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September 2008

Banned Books Week

Bbwposter2006thumbnail Sept. 27th through Oct. 3rd is Banned Books Week. This is the American Library Association's (ALA) 27th year fighting book censorship in this country and that's shameful in any democracy. Considering the fact that the GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin asked her town's librarian about both the procedures for and response to requests to ban books, I thought it was doubly important to bring it up here this year. Ostensibly, these were "theoretical" discussions, but in a country where we supposedly have freedom of speech and freedom to read there are no procedures for banning books (why would you think there were any?) and the only reasonable response to such a request is "Are you nuts, lady? Just put it back on the shelf! Nobody's making you read it." There is no theory. Even asking such questions evinces a dangerous desire to keep other people from reading something you don't like. Saying these were only theoretical discussions does not somehow make those discussions less dangerous or less appalling. Sadly, Sarah Palin isn't the only person in the country who thinks they have a right to tell you what to read.

Libraries and librarians are the front line of defense against all kinds of censorship, and that includes computer access, such as banning children from accessing social networking sites at public libraries. (H/T to Resource Shelf). Librarians and indie book store owners, and writers were three of the few groups to stand fast against the Patriot Act's sweeping intrusions to protect the rights of readers.

And during Banned Books Week, spare a thought for many of the writers suffering imprisonment in other countries for writing what they think or feel or believe. Many are prisoners of conscience or continually harassed for speaking truth to power. Amnesty International has a list of them who need your support, and suggestions about what you can do. Click the link at the beginning of this paragraph. Banning books is first step on the slippery slope to imprisoning writers.

Closer to home, urge your congressional representative to support a bill coming up in congress that would protect American citizens from libel judgments levied against them in other countries, most notably Great Britain, where the libel laws are ridiculously liberal. You can learn more about the situation here, and more about the bill here. New York recently enacted such a law, but it needs to be national to curb the "chilling effect" the threat of libel suits have on publishing houses.

And finally, Here are the ten most banned books for 2007:

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One World, One Web


Today is One Web Day, which is sort of like Earth Day for the Web. I'm blogging about it because (a) the web has become a huge part of my life and (b) it's facing some dangerous challenges right now that I think are important to address. Without the web, I would not have found the community of book artists whose work has inspired me so much in the past couple of years. Without the web, I would not have been able to learn as much on my own as easily as I have. Sure, there are always books, but where else can you find videos and attend workshops in your pajamas from the comfort of your own home, for free or a nominal fee?

I would not have the network of fellow fans to read and post fiction with, or the outlets of my two blogs for my own writing. At least a couple of my poems would not have seen the light of day if not for the Web journals that published them. My first piece of professional fiction was published by a webzine, Strange Horizons. I can't even begin to list the things I've learned about on the Web from bookbinding techniques to Zen Buddhism practices. Not to mention how easy the Internet has made it to keep up with my far-flung network of friends, or the new friends I've made because of it.

Sadly, if Big Business has its way, all that may change. I'll let SaveTheInternet.com explain:

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Attention Science Geeks!

My pals, mutual spousal units Sean Carroll (CalTech Physicist, Cosmic Variance) and Jennifer Ouellette (Science Writer, Cocktail Party Physics) talk about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and what it hopes to find (not, of course, mini black holes that will devour the earth, you idiots!) in language we can all understand. And they're so cute and smart!

Watch and learn:

On top of that,

. . . apparently I'm a Socialist. Wouldn't Dad be surprised! I'm down there in the Gandhi quadrant, which I think is not a bad place to be. Maybe I should move to Holland. I could probably get a grant to make books there.

            You are a    
     Social Liberal    
     (80% permissive)
     and an...    

      Economic Liberal      
     (11% permissive)
     You are best described as a:

Link: The Politics Test    on  Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

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Isn't This an Oxymoron?

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Social Nerd

You're interested in things such as politics, psychology, child care, and peace. I wouldn't go so far as to call you a hippie, but some of you may be tree-huggers. You're the type of people who are interested in bettering the world. You're possible the least nerdy of them all; unless you participate in other activies that paled your nerdiness compared to your involvement in social activities. Whatever the case, we could still use more of you around.  ^_^

Literature Nerd
Drama Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Artistic Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Anime Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

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Sick_tired_moiAs my LJ pals would say, "Blargh." F-ing cold. I have no voice, which means, obviously, that I cannot teach tonight. This really irks me, as it's one of the high points of my week right now, plus it throws off the syllabus and makes life a pain in the arse for everyone, since we have to schedule a make-up class. fortunately, my hero, Andy Baker, volunteered to sub for me so there would be no make-up class. I owe him a big one. This is one of those colds that's teetering on the edge of becoming bronchitis, which I'd rather not have it do, and which would, in the end, only take longer to get over. So. No class for me tonight. Crap. I miss my students!

The only up side to this is I have a legitimate excuse to lie in bed and read, rather than just being a lazy sod, although at some point I need to retrieve my laundry and get some more bagels, and a few other things to make edible, sinus-clearing food with.

Context is Everything

YipemoiSo what do you think this was about:

Man on cell: Oh... Oh shit... Well, can't you just take a wire hanger and pull it out? Yeah, just stick the hanger in and pull it right out! Okay? Okay. Bye.

--Staten Island Ferry, Overheard by: marge (Overheard in NY)

Still sick. It's all in my head yet (yeah, right) which is better than being in my lungs, but teaching is going to be fun tomorrow night. I just had to post this. I keep telling myself, "hey, it could be about losing a ring down the drain, or locking your keys in the car, or, or, ANYTHING BUT THAT! And yet, why do I fear it's not? Which is testament to the fact that mention of wire hangers doesn't make most women think of Joan Crawford. And perhaps also to the stupid, asshat things men have been known to say when women they're boinking come up pregnant.

I really hope it's something lost down the drain. Something like . . . the economy.

Isn't Education Compulsory?


Not to Mention Spidey-Sense

Woman #1: So, how are you holding up?
Woman #2: You know, doing the best I can, using the five senses.
Woman #1: There's six senses.
Woman #2: No there's five: walking, talking, breathing, reading and writing.
Woman #1: What about seeing?
Woman #2: Well yeah, there's also fire, wood, air, and water; but I don't know why they don't count those.

--B68 Bus

Jayzus on toast.

Overheard in New York [hat tip to deadcat vagrant over on LJ]

Sorry, this is all I'm capable of right now. I've got a cold and have been snuffling around all day after not sleeping last night. I'll be a better blogger soon, I promise.

And While We're At It

AdjunctsbigFound this over on the Northland Poster Collective, while I was looking for that Sarah Palin button. It's a little hard to see, but I've put a smaller version in my sidebar and wanted to explain it here. It's a poster of adjunct faculty, like me; the one on the left is holding a sign that says "will teach 4 food" and the guy in the middle is holding one that says "Adjunct Faculty--Please Help." The third one is selling pencils for a nickel.

What's this about? It's about the fact that in the corporate model of education, many introductory level courses are taught by non-tenured faculty with no benefits, who are paid approximately $20-$40 and hour for each hour of class they teach. That works out to around $2,000, per course, if you're lucky. This completely discounts any hours they spend preparing for class, grading papers, or holding whatever minimal office hours they may hold. Most don't hold office hours at all because, well, they don't have an office, not even a shared one. Most don't have health insurance and most only have a job from semester to semester, often at two or three different places. It's a little like being an itinerant farm worker, only the labor is not literally backbreaking and nobody sprays us with pesticides (at least not yet).

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9/11, Seven Years On: One Good Eye

911moiSeven years after two jetliners hit the Twin Towers, people are still dying from it.

In one go, almost 3,000 people died there in the towers and the planes that hit them, incinerated, blown apart, crushed, choked or leaping to their deaths to avoid the flames. Forty died in a downed plane in Pennsylvania. At the Pentagon, 189 on the ground and in the hijacked plane died. The total doesn't include the many rescue workers who are dying now of respiratory illnesses incurred after they were assured by their own government that the air was safe to breathe. Who knows how many more of them, and the local residents, will develop future illnesses attributable to those lies?

And how was this act answered? Not with diplomacy, with self-examination, with the thoughtful remedies of civilization. No, it was answered with more violence springing out of lies and deceit connecting a regime our government didn't like with this atrocity to provide an excuse to invade another country which had shown us no aggression and which was, essentially, unarmed.

The events of 9/11 and what they led to have now killed approximately 100,000 people, including 87-94,000 Iraqi civilians at last count (although some sources place it as high as 151,000), 4,155 US casualties in Iraq, 584 US military personnel in Afghanistan, and a total of 690 non-US coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. This doesn't even take into account the thousands wounded in the conflict on both sides. (If you'd like a visual representation of just the US numbers, click here.)

The US has been directly responsible for more than three times the number of deaths Osama bin Laden caused. It's also responsible for the violation of its own founding principles, for slashing the civil rights of its own citizens, of starting us down the slippery slope toward a police state and for the rape and pillage of another country. Our so-called leaders, whether you believe they were rightfully elected or not, have sanctioned the war crimes of torture and indefinite incarceration and led us into a war that will take us years to get out of, and which has stirred up more ill-will toward the US than almost anything we've done. There is more blood on US hands from 9/11 than on the people who planned the terrorist attacks.

How is that ever going to fix anything? Have any of these actions really made us better? Or safer? And aren't we bigger than mere power hunger? Than opportunism? Than petty vengeance?

Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." I'm not sure we still have even one good eye left.

64th Carnival of Feminists . . .

Feministmoi. . . is up over at This is What a Feminist Blogs Like. Politics. Faith. Autonomy and identity. Feminist approaches to art. Institutions and inequities. Feminist writing and analysis. A nice, sharp, heady mixture of topics by some very smart women. Including two posts from me, written right here on this humble blog. I must say I'm in very good company. Go browse around and become enlightened.

The Police State and the Embedded Media

RadicalmoiHistory repeats itself, rather drearily. Four years ago, at the Republican National Convention in New York City, hundreds of protesters exercising their right to peaceful assembly, were rounded up and tossed into cages on one of the piers. Many of them were held there overnight in foul conditions, many of them were held for more than 24 hours without being charged. New York City is still digging itself out from under the reprehensible conduct of its police in this matter. And yet . . . did anybody learn anything from this? Apparently not.

Well, besides how to round up protesters exercising their right to free assembly and put them in cages. And how to keep those actions out of the public eye.

By arresting the media covering it.

Despite clear identification of themselves as authorized members of the Fourth Estate, Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke, and three members of the independent TV & radio show "Democracy Now!" were also busted for filming the protesters. Amy Goodman, host of the show had her credentials ripped from her neck and, on video, was roughed up merely for protesting their arrest. She was later charged with a misdemeanor of resisting arrest. Two of them, the show's producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were charged with "suspicion of rioting," a felony. (Think their last names might have had anything to do with that?) In the following video of Salazar's arrest, you can clearly hear her identifying herself as press while the cops beat her down. I find the video terrifying and shameful.

Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild, is quoted as saying of this statute, "its parameters are so self-evidently vague, designed to allow pre-emeptive arrests of those who are peacefully protesting, that it is almost certainly unconstitutional, though because it had never been invoked (until now), its constitutionality had not been tested." Handy to have that thing on the books though for those pesky dissenters, like vegans, and people from Food Not Bombs, whose slogan is "cook for peace." Now that's threatening.

You might have noticed the dearth of coverage about this in the mainstream media. I've looked in vain for New York Times or Washington Post coverage. You'd think this would be a national issue, the muzzling and arrest of reporters. It impinges directly on freedom of the press. And yet, the only groups to cover it have been the independent press like Salon, HuffPo and Alternet.

Where the press has responded, as the hometown Star Tribune did, it was with nonsensical, xenophobic vitriol:

It’s worth scrolling through the list of Monday bookings from the Ramsey County jail now posted on the Star Tribune’s online InfoCenter (startribune.com/infocenter). Many of those arrested in St. Paul weren’t carrying IDs or wouldn’t give their names. Those who were identified came from Lexington, Ky.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Portland, Ore., and dozens of other U.S. cities. These weren’t the sons and daughters of Highland Park and south Minneapolis.

Those fucking New Yorkers. How dare they come out here and report our news! And you know, this wasn't a local convention. This was the National Republican Convention. Where did they think everyone else was coming from?

To be fair, the Dems had their share of pre-emptive arrests too, but nothing so egregious as these were. The local cops had been recruiting informants for months against groups that were known to be peaceful.

One of the most frightening responses to this episode was of St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington, when asked by Amy Goodman "how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere": “By embedding reporters in our mobile field force.”

Sound familiar? That's right. Just like reporters are embedded with military units in Iraq, where their reporting is carefully censored, supposedly to protect the lives of soldiers. The reason for that tactic was the lesson learned with the Vietnam War, which was openly reported by the press, live from the battlefields, on television, with nightly body counts. That made it an extremely unpopular war for Lyndon Johnson and when the US went to war again, the Pentagon cited issues of national security to restrict the press's access and ability to report.

Regardless of whether you think there's some reason for restricting press access (and I don't), last I looked, the Twin Cities were not a war zone, there were no issues of national security at stake, and the police are not the army.

Maybe that's changing. If so, be afraid.

Rites of Citizenship

Radicalmoi Now that I've decided I'm no longer bound by the strictures of my religion, there are some new choices presenting themselves. One of these is whether I should register to vote.

Needless to say, many of my attitudes toward citizenship have been shaped not only by my former religion's doctrine, but by the household I grew up in, where Dad was die-hard Democrat and my mother, though ostensibly neutral, enjoyed a good political argument as much as anybody who actually voted. We were an ultra-liberal household in many ways, if a morally conservative one. But only Dad voted. Even so, nobody in my house trusted a politician of any stripe farther than they could be thrown, and even Dad was more radical libertarian than left-wing liberal.

The religion I left prides itself on being neutral to political issues, though I've come to realize it isn't entirely so. They don't vote, they won't join the military. They do pay their taxes, scrupulously, and it's left up to the individual as to whether to serve on a jury or not, whether to join a union or cross a picket line. I have cousins who worked as hospital orderlies stateside as conscientious objectors during the Vietnam war rather than join the military and I know people who went to jail rather than fight in WWII. They're happy to use the courts, to appeal to Caesar when they feel their rights have been violated. I've written a number of letters to government officials all over the world asking them to stop persecuting and imprisoning my brothers and sisters because of their religion and their political neutrality. I think that's one of the things that got me interested in human rights issues to begin with.

Belonging to an apocalyptic religion fosters a deep sense of pessimism in its followers, as well as a kind of political paralysis. If it's all going to hell in a hand basket anyway, why get involved? You're powerless to change anything and God will sort it out eventually. But even as a kid, I itched to get involved in protests against things I felt were wrong, for ideals I felt were right: against the Vietnam War, against nuclear arms, for the Civil Rights movement. As I got older, it seem less and less tenable that I should be writing letters only to free people of my own faith. Why not everyone who was being persecuted, discriminated against, jailed for things they said? Why not, say, Nelson Mandela, too? Racial discrimination hurts everyone as much as religious persecution does. It was feminism that finally got me fired up enough, if not to vote, then to speak out, to talk back, to identify with something more than just my religion, with the radical notion that women are people.

And there I was, suddenly: on the slippery slope, sliding.

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