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20 January 2009 @ 02:49 pm
Argh, I was scoring a student placement test during the Oath of Office and the speech. Student X, WHY mst you ALWAYS take up twenty times as long as everyone else, and then defer your decision AGAIN, and then get angry with me when your options have narrowed? Next term I am not putting up with this. Neither is the Registrar.

Anyway ...the rest of the time I have been listening to the radio coverage. All I can say is YES!!! And please, let everyone work together. I know the shiny will be off soon enough. I am not waiting for, as xstinebee said, my box of puppies and rainbows. But looking at the faces of my students, of the Target clerk when I said, "THIS is a GOOD day," of the people in my neighborhood who have been walking oh, just a little straighter since 11/04 .... Please, let's start from there and end in triumph for all of us.
18 January 2009 @ 12:11 am
This is reposted from a comment I made on txanne's journal about the recent discussions of racism and privilege. The discussion -- largely substantive and thoughtful, and uncomfortable in the way that means growth is happening--has been making me think a good bit.


In my history class last term we were talking about imperialism and colonialism, and I was trying to get my students to comprehend why many Europeans and Americans could not only accept colonial justifications, but do so thinking they truly were doing a good thing. (I pointed out that comprehending why someone thought something was not the same thing as agreeing with those ideas or personally accepting them, but that figuring out past world-views and perspectives is an important part of historical practice.)

Uniformly, of course, the students were scornful. Imposing one's perspective on people of another country and ethnicity was just wrong and had to have been done with full knowledge of how self-serving it was. So I asked them -- many of them current or ex-military (themselves or their spouses) -- if it was right to spread democracy throughout the Middle East by invading Iraq. "Yes, of course!" said most. "They're so backward--look at how they treat women, and they need better medical care, and ...." "No, it was oil," said a couple, but others said, "Yes, we have to keep the Muslim terrorists from hurting good Christians." (I am not joking about this response. I wanted to ask whether it was okay to hurt bad Christians, but mercifully put a brake on my mouth.) One woman looked troubled, and she said that *she* was a Muslim, and wasn't a terrorist. The group worried about "Muslim" terrorists said that of course *she* wasn't bad, but that "they" were out to get "us."

I let it run on for a while, and then asked them how thinking that Western ideas about democracy and human interaction, medicine, and law were superior to Middle Eastern practices was different from being a nineteenth century person convinced that European morals, laws, medicine, and social practices were superior to those of other people? One group just said that there was a clear difference, and only liberals couldn't see it. A larger group thought for a moment, and then looked rueful, saying that they weren't liberal but that they couldn't see much of a difference; and the two groups argued for a bit about whether there was a dividing line between imperialism and "making the world safe for democracy" or not (they concluded very reluctantly that no, there wasn't.) So then I gave them a quick and dirty history of imperialism in the Middle East, and asked if the issue was Islam or extremism or continuing covert imperialism, and they debated that. I pointed out some of the ways that current media employ gendered language (and age-related language) to belittle Iraqis, compared that to the language nineteenth and twentieth century dominant cultures used to talk about members of other cultures, and quoted "Darlin' Cora" to them ("Been working for my pay for a long, long time -- why does he still call me "boy?")

This is a very long anecdote to illustrate how far everyone has to go, as well as how insidious racial issues are. Privileged white internet chick that I am, I am aware of being othered because of my gender, but I can be blind to the ways I replicate that othering to members outside the dominant culture. But some of those people replicate that othering to people outside their religion or world view, and are blind to that. Is "us" versus "them" hardwired into our brains? If it is, that isn't an excuse. It means we have even more of a responsibility to keep on being aware and to change our behavior, but it also means that nobody automatically gets the moral high ground.


I should add that descriptions of discussions always leave out the awkward places where nobody says anything, or where people are thinking out loud, or don't get my question; they leave out the places where I was confusing, spoke too soon, or (metaphorically) shoved rather than nudged and guided. In other words, just a bunch of adults, a largely black class and one privileged white chick sitting on her desk at the front, kicking around an idea and trying not to let the walls we create like race, gender, even not-so-invisible professorial authority kill that idea. (One of the things I do the first day of class is ask why they are there, and say that "because I had to" is a legitimate answer. The first person to say it always looks a little shamefaced, and I grin, and by the end of it they've figured out that they *can* tell me they hate history and I won't get pissy and hold it against them. I hope that sets the tone for the rest of class, and it usually does--they'll tell me when they think I'm full of it (the first time tentatively, and more boldly when I don't get mad), but I am not so naive as to think it eliminates all power imbalances.
04 November 2008 @ 11:08 pm
297 electoral votes. YES! We have done it!!

Now: whatever you pray to or invoke for the good, have it hold PRESIDENT OBAMA in its hand--he will need it. It's going to be a rough road.

04 November 2008 @ 10:29 pm
Just got back from class .. OMG, people, LOOK at the electoral map!!!! *dancing happy dance*
03 November 2008 @ 01:54 pm
1. Stop talking about politics for a moment or two.
2. Post a reasonably-sized picture in your LJ, NOT under a cut tag, of something pleasant, such as an adorable kitten, or a fluffy white cloud, or a bottle of booze. Something that has NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICS.
3. Include these instructions, and share the love.

23 October 2008 @ 03:57 pm
From "Reinventing the American Dream," by Christopher Jencks, in the Chronicle Review, 17 October 2008, B6-B8.

"...[One] version of the American Dream emphasizes talent and effort. It favors freedom and opposes government regulation. And it belongs to the Republican Party.
"Democrats have another version of the American Dream: Everyone who works hard and behaves responsibly can achieve a decent standard of living. ... still, more and more people achieved this dream between 1945 and 1970, so the Democratic version of the American Dream had broader appeal than the Republican version, in which a smaller number of people could get much richer.
"Since the early 1970s, however, all that has changed.
"The American economy has been under siege. Real per-capita disposable income has continued to grow, but the average annual increase has fallen, from 2.7 percent between 1947 and 1973 to 1.8 percent between 1973 and 2005. ....
"What transformed the political landscape was not the slowdown in growth, but the distributional change that accompanied it. From 1947 to 1973, the purchasing power of those in the bottom 95 percent of the income distribution rose at the same rate as per capita disposable income, about 2.7 percent a year. Among the families in the top 5 percent, the growth rate was 2.2 percent. From 1973 to 2006, however, the average annual increase in the purchasing power of the bottom 95 percent was only .6 percent. The top five percent, in contrast, managed to maintain annual growth of 2.0 percent, which was almost the same as what they enjoyed before 1973.
"That's a lot of numbers, but what my students at the Kennedy School call the "take-away" is pretty simple: After 1973, when economic growth slowed, America had a choice. We could have tried to share the pain equally by maintaining the social contract under which living standards had risen at roughly the same rate among families at all levels. Or we could have treated the slowdown in growth as evidence that the Democratic version of the American Dream didn't work, and that we should try the Republican version, in which we all look out for ourselves, some people get rich, and most get left behind.
"We chose the Republican option."

The author continues by pointing out that members of both parties supported the switch, largely because of emphasis on "skill-biased technological change" as the basis of economic inequality. He argues that it was at base a correct claim, but that more analysis was needed to keep the basic charge (we need more skilled workers) from being misleading. He points to the stagnation of workers' education since 1973 and the growth of available unskilled labor, both of which put a squeeze on available jobs for the average worker. As a country we neither encouraged education or unionization, nor protected these people's incomes.

Increasing worker education is a form of regulating the economy, Jencks admits, which is something many people are reluctant to do because they argue that it keeps job growth slow and costs high. Jencks points to governmental growth statistics which show the annual growth is only 1/10 a point higher than in countries which do regulate the economy as Germany, France, and other countries do. However, regulation has come to be seen as synonymous with "poorly thought out rules" which achieve the opposite effect of their goals.

Neither dream, Jencks concludes, can be maintained. We could have made a go of the Democratic dream, but no longer. "They both focus heavily on income and material consumption. The idea that we can keep raising our material standard of living without making most of the planet too hot for human habitation is, I think, mistaken. Even the idea that we have 20 or 30 years to make the necessary adjustments appears wrongheaded.

"So I'm afraid reinventing the American Dream really means trying to wean ourselves from the illusion that we all need and deserve more stuff. If we are to survive, we need a different definition of progress. That definition will need to focus on human needs like physical health, material security, individual freedom, and time to play with our children and smell the roses.
"I'm not saying that material goods are unimportant. People need food to sustain them, a home in which they can afford to live until they die, and medical advice when they are sick. But I'm not sure people my age (71) need a million dollar machine to keep us alive another year or two. And I am quite sure that most of us could live without 85 percent of the stuff we buy in places other than grocery stores and gas stations.
"An American Dream that doesn't destroy the planet will have to involve a more-equal distribution of basic material goods. It will also have to involve more emphasis on the quality of the services we consume than on the quality of our possessions. Perhaps most important, it will have to involve more emphasis on what we can do for others and less emphasis on what we can get for ourselves.
"There's just one small problem. I have no idea how to get from here to there. That makes me a pessimist."
19 September 2008 @ 04:07 pm
This seemed reasonable to me
clipped from lifehacker.com

1. Do one thing at a time
2. Know the problem
3. Learn to listen
4. Learn to ask questions
5. Distinguish sense from nonsense
6. Accept change as inevitable
7. Admit mistakes
8. Say it simple
9. Be calm
10. Smile

 blog it
16 April 2008 @ 04:03 pm
I try to keep my commercial activities OFF this blog; this blog is for friends. but I know all of you are supporting tapestrymlp in her efforts to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I am having a sale in my ETSY store this weekend -- 20% off everything ONLY for people who donate through Team Cassiebug!

Etsy Supplies Street Team Sale April 17-20

I support my friend Jenn in her efforts to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Here's a film clip of her daughter, Cassidy, who has CF: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6LSvll769U From April 17-April 20, if you donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through Team Cassiebug, I will give you a shop-wide 20% discount on all beads. You can be an Angel Walker, walk in the Great Strides event in May, or just donate through Team Cassiebug, here: http://cassiebug.jcracek.com/great_strides.php

Just give me your donation info in a convo or email labelled TEAM CASSIEBUG, and I will revise your invoice or, if you have already paid, refund 20% of your purchases.
10 April 2008 @ 10:50 am
From JEnn:

The first set of auctions to benefit the CF Foundation is ending TODAY and most of the stuff is going very, very cheap. In some cases the price is BELOW that of the materials! Nip on over if you haven't and take a look, consider picking something up - all proceeds are going to a great cause! Please help out Team Cassiebug and help find a cure for CF!

You can find them here: http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZtappymlp

The second set of auctions will be up on Saturday (4/12).

I have pimped the auction wherever I can think of that allows it, and STUMBLED Julie's blog and mine, as well as every single Team Cassiebug page.




Please bid, people; most items aren't going for the cost of MATERIALS, let alone raising good money.
17 February 2008 @ 12:53 pm
More beadspam, under the cut to preserve space and connection time! I've been making disc beads and playing with bright, bright colors.

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