Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sick Days Access: Call to Action!

I'm blowing some anonymity here but it's worth it:

My agency is part of a coalition, led by Women Employed and including Heartland Alliance, working with lead sponsor Rep. Julie Hamos to change the fact that 3 million private sector workers don't have the right to a single sick day.

Our basic bill proposes a way for these workers to accrue just 7 days of paid sick time over the course of one year. (For every 30 hours worked, a worker can earn 1 hour of paid sick time.)

The bill, HB 5320, has been introduced. There's support for this in the legislature but to move the bill out of Rules, through Labor, and towards a vote on the floor, we need more.

So we need stories.

We are looking for stories from people in Illinois who can talk about their need for paid sick days—either you used to work somewhere that didn’t have it when you needed it (and what happened), or you are currently working and don’t get paid sick days.
We’re looking for brief summaries that we could turn into a letter, use as part of legislative testimony, or perhaps include on a fact sheet.

If you have a story, email

You can, of course, request your story to be as anonymous as you want it to be (i.e., Sarah, 34/Retail/Addison.)
We hope you can help. (If you're also interested in helping us lobby for this particular piece of legislation, you can send an email to that same address.)
[edited to remove Chicago Coalition for the Homeless as a coalition partner]

Thursday, February 21, 2008

feminism 101: but what about the women...?

FAQ: But doesn’t evidence show that women are just as likely to batter their partners as men? « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

thank goodness this blog exists. it's written by a very smart person (see? i'm not going to assume it's a woman, though i think it is) and handily dispatches with the misconceptions, lies and inaccuracies directed toward feminist thought and practice.

this one is particularly nice. if you've participated in any discussion that deals with rape, violence against women, domestic violence or whatever, sooner or later some MRA-type guy is going to coyly ask the 'well, what about the women who - ' question.

'what about women who batter men?'
'what about women who falsely accuse men of rape?'

it's annoying and frustrating to deal with because those questions are utter crap and i never have the stats in my head to counter them.

well, now i do.

thanks, Feminism 101!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

election 08: let's get real about 'experience'

Candidate Comparisons « Think On These Things

If you follow the link above, you land on a really good (and, yes, pro-Obama) collection of sources that compare the records of Obama and Clinton. Though the blog leans toward Obama, the links it provides are pretty good. (Any good researcher knows that the quality of your source material pretty much decides the validity of your results.)

I'm going through the links right now, when I should really be working, so why don't you join me?
I'll check back later.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

you're not the boss of me!

Kansas HS says female cannot ref boys game - Wednesday February 13, 2008 9:40PM:

"The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs."

So, there was this one time back in college when I was talking (er, arguing) with my dad about why women are supposed to be subject to the authority of men and why his sexism was a problem to me.

Dad: I'm not a sexist. It's what the Bible says, Ding.
Me: But that's only within the context of the church and/or a married relationship. (Which I still think is crap but I decided to give that to my dad to make the argument a little easier.) So, ok, women can't preach or teach men in the church and we're supposed to bow and scrape when we're married. Fine. But that doesn't mean that women are supposed to be submissive to ALL men, everywhere, does it?

Dad: (long pause)
Me: I mean, so there's a woman doctor. Is she just supposed to take a back seat to some random guy because he's a guy? What about if you were on a jury? Does that mean a woman can't be a foreman on the jury because there are men there? What about female bosses? Does that mean that because of a few verses about the place of women in church, that all women everywhere can't be in positions of authority? Because that's totally sexist and if you agree, it means you're a sexist, too.
Dad: (silence)
Me: Yeah. Thought so.

You know, I really couldn't be the feminist I am now if it hadn't been for my Dad.

Friday, February 15, 2008

give me a break: anti-military or asking hard questions?

When Strains on Military Families Turn Deadly - New York Times
War Torn: Slideshow
War Torn: The Cases

Criticism of War Torn (follow the links)

This particular part of the series makes me feel like a voyeur peeping into the seamy scenes of mental instability, pain and violence. But it's valuable in pointing out a dangerous lack in the military (one that I've written about again and again): the military's increasing inability to address issues like mental health, violence against civilians (although the articles reveal that these soldiers also turn against one another) and particularly domestic violence.

While I can understand criticisms of the series' methodology (I'd think they'd also want to look at those crimes of violence that weren't big enough to warrant a newspaper story) I think it's a narrow view to say that this series is 'anti-military.' (It's also hyperbolic to say that the article is 'lying.' There are no untruths here, only really uncomfortable and stark realities - some of the men and women coming back from our 'war on terror' come back damaged.)

So, here's a question to ask our pro-war candidates this election cycle: if they're going to commit our men and women to a 100-year war on terror, what are they also going to do to address the real human cost of such a war?

Now, that's not being anti-military, is it? Heavens, no.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

if it wasn't so sad, it'd be funny

an author walks home on 9/11:

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.
The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”
“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”

Hand-wringing About American Culture - Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge? - New York Times

we're not only hostile to knowledge, if we saw it, we'd light some torches, chase it though the streets and then tar and feather it. then we'd go home and drink a beer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

gird your loins. a work-related complaint is coming:
i have a blazing headache.
i'm putting together two earmark requests (whoo-hoo, 'pork'!) and i'm struggling with putting together boilerplate for our programs
i have two church meetings after work tonight and i'm really not in the mood to sit in a board room for two hours
i'm just bushed - my mornings have started earlier than normal and lasted later than usual.

and tomorrow! tomorrow, the cute plumber is coming by and i have to work from home so he can replace the sink and...and... hm.

maybe that last one ain't so bad.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Black History Month: some resources

RACE - The Power of an Illusion PBS

this was a really great series. my favorite episode is the third, where it examines how the idea of racial difference is supported and disseminated through our institutions and, particularly, immigration and housing policy.

if you want to have a more meaningful engagement with what black history is, go here and read the transcripts. you'll learn something.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Black History Month: A Case for Voting Black

My aunt's apartment was stifling hot and smelled strange but I tried to ignore it.

"Our people took the name of Mr. C-, you know. He owned our family and when the war was over, we just kept the name," she said.
"I don't know anything about that time. I mean, no one's told me stories about it," I said.

"Well, it's here and there." She thought a little. "You know, there is a story about a relative of ours. The rest of the family kept the C- name and stayed in Alabama. But one left. He came up North and disappeared."

"Disappeared? Why'd he disappear?"
"Because he passed."

"Yes. He was white. Real white. Your great granddaddy passed for white for a while; his wife could pass, too.” She paused again. “I don’t know how your grandfather got so dark. Anyway, he came up to Chicago and the story is that he worked in a store and started a business. But he never got back in touch with the rest of the family. He's lost."

She said this like he just wandered onto State Street and just couldn’t find his way back.

"I have *never* heard this story!"
My aunt sighed. "There aren't that many family members left who know it."
"Huh. Fascinating."

Unfortunately, I have totally forgotten what my passing distant relative’s name was.

The new Skip Gates special on PBS is full of these stories of passing, diaspora, disappearance and reinvention. (But sometimes I wonder if my own family's narrative is real or just patterned on other stories of black family lines whose origins are just as murky or tangled.)

What strikes me about some of these early stories of lost family members reclaimed is how prominent black-owned land figures into them and how crucial the land is to forming early black identity as well as ideas of freedom and citizenship. The program begins with Gates visiting the land his family has owned for 6 generations and passes by a parcel of land his family had owned but had to sell. Since part of their own genealogical story is lost to them, their farm acts like an anchor for their identity. In subsequent conversations with celebrities like Chris Rock, Tina Turner, Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle or Tom Joyner, Gates reveals that their families had once owned land - 40 acres, 62 acres, 65 acres - donating or selling some of their land to build schools or churches.

The revelations about property and land ownership become a source of pride in their family. What is it that Rock says – If he had known this before, it would have taken away the inevitability that he would be nothing. And property is usually the vehicle for these stories to come to light; they act like a bracket around early black families: you were property and now you have property.

At the turn of the century blacks owned between 12-15 million acres of land; by the 30s and 40s that number shrinks to just a little over a million. For many of these black families the land is a foundation to build their newly acquired identities as freed people that suddenly disappears, forcing their story to jump, only to be picked up further down the line. What happened? What happened in those intervening years? Did African Americans just suddenly decide, "Hm, you know, owning land sucks. Let's pick up and go north"? Usually something else happened to make a family, or even a whole black town, disperse.

Tom Joyner's family story is a good example; Gates finds his great grandmother but her paper trail ends somewhere in late 19th/turn of the century Carolinas, only to pick up again several years later in the north. Joyner has no idea why she left home or what the story of his family is but Gates and his team discover the reason: His family owned a substantial parcel of land but when his two great uncles are accused of murder and executed, the family sells their land to pay for legal fees and the remaining family flees the area. But Gates' team also uncovers that the accusation was probably false, specifically targeted at the two great uncles because they were part of a black landowning family.

Chris Rock asks how his own ancestor could go from slave, to soldier, to legislator, to landowner, to sharecropper all in 10 short years; Gates simply answers, Reconstruction ended. We're left to conclude what happened to Julius Caesar Tingman's land on our own.

Three years ago the exhibit "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America" came to the Chicago Historical Society and it was a hard exhibit to walk through. Again, I noticed stories of black land ownership (or burgeoning private enterprise) running alongside the photos of ‘extra-legal deaths at the hands of unknown persons' (which is how the Society described the lynchings that spread throughout the country from Reconstruction to roughly 1965 or '68.)

In 2001, the AP ran a series called 'Torn from the Land' that researched and confirmed claims of widespread land theft - claims that are crucial to the reparations movement. Opponents of the reparations movement say that it's a fallacy to punish or extort money from people today for events in the past; slavery is over. I counter that the cost of these past events is still felt today through procedures that, are legal and that still disproportionately affect poor communities of color, i.e., partitioning, rezoning, ‘revitalization’/gentrification, and eminent domain. These legal maneuvers aren't 'extra-legal' or as extreme as lynching but they sure do have the same result – displacement, dispersal, diasporas.

Personally, I'm sort of neutral about the reparations movement. Do I want my father's family to be paid money because of slavery? Not really. What I want is a deeper, more public acknowledgment of how slavery impacted and drove our capitalist system, and how our nation's participation in the slave trade laid a foundation for practices, industries and institutions that not only continue to have an adverse affect on communities of color today but still provide the elite in this country with wealth and prosperity. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Land is at the bottom of our American imagination and mythology. The land was the lure and the land has allowed us Americans to earn our claim to citizenship - we stole it, settled it, colonized it, killed for it, and exploited the shit out of it. American land is a metaphor for our political and national identities at home, as well as a justification for our acts abroad.

As an African American, though I am a participant in (and benefactor of) this American history, I am distant from it because of how the land figures into our own fraught, black history: we were counted with the land, we worked on the land, we fought and were killed for the land. More acted upon than actor, we have seen our roles in history marginalized or elided, but now we approach a moment where, at last, our acts can be writ large and with boldness.

I say we owe a debt to our ancestors for the sacrifices they were forced to make – if we have the chance to take a firm step toward repaying that debt, toward reclaiming the lost land of our identities as black Americans, then we should take it now.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday!

the best line of the night, so far:

CNN pundit guy: No one's more conservative than Huckabee! He doesn't believe in evolution, gravity or photosynthesis!

Ding and friends: (raucous laughter)
we're all sitting here with our projection sheets, wine and pizza like this is our superbowl. it is fantastic to see the GOP go completely schizoid.

election 08: what's a delegate?

The Role of Delegates in the U.S. Presidential Nominating Process - Council on Foreign Relations

now i know.

(i voted this morning and it was exciting! you could tell that folks made a very special effort this morning to get into the polling place. i skipped all the judge stuff, voted for my alderman, the water reclamation folks and, of course, presidential candidate. this was the first ballot that i could remember voting for delegates.

anyway, happy super tuesday!

i'll be watching the returns tonight with some friends. will you?)