Friday, July 31, 2009

Still moving

We've moved into our new house and are in the process of reordering our life, which explains my negligence in updating my blog. I have pictures of my house that I was going to post here, but I can't seem to find the thing I use to load them to my computer! Once I do, I'll be posting more pictures of our move....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Living among boxes

It might be strange, but I actually enjoy living among moving boxes, waiting for the move. This move is particularly exciting because it's to a house we really like.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On the need to oppose Obama's support for the Honduran coup

The blogger American Leftist has a good recent post assessing Obama's position on the Honduran coup. He mentions that Hillary Clinton's last statement critical of the ousted Zelaya - that Zelaya's symbolic return to Honduras was reckless - is more proof that the Obama Administration is providing support to the military coup there.

Actually, there is great deal of evidence amounting that the Obama Administration supports the Honduran military coup, which in my opinion, was entirely predictable from the very beginning.

From the outset, the Obama Administration refused to call what happened in Honduras a coup. They won't call a spade a spade because to do so would mean that the U.S. is obligated under law to stop economic and military aid, and bringing an end to that aid would likely stop the coup in its tracks. All of this is perfectly in line with Obama being a conservative establishment figure, who in perfect alignment with the Clintonites, prefers a reactionary coup leadership against a leader like Zelaya. While Zelaya is no radical, his call for reform, such as an increased minimum wage and agrarian reform, might inspire the Honduran people to further confront the wealthy oligarchy traditionally aligned with U.S. imperial interests.

Obama's support of the coup is very subtle yet effective. He supports negotiation, but negotiation of terms implies that there is something to negotiate, people with whom it is worthwhile negotiating, when again, the military leaders would probably fold with strong opposition from the U.S. Also, the fact that old-time Clinton lawyers and associates are actually running the PR game for the coup leaders shows that more is afoot than what is being said.

In the days following the coup, I listened to some of the views of my Democratic Party friends, such as "Obama did the right thing by denouncing the Honduran coup," or "the Administration had no hand in what occurred." These assumptions fly in the face of the historical, and reactionary, military relationship between the two countries, and Obama's belated announcement condemning the coup should have been a further tip-off. I wouldn't mention this error in judgment if I didn't think it had no negative consequences. We can't build movements to force the government to do the right thing, against its own very entrenched interests, if we assume that we have a friend in the White House. The biggest obstacle to change now, in this assessment, is the faith that liberals have in their president.

Bloomington-Normal: a town divided against itself

In a recent article in Health and News, a small monthly newspaper here in Bloomington-Normal, it is mentioned that Minneapolis/St. Paul is the "other Twin Cities." What?! The article clearly wasn't meant to be disparaging of Minneapolis/St. Paul, since it was a favorable tourist guide of the area. (The article itself has other problems; for example, I would take issue with Mall of America as being the biggest attraction of the area.) What I find strange is that Bloomington-Normalites would describe their cities as the "Twin Cities." Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge, huge fan of Bloomington-Normal, and love its cultural offerings, perhaps more than what is offered in the Mpls/St. Paul metropolitan area. But, that said, I can't help but feel that Bloomington-Normal is one city, divided in half. As a St. Paul friend of mine recently pointed out, Minneapolis and St. Paul are two distinct cities in every way - each has a downtown with its own nightlife and its own distinct culture and feel. While the cities touch, their downtown centers are 10 miles from each other. In contrast, Bloomington has the downtown, Normal has the college life and uptown area, everybody drives back and forth like the divide on Division Street does not exist. Only in terms of public services, like school districts, police forces, etc., does the division have a present-day objective reality. Here in Bloomington-Normal, you don't hear the common refrain in the Mpls/St. Paul Twin Cities, "I don't know much about Minneapolis" or "St. Paul, I never go there."

Maybe I could be accused of being an outsider, or a newcomer to B/N, still lacking a feel for the cities. Still, I must resist calling B/N the Twin Cities. Does the term come from copying the Twin Cities to the north? Does it really capture Bloomington-Normal's uniqueness? Does the city division serve only as an excuse for redundant city bureaucracy?

And then, there is the issue of school segregation. Since moving here, I was surprised to constantly hear from folk that Unit 5 schools - based in Normal but encompassing much of Bloomington, indeed surrounding its core - is better than the Bloomington District 87, a view I've since heard derives it true origin from utterly racist and classist views perpetuated by realtors since the 70s and 80s. Both Bloomington and Normal, and every school within their districts, would be considered lily white and middle-class suburban schools in larger metro regions, underscoring the absurdity of this view. Even though I don't know of a single school in the B/N area failing to make the NCLB grade, much of this is being further aggravated by the absurdity of the NCLB testing system, which encourages some teachers to view working in schools that serve a slightly higher percentage of poorer and more disadvantaged students as a potential threat to their job security and, when schools test scores get compared, their own feeling of occupational worth. If this can happen to teachers, who should be able to see that NCLB is poor assessment policy, it is no wonder that middle-class B/N residents count living within the Unit 5 boundaries as a plus.

In trying to explain some of these popular views, I was recently very surprised to hear someone in Bloomington say that she wouldn't send her kids to Normal, due to its lack of diversity which, she thinks, contributed to racist attitudes being expressed to her children by other children and a complacent school leadership on the issue.

While such problems are hard to eradicate, merging the two districts into a single one might help. I also can't help but wonder why, if you must have two distinct districts, they don't follow the city boundaries. Isn't revealing that much of upper-class Bloomington is within the Normal-based Unit 5?!

Seems to me, in talking about merging, a unified Bloomington-Normal might be advantageous on all fronts. Besides the issues centering on social justice, the vast majority here live in B/N as if it were one city. To artificially think of ourselves living in the Twin Cities, when there exists a Twin Cities that is nationally known to have that name (and even has a baseball team that calls itself the Twins), seems to disparage the special uniqueness of Bloomington-Normal.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The blacklash of white privilege

While drinking coffee at my local coffeeshop this morning, I overheard a conversation among 4 white Verizon workers that undoubtedly is being replayed across the country. These 4 were arguing that Henry Louis Gates had acted inappropriately prior to his arrest in Cambridge and deserved to be arrested for disorderly conduct. According to this view, the cop's police report is to be believed; Henry Louis Gates, not to be believed.

In my view, these scenes are evidence of a revived white racism in America, perpetuated by right-wing radio and rooted in traditional white privilege. Why is this racism? The sentiments expressed here are about the reconstruction of a white identity, a revived racism, in a world where there have been victories against racism. White racists are portraying themselves as the victim where, as they see it, African-Americans are irrationally overstepping their bounds.

The racism of the Verizon workers is blatant. Here are reasons why:

1. Why assume that the cop is telling the truth? For those of us who have experienced the actions of some police, especially when exercising our first amendment rights in protest, we know that the police can lie. Black people know that the cops can lie and be racist. (To be fair, I'm not talking about all cops here.) That these Verizon workers believe the white cop over the black professor, without being present during the altercation, is evidence of their racism.

2. I don't know where these 4 workers get their news, but I suspect that this view is predominant on Fox News and right-wing radio. Why do people believe these sources, especially when they are so obviously biased and, despite what they claim, unchristian? The presentation of many news stories on Fox is not only biased but oftentimes gets the facts wrong in order to score ideological points. I once saw a story on my home town, about my high school, that got important facts wrong just to make such an ideological point. Fox and right-wing radio can't be trusted.

3. The very fact that these Verizon workers are so troubled by this story, when they weren't there, demonstrates that they have a psychological need for the white cop to be right and the Black academic to be wrong. Again, more evidence of their racism.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Superior beings

We're convinced that our cat Lefty has learned the concept of using bed covers. (This scene wasn't staged, and they wouldn't let us even if we tried.) As can be seen in the picture, Lefty has learned how to get under the covers and then position himself so that his nose sticks out for air. Pretty smart.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nothin' But the Blues Festival

We went to the Nothin' But the Blues Festival here in Bloomington, Saturday afternoon and evening. The event was very well-attended and very impressive. In places I've lived outside Illinois, I was used to horrible music festivals. But, here in Bloomington-Normal, all of the blues festivals have been terrific. I've been more impressed with the cultural offerings here than in the larger towns I've lived in, such as Tucson and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

On Saturday, we first heard the Bloomington-native Matt Curry and the Currfew, then B.J. Allen and Blue Voodoo, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne, and Sharrie Williams. The only downside were the ribs and Bud lites that threw me off my diet!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Excellent resource for Spanish language learning and teaching

I just wanted to share my wife's ISU homepage (Rachel L. Shively's ISU Home Page) for its excellent resources involving Spanish language learning, especially for its web resources. There is also a link on the page to her class wiki on technology resources for foreign language teaching.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Minneapolis trip

I'm now back from my one-week trip to Minneapolis. I saw some Minneapolis-St. Paul friends during my stay, visited with my friend from Austin and saw his family, visited some bookstores, and altogether had a pretty good time. Unfortunately, though, I didn't take many pictures. This is a picture I took of my Austin friend in one of the bookstores we visited.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First reaction to the health care proposals

With the passage of the health care bill in the House, more details of the bill have been released. Although the bill appears like an improvement in the short-term, it needs to be analyzed in depth for short-term and long-term results. One thing we know for sure - single-payer health care is a far better option than the Obama 'government-run' health option for a number of reasons. First, single-payer includes everybody right away. In Obama's plan, after 1 trillion dollars get spent over 10 years, 17 million people are still left uninsured. Secondly, the choice to enter the government plan is only for those who do not have health insurance. I will be ineligible, since I already have an employer-based plan. How is that choice? Really, for those who receive health insurance and are unhappy with the current employer-based system, not much will change. (One of the arguments of Michael Moore's movie Sicko is that the current system is not only bad for the uninsured but for those who do have health insurance but get exploited by the insurance companies anyway.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Wisconsin road trippin'

It's been a long time since I've taken a road trip. After having visited State Street in Madison yesterday, I'm getting to set to head through the driftless region of Wisconsin, up through Viroqua and Black River Falls toward Menominee where I'll meet up with the White family. Then on to Minneapolis...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Where is the outrage over Honduras?

Notice how the politicians, in particular Fox News, are quiet over the military coup in Honduras? All the outrage over Iran, and yet with a country that we largely control, turns out democracy isn't all that important to them. (Of course, we know that Washington politicians across the spectrum don't want Hondurans to push for real democracy because that will mean a confrontation with the ruling elite there and U.S. imperialists allied with them.) In fact, Fox News has featured a Heritage Foundation piece in support of the coup, accompanied with their typical corporate propaganda.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Background to the Honduras coup

Defeat the reactionary military coup in Honduras!

This article on the Workers International League (WIL) is the best background and analysis I could find on the Honduran coup. My view is that we need to pressure the U.S. government, after their belated condemnation of the coup after virtually everyone else already had acted, to pull their ambassador, cut off funding to the government, among other acts. Yesterday, in order to avoid applying adequate pressure, Sec. of State Clinton actually said that they weren't yet willing to say a coup had taken place!

Bloomington-Normal Citizens for Peace and Justice

Or, BNCPJ, as it is called for short. BNCPJ is the anti-war group in B-N. When first moving here, they were very easy to find on the Internet. And being independent of party politics, promoting grassroots mass action, BNCPJ was an easy sell. Since then, though, activity in the group has waned. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that many who support Obama either think the imperialist wars in the Middle East are over or don't want to embarrass their commander-in-chief by opposing his wars and occupations. But, I would argue, imperialism is imperialism, and it doesn't matter whose war it happens to be. We should be in the streets opposing the Iraq and Afpak wars, and to that end, BNCPJ is kicking off its new rally time on July 2, 5:30 pm, on East Street (in front of the B/N Center for the Performing Arts). See you in the streets, or in our case, on the sidewalks!Link