November 2009 Archives

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"Climate Hope: Inspiring 2009 Books For A Clean Energy Future"

BY Jeff Biggers
Huffington Post
28 November 2009

An incredible year of new books on climate destabilization, dirty energy policies, bogus Big Coal campaigns and a vibrant anti-coal movement, a growing coalfield resistance and the tragedy of mountaintop removal, and the still big possibility of renewable energy sources to refresh our survival chances on the planet

COAL MOUNTAIN ELEMENTARY By Mark Nowak


Working class hero and poet Nowak gives a lyrical account of the voices of coal mining tragedies in Sago, West Virginia and China, in this breakthrough collection of poetry.


To learn more about Nowak and his excellent poetry and literary endeavors, and coal issues around the world, visit his blog here.

-Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post

See the Huffington Post's full list of "inspiring" books here.


Photo: Reuters / "Cry from the heart... the relative of a miner killed in a pit gas explosion breaks down as others gather for news outside the entrance to XingXing coal mine in China." 24 November 2009

Robert Landau, Girls Athletics Activist

"Since the vast majority of schools are out of compliance with Title IX, realistically none of us are going to sue every one of them . . ." -Carol Tracy, Executive Director, Women's Law Project, Philadelphia


Haverford Girls.jpgHaverford High School's Girls Varsity Team


BY Katie Thomas
New York Times
29 November 2009

Few girls who play sports in suburban Philadelphia would recognize Robert H. Landau, but many coaches and athletic directors know that spotting him in the bleachers could spell trouble.

With a sharp tongue, a refusal to compromise and a well-honed sense of injustice, Landau is that familiar breed of community activist with a knack for pushing public officials over the edge. His specialty is girls' sports, and his targets are usually wealthy public schools from the Main Line suburbs that pride themselves on being progressive and fair in offering a rich array of opportunities.

Some Primary Documents for National Day of Mourning (US Thanksgiving Day)

I'm assembling some primary documents to share at dinner Thursday. Below is an essential contemporary one:

From the UAINE (United American Indians of New England) site:

"UAINE and the history of National Day of Mourning: In 1970, United American Indians of New England declared US Thanksgiving Day a National Day of Mourning. This came about as a result of the suppression of the truth. Wamsutta, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, had been asked to speak at a fancy Commonwealth of Massachusetts banquet celebrating the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. He agreed. The organizers of the dinner, using as a pretext the need to prepare a press release, asked for a copy of the speech he planned to deliver. He agreed. Within days Wamsutta was told by a representative of the Department of Commerce and Development that he would not be allowed to give the speech. The reason given was due to the fact that, "...the theme of the anniversary celebration is brotherhood and anything inflammatory would have been out of place." What they were really saying was that in this society, the truth is out of place."

We have not yet eliminated Thanksgiving from our holiday dinners. Seeing our relatives, the opportunity to "give thanks," none of these are "good" excuses. And, "Maybe next year" isn't a good one either. Robert Jensen is right and I am one of "them" on the left - at least for now. . .

Our daughter is 8. At age eight kids are die hards for justice and equality; the playground is often a fierce battle ground to argue such philosophies. Eight is also the age when "proof" is very important "How do you know there was a big bang?" Primary documents like this one, which prove by and for whom this holiday was really constructed, then, should be of great service at dinner. Causes of a Publike Thanksgiving.jpg

And then there is this image, which demonstrates one of the many ways in which the US enlisted a representation of "the black" in service of "the white."

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In their book, Students as Researchers: Creating Classrooms that Matter, educators Shirley Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe call Thanksgiving "a large part myth and historical erasure." They go on to argue the folloiwng:

Kincheloe 1.jpgKincheloe 2.jpgKincheloe 3.jpg

I encourage all teachers, especially those that might ever have our daughter in their classroom, to engage in the sort of research that Steinberg and Kincheloe required of their students.

~

References
United American Indians web site.

• Church of Scotland, General Assembly (1647), "Causes of a publike thanksgiving appointed by the Generall Assembly, to bee keeped on the last Lords day of September, 1647." Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

• Postcard, "Ah hopes you'll have jes' the most hifallutinest Thanksgiving you ever did see." (Boston). This card is a part of the Langston Hughes papers, 1862-1980 at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

• Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe, Students as Researchers: Creating Classrooms that Matter (UK: Routledge, 1998): 149-150. (Yellow highlights produced during search of PDF created from book for teaching purposes).

Jensen's "How I Stopped Hating Thanksgiving and Learned to be Afraid"

Thanksgiving @Carlisle.jpgFrom Z-Net
20 November 2009
BY Robert Jensen

I have stopped hating Thanksgiving and learned to be afraid of the holiday.

Over the past few years a growing number of white people have joined the longstanding indigenous people's critique of the holocaust denial that is at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday. In two recent essays I have examined the disturbing nature of a holiday rooted in a celebration of the European conquest of the Americas, which means the celebration of the Europeans' genocidal campaign against indigenous people that is central to the creation of the United States. Many similar pieces have been published in predominantly white left/progressive media, while indigenous people continue to mark the holiday as a "National Day of Mourning" (http://www.uaine.org/).

"Unhealthy America"

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After going to a pharmacy here in Maryland to pick up a medication that my physician prescribed - key word here is prescribed - and then being told my medication was not "covered" by my insurance because "Your insurance says they need proof that your doctor thinks you need this medication," I had to post this article by Nicholas Kristof about our deplorable health care system. (Left: BY Daniel Millberg)

The New York Times
5 November 2009
BY Nicholas D. Kristof

The moment of truth for health care is at hand, and the distortion that perhaps gets the most traction is this:

We have the greatest health care system in the world. Sure, it has flaws, but it saves lives in ways that other countries can only dream of. Abroad, people sit on waiting lists for months, so why should we squander billions of dollars to mess with a system that is the envy of the world? As Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama puts it, President Obama's plans amount to "the first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known."

That self-aggrandizing delusion may be the single greatest myth in the health care debate. In fact, America's health care system is worse than Slov--er, oops, more on that later.

The United States ranks 31st in life expectancy (tied with Kuwait and Chile), according to the latest World Health Organization figures. We rank 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births) and 34th in maternal mortality. A child in the United States is two-and-a-half times as likely to die by age 5 as in Singapore or Sweden, and an American woman is 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as a woman in Ireland.

Canadians live longer than Americans do after kidney transplants and after dialysis, and that may be typical of cross-border differences. One review examined 10 studies of how the American and Canadian systems dealt with various medical issues. The United States did better in two, Canada did better in five and in three they were similar or it was difficult to determine.

Yet another study, cited in a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute, looked at how well 19 developed countries succeeded in avoiding "preventable deaths," such as those where a disease could be cured or forestalled. What Senator Shelby called "the best health care system" ranked in last place.

The figures are even worse for members of minority groups. An African-American in New Orleans has a shorter life expectancy than the average person in Vietnam or Honduras.

I regularly receive heartbreaking e-mails from readers simultaneously combating the predations of disease and insurers. One correspondent, Linda, told me how she had been diagnosed earlier this year with abdominal and bladder cancer -- leading to battles with her insurance company.

"I will never forget standing outside the chemo treatment room knowing that the medication needed to save my life was only a few feet away, but that because I had private insurance it wasn't available to me," Linda wrote. "I read a comment from someone saying that they didn't want a faceless government bureaucrat deciding if they would or would not get treatment. Well, a faceless bureaucrat from my private insurance made the decision that I wouldn't get treatment and that I wasn't worth saving."

It's true that Americans have shorter waits to see medical specialists than in most countries, although waits in Germany are shorter than in the United States. But citizens of other countries get longer hospital stays and more medication than Americans do because our insurance companies evict people from hospitals as soon as they can stagger out of bed.

For example, in the United States, 90 percent of hernia surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. In Britain, only 40 percent is, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Likewise, Americans take 10 percent fewer drugs than citizens in other countries -- but pay 118 percent more per pill that they do take, McKinsey said.

Opponents of reform assert that the wretched statistics in the United States are simply a consequence of unhealthy lifestyles and a diverse population with pockets of poverty. It's true that America suffers more from obesity than other countries. But McKinsey found that over all, the disease burden in Europe is higher than in the United States, probably because Americans smoke less and because the American population is younger.

Moreover, there is one American health statistic that is strikingly above average: life expectancy for Americans who have already reached the age of 65. At that point, they can expect to live longer than the average in industrialized countries. That's because Americans above age 65 actually have universal health care coverage: Medicare. Suddenly, a diverse population with pockets of poverty is no longer such a drawback.

That brings me to an apology.

In several columns, I've noted indignantly that we have worse health statistics than Slovenia. For example, I noted that an American child is twice as likely to die in its first year as a Slovenian child. The tone -- worse than Slovenia! -- gravely offended Slovenians. They resent having their fine universal health coverage compared with the notoriously dysfunctional American system.

As far as I can tell, every Slovenian has written to me. Twice. So, to all you Slovenians, I apologize profusely for the invidious comparison of our health systems. Yet I still don't see anything wrong with us Americans aspiring for health care every bit as good as yours.

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