrations, weekend marches and annual trips to the World Social Forum are not enough. There have to be targeted acts of real civil disobedience with real consequences. Maybe we can't flip a switch and conjure up a revolution. But there are several things we could do. For example, you could make a list of those corporations who have profited from the invasion of Iraq and have offices here in Australia. You could name them, boycott them, occupy their offices and force them out of business. If it can happen in Bolivia, it can happen in India. It can happen in Australia. Why not?

That's only a small suggestion. But remember that if the struggle were to resort to violence, it will lose vision, beauty and imagination. Most dangerous of all, it will marginalize and eventually victimize women. And a political struggle that does not have women at the heart of it, above it, below it, and within it is no struggle at all.

The point is that the battle must be joined. As the wonderful American historian Howard Zinn put it: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Sorry Everybody

Sorry Everybody. I know this is how many sincerely feel - very heartfelt. In that sense, this site is nice example of a growing international consciousness; other ways it's weird (see for yourself-people in MA claiming to be the same as the rest of the world with a picture of their white Cape Cod and well manicured yard). Either way it's interesting.

Common Dreams has an article on this phenomenon.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Hail, Instructors!

I have a new found respect for instructors who come up with their own lectures for multiple classes a week. I guess lectured for the first time, coming up with my own lecture notes anyway, yesterday. It was a good experience and fun, but it took me many hours to come up with a 1 hour lecture! How do you people do it and get anything else done? I've been in my comfortable teaching assistant role, where I just explain everything the second time. Lecturing from your own notes is a whole different story. My respects to you instructors.

The class I lectured for was sociological theory. I covered Anna Julia Cooper and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, two of the more inspiring sociological analysts for me. Here is a quote from Cooper I shared with the class.

“Progressive peace in a nation is the result of conflict; and conflict, such as is healthy, stimulating, and progressive, is produced through the co-existence of radically opposing or radically different elements” (Cooper 1892).

I take solace from her words given the apparent cultural and political divides we're experiencing today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Union Shaking things up with the AFL-CIO

Anyone remember sociologists at the ASA this past summer in the Hilton chanting slogans for the hotel workers' rights?

It appears that service workers are the largest and fastest growing workers to unionize. The president of the service workers union is demanding the AFL-CIO get some new innovative strategies to increase union membership. Let the hellraising begin.
The New York Times > National > Largest Union Issues Call for Major Changes

Monday, November 08, 2004

Stateline.org: 50-state rundown on gay marriage laws..

Here is an article on the variation between the 50 states' laws on gay marriage. It seems the federal constitutional amendment is going to come up again. This may be the first big issue. I need to read up on my queer studies to be better equipped with the research as the backlash becomes more and more exigent. Any suggestions?
Stateline.org: 50-state rundown on gay marriage laws..

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Breathe out the panic. Now, breathe in calm. Repeat…over and over until the shallow, hard-to-breathe feeling resembling a panic attack is over.

We all deserve hand wringing and some panic. The bleakness of what appears to be a GOP takeover will be hard for people to take, especially when they start making policy. But after we have sufficiently indulged ourselves in despair, we have to get some perspective. If we all move to Canada who is going to clean up this mess? Are we just going to leave it for the most vulnerable populations to take?

We're going to have to make sure they (the people apparently still in control) can't shut us up in the name of falsely "uniting the country." I think the best course of action is a stance where we start defining the debates based on our critiques of the facts of bigoted policies that hinder the rights of our fellow citizens, policies that increasingly make the most vulnerable even worse off, and try to stay focused (as hard as it will be for me) leaving Bush's personal idiocy aside.

It’s time to raise hell (i.e. help people think critically by looking at facts). Maybe we can seriously mobilize those who still see hypocrisy as problematic and those who will be most affected by this election (especially those who voted against their own economic interests). This is still our government, governing in our name. Our voices have to be heard. Voter turnout was in record numbers (conservatives apparently came out in droves). The student vote was way up, which is encouraging; our students were taking a stand. We have Obama (a classic Weberian charismatic leader and force to be reckoned with) from IL and Salazar from CO.

I still am open to more suggestions on novels whose reality to which I can periodically escape. We have to remember to breathe, and help each other through these next four years.