Friday, February 29, 2008

work vent, friday edition

Here's the perfect way to lose respect in an office. Say these words:

"That's not my job."

When she said this, the very young woman blinked at me like a doe and crimped her lips a little.

I clamped down hard on my temper. "This is exactly your job. If it's not yours then whose is it? It's about the whole organization and staffing so this falls under your area. That's your job."

She tried again. "Well, with everything else on my plate I've just sort of pushed this back on the backburner." She said this while sitting on top of her desk, after having finished chatting with a coworker. Her laptop was dark.

"I suggest you move this up to the front burner. I just gave the ambassador incorrect information based on this." I shook the paper in my hand. "That's unacceptable. How long do we have to wait until something comes from this office without mistakes on it?"

She sat on her desk. "I'll fix it. I'll post the revisions on the shared drive so everyone can access them."

"Thank you. I appreciate it." To take the sting of this encounter away, I will probably have to find a way to make this a coaching opportunity, but for now, I'm still frustrated.

(Yes, I have officially become my mother. And now I understand all those women who rode me hard when I first started working in corporate environments. To those women I say this: I'm sorry for every bitchy, ignorant thing I muttered under my breath when you walked away. You were right.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sick Days Access: Call to Action!

My agency is part of a coalition, led by Women Employed and including Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and 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 who can talk about the 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 (first name/age/industry/city, if you like.)
[edited to remove Chicago Coalition for the Homeless as a coalition partner]

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

asshat: graeme reeves

Clit Bandits: Evil Gyno Graeme Reeves Brutalized 800 Women Before He Got Caught

i think this goes beyond being an 'asshat.' asshat implies that one, if they tried hard enough, could reflect and reform their asshattery.

reeves, however, has transcended basic sexist asshattery and entered a new category: Mutilating Misogynist Mengele.

and the man isn't even in jail! i haven't read anything about charges being brought against him at all! nothing about criminal liability. he's on the run and all those women (one of whom had her labia and clitoris removed against her will) are left without recourse.

what's even more stupefying about this story is the lack of oversight and action. reeves wasn't exactly alone while he was cutting off clitorii, sexually abusing and mutilating women. there were other people in the room who presumably observed and assisted his mutilating surgical procedures. there is currently a 'task force' in place to investigate how reeves could have gotten away with this but i think all you have to do is look around at his coworkers, his nurses, and fellow doctors.

Friday, February 22, 2008

No, really. Shut up.

In light of yet another failed student attempt at racial 'satire' (this time out of the University of Colorado) I think it's time for all us current and former literature profs, English adjuncts, composition teachers, and English dept. graduate instructors to put our feet down.

So here's an open letter to all undergrads everywhere, particularly on campus newspapers:

Dear Undergrad Writer,

For the love of Polyhymnia, just stop.

We, your former and current college and university English instructors, have endured an endless supply of undergraduate compositions and we are happy to do so. This is, after all, our job. With varying degrees of success, we have introduced you to the best of Western literary tradition as well as the brightest new additions to the literary canon from women, people of color and across the globe. Though other disciplines certainly have the right to say the same, we English instructors think that ours is a calling that can best equip a young person to be culturally literate and we are grateful we have had a role in your intellectual maturation.

Like a Crusoe with his Friday, (you did read Dafoe, didn't you?) we encouraged you to fill pages with your inner thoughts, your ideas, your theories and we reluctantly approved them, as long as there was a shadow of an argument. The writing was the thing, not necessarily the matter of your writing. We overlooked your problematic arguments against reproductive choice, papers agreeing with the internment of the Japanese, and your wrong-headed ideas about Shakespeare's Viola being a victim of incest. Lest we be accused of liberal bias, as long as you wrote, and relatively well, we smiled. (It was a strained smile, but it was there.)

Well, now you can stop. Stop writing.

Your failure to understand the most basic literary devices is starting to make us and our profession look bad. Clearly, when we assigned you Swift's A Modest Proposal, you didn't read it closely enough. You didn't study, did you? When we assigned you Milton's Paradise Lost and reviewed his rhetorical devices you zoned out, didn't you? You didn't pay attention to Twain, you didn't 'get' Dickens, you forgot to read Heller and you just skimmed the Cliffs Notes for Vonnegut. In fact, if Twain took a page from your book, poor Jim would end lynched and Huck would have joined the White Knights.

We implore you - stop writing. In particular, stop calling your work product satire. It's not satire! It's not even a jeremiad or a good parody! It is unfocused, poorly conceived, shabby, mean and clumsy. Your writing has nothing to do with social commentary or criticism because you don't have the mental will to poke your finger in the eye of Power and you just don't have the intellectual heft to carry it off.

Moreover, before you can write well you must be able to read well and, apparently, you've burned all your books - with the possible exception of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Before your lack of education becomes too embarassing, just put down the pen. Close the laptop. Be silent.

Best Regards,
The Faculty

[h/t Alas, A Blog]

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

something about obama

Small Donations Add Up for Obama - New York Times

i just made a donation this morning (not as large as i would have liked, but it's something.) the story of how regular, private citizens are giving directly to candidates is amazing. i don't know about any of my five regular readers, but i haven't given a donation to the main Democratic party since that crushing Al Gore defeat. why give my cash to them when they FUBAR things so completely?

while the obama 'juggernaut' continues i have to admit that i feel a little bad for clinton. i'm sure that feeling of momentary pity will pass soon.

in other obama news, just came across this blog, Think on These Things, that does a pretty good job of delineating the difference between Obama and Clinton - their policy stances, the arguments about 'experience' (hey, guess who's actually passed major legislation and who's just named a post office?) and the sneaky media attacks on Obama.

particularly good is this video of a young black guy laying it down about Obama and healthcare to a pushy interviewer in L.A. Think of These Things is pretty up front about being pro-Obama, so make of that what you will. S/He's laying out a comprehensive argument in favor of a candidate and it's convincing to me.

and, via that clip, here's another blog i stumbled on - Jack & Jill Politics - that looks pretty cool, mixing bougie-ness and political wonkiness all in one.

(what's Jack & Jill? where i come from, if you were black, lived in Baldwin Hills and your parents were of the professional class, you probably participated in J&J. if , like me, you lived below the Hill, your parents were lower middle class and didn't know about such things, then you didn't.)

have i wasted enough time at work?
i think so. back to the grind, folks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

glen beck to progressive women: 'eww, you're ugly!'

(video clip can be found at Feministing)

Mr. Beck,

I'm sure you're tired of all the email you're getting in response to your 'ugly women=progressive,' but as with Jello, there's always room for a little more.

Aren't you tired of being a stereotype?
Aren't you weary of that Neanderthalic exterior of yours preventing you from stepping into the 21st century?
Aren't your knuckles a little sore from being dragged on the ground so often?
Isn't your arm a little tingly from holding the banner of 'Conservative Blowhard' so high?
Aren't you a little bit afraid that you're becoming a little bit of a caricature of yourself?

I mean, really. How many tired stereotypes of progressive women do you really need to roll out every time you open your mouth? We're ugly, unshaven, emasculating, humorless, shrill, emotional, too sensitive, butch, dykes, smelly, scary, or the Bogie Man/Loch Ness Monster combined. Yawn.

At least think of something new, you unoriginal, sexist, 'scared of Mommy,' hack.

Best Regards,

(screw politesse. that asshat needs some vitriol. email him at

Thursday, February 14, 2008

how a book gets born

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.

smackety smack?

(and isn't using the word 'incendiary' a bit strong? i mean, i hear that and i think the clinton camp is going to kidnap the obama girls and hold them for ransom, or something.)
i'm working from home this morning, waiting for the hottie plumber to fix Roomie's sink. in the meantime, i'll fantasize about a sweeping Obama delegate victory.

oh, happy v-day.
an out of state fan sent me a comic book sprayed with cologne and a superman card that, despite myself, made me laugh. i guess that counts as a valentine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

glamour corrects 'oops' moment...and other things

Your race, your looks: Fashion & Beauty:

remember that kerfuffle when a Glamour staffer went to a law firm and told the black women that 'ethnic' hair was a fashion don't? yeah, good times.

well, to Glamour's credit, they turned that misstep into a learning opportunity.

(as for me, today my hair is straight because it's the only way it can fit under my frakking snow hat. once it's warmer, back to big and curly.)
today at the office made me bleed from my ass.
i haven't eaten lunch all day and i'm exhausted.

but i've had time to look at interracial romance novels on amazon. question: why are their covers so beat ass ugly?

(yeah, no deep thoughts from me today. i'm too tired.)

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," my aunt 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 just lost."

She said this like he just wandered into 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.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The Swamp: Post-Super day, GOP race has clarity Dems lack

this headline is a perfect example of 'framing' or spin.
true to the GOP-lovin' Trib's form, the GOP is sure, decided, firm. Dems are just all over the place, like a sloppy sock drawer.

but who's really in trouble?

i'd say that what this headline calls 'clarity' is actually the GOP 'painted into a corner.'

not like last time

wow. last night was awesome; we stayed up until 2 am watching the returns but we didn't care that we'd pay for it this morning.
12 states for obama; california breaks for clinton (grr - but that's ok!); huckabee makes a surge; romney totally wipes out; mccain takes the lead for the GOP.

we finally have an exciting election cycle.

my favorite line from last night came from paul begala on cnn:
"No one's more conservative than Huckabee! He doesn't believe in evolution, gravity or photosynthesis!"

totally hilarious; we even wrote it on our quote board.
i dreamt that california eventually went to obama with 91% reporting, but alas, that didn't happen. maybe that's why i was so slow in waking up and rolled into work today at 10.

(and, at last, D- has finally brought himself to the point and asked me out. i will allow myself a tiny smile of satisfaction.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

i have my first earmark request meeting with a congressional office next week.

i think i'm wearin' my big girl panties.

Monday, February 04, 2008

reading Hillary and her haters

All You Need Is Hate - Stanley Fish - Think Again - Opinion - New York Times Blog

Over at my other blog, Church Gal, I was having an interesting exchange with an anonymous commenter about my post poking at the Clinton campaign for beating the 'experience' drum so hard. What made this exchange interesting was the cloudy, shifting view of Hillary Clinton the commenter had.

Anonymous' Quote:
"Hillary is strong, very clever. She reminds me of Meryl Streeps' character in the Machurian Candidate. Hillary put up with Bills cheating ways for way too long. Why would a strong woman like that put up with nonsense? More then likely it was because at the end of it all, his presidency that is, something was in it for her. Bill and Hillary have a political relationship. They have mastered the art of lying to win. She is using Bill every step of the way. I wish she would come out and say just what you wrote. Interesting, and she will still win because so many men do not have the balls to stop her."

It begins with a positive: Hillary is strong, very clever.

But then comes the less than flattering comparison where a positive figure merge swith a character who is dysfunctional, manipulative, deceitful and ruthlessly cunning: She reminds me of Meryl Streeps' character in the Machurian Candidate.

And then the comment changes again, this time turning Hillary Clinton into the 'woman wronged' who stands too much by her man: Hillary put up with Bills cheating ways for way too long.

Her strength, previously praised, is in doubt: Why would a strong woman like that put up with nonsense?

The answer is her cunning and grasping nature - her (dare I say it?) ambition: More then likely it was because at the end of it all, his presidency that is, something was in it for her. Bill and Hillary have a political relationship.

The Clinton's ambitious partnership is a vehicle for another accusation of deceit, though the worst that they could be accused of is playing semantics: They have mastered the art of lying to win.

Then, erasing the picture we have of compationate ambition, we have another nod to Hillary Clinton's singular agency (manipulative as it is): She is using Bill every step of the way.

And here is where things get interesting and the comment seems to be at war with itself. Anonymous says: ...she will still win because so many men do not have the balls to stop her.

What I like about this part of the comment is how everything sort of falls apart: Hillary will win but her victory is because men fail around her. It makes me ask: If men didn't fail, would Hillary still win? Do I hear grudging respect from Anonymous toward Hillary? Or is it fear? Is Anonymous gloating? And who is the object of derision? Men?

For these readers of Hillary, especially those mentioned in Fish's column, she becomes a comic book superhero, like the Scarlet Witch or maybe even Dark Phoenix - able to change reality around her, or at least prompt those looking at her to dip into some shapeshifting realities of their own. She can be read as an aspirational stand in (like Wonder Woman) for women who see themselves in her and her life's narrative; she can be the shadowy council that makes men afraid or women secretly proud; or she is the sinister shapeshifter who will do what she must to further her own desire for world domination (like Mystique.)

It's all rather silly when you see it like a bunch of comic book characters.

Friday, February 01, 2008

superbowl friday: glad to know the senate's on it

Senator Asks Why NFL Destroyed Tapes

aww, arlen specter plays squash. (that's what a john updike character would play.)
anyway, we're buried in snow and Roomie and i are supposed to go to a formal benefit tonight. have a good weekend, y'all.