Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We complain about the ineffective UN and then...

BushFor the 16th year in a row, a UN vote denounces Cuban trade embargo. The vote denouncing the U.S. trade embargo was supported by 184 nations. Cuba's representative at the vote said,

Anyone can understand the level of socio-economic development that Cuba would have attained had it not been subjected to this unrelenting and obsessive economic war.
The Bush administration immediately responded with, "Nah-nah nah-nah Boo-Boo", and then dropped a bomb on an Afghan family. Then Bush got Congress to give him a bunch of additional money for war while simultaneously turning down funding for poor children's health care. But remember, Marxism is a threat to our civilized society. And that's the news!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's up to us

If we market Library 2.0 we need to take responsibility for explaining and teaching it to our patrons. Often we don't feel that our patrons are ready for most of the Web 2.0 applications. If our government had a different set of priorities, we would be spending less on national defense and we could provide free high speed internet nation-wide. Eventually our populace would have exposure to the internet and all of its possibilities.




Innocent man spends 22 year in Georgia prison

And guess what race he is. I didn't even need to read the article to know in my gut, and sure enough I was right. He's an African American man convicted of rape in 1985 that DNA evidence has now proven that he did not commit. In fact, someone else is now behind bars for that crime.

Unite against racismHere is the Marxist lesson. Racism is, in a nutshell, a means for dividing the working class. It has been used by the capitalist class as way of keeping workers from truly coming together. Union solidarity has historically been hindered by fostering a feeling by Caucasian workers that, "well at least someone isn't doing as well as I am". A rejection of racism is one of the attractive principles of Marxist thought.

In the article Toward A Socialist Theory Of Racism, Cornel West goes a step further than the Marxists while acknowledging that Marxist thought has been very important in understanding racism.

We must frankly acknowledge that a democratic socialist society will not necessarily eradicate racism. Yet a democratic socialist society is the best hope for alleviating and minimizing racism, particularly institutional forms of racism.
This has been a public service message from The Proletarian Librarian. The more you know...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ideas ideas ideas

Looking at Library 2.0 in the most optimistic light possible, Kansas State professor Michael Wesch has put together a very nice video clip, unless you suffer from motion sickness in which case some Dramamine might be advised.



I've tended to be critical of the Library 2.0 bandwagon, and ironically, I'm a huge tech advocate. I just wonder if the public (you know - our reason for being here) is going to be able to handle Web 2.0 applications. If, on the other hand, we are able to make this technology work so well that they don't even notice it, then we'll have something special indeed! Ideas? Comments? I'd be interested in your impressions of this video clip.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chavez kicking the IMF habit

From BoRev.net (which is always hot, all the time) we have Hey Wait If You Just Give Poor People Heating Oil How Will They Learn to Grow it Themselves? But this is really much bigger than the brief post you'll find there. Chavez is seen in the Bronx as a hero of sorts, but the article also says that his citizens at home criticize him for spending money on a city in the richest country in the world (go figure). Yet economist extraordinaire Joseph Stieglitz "...praised the South American country's success at distributing its oil income among citizens" in a recent article entitled Stiglitz, in Venezuela, Pushes Public-Private Balance. Maybe it's time we took Chavez seriously. After all, he has singlehandedly created a separate source for loans to the countries of South America and even elsewhere. And recently he made an amazing statement by pulling out of the IMF entirely. The Guardian reports, Chavez pulls out of IMF and World Bank. I think the ramifications here are immense. Is there any way he could rankle the U.S. government more than this??? I mean, after all, the IMF and World Bank have been frequently criticized for manipulating the economies of South America to the benefit of the United States. Finally these countries have someone else to go to when they are in need, and my understanding is that Chavez has much better loan terms than either the IMF or the World Bank. And news doesn't break any faster than that link.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Vancouver Public Library: hanging tough

I'd like to give a shout out of solidarity to the staff of the Vancouver Public Library. They were recently on strike for nearly three months. The points that they were attempting to achieve were:

  • Pay equity
  • Improvements for part-time and auxiliary workers
  • Improved language for job security
  • Improvements for health benefit
I know that they were not able to win on all points, but it was encouraging to see them stick together through a tough time and support each other. I'm interested in finding out how they did in the end. CUPE391 will be back to work Monday and the library will reopen Wednesday. Does anyone have an update about the new contract?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Superhero me!

Hat tip to the Effing Librarian. How fun is THIS?!? There was no option to put a book in one hand, so I went with the next obvious choices. This image was created using the HeroMachine.

So what does Super Proletarian Librarian stand for? Solidarity amongst library employees, quality customer services for all patrons regardless of race, socioeconomic class, or academic abilities, and an aspiration to educate the masses about the many edifying materials that they have access to through their public library system. I believe in providing pop culture materials, but I do not believe that we should purchase so many copies of these materials that our research collections must suffer. I believe that the library should be able to serve as a refuge from urban life AND an entertainment source. And I believe that we should provide reliable internet access because more and more our patrons MUST be able to demonstrate web skills in order to obtain employment (and often we are their only access option).

Temp workers should have wage parity

From John Harris at The Guardian comes an article entitled The slow death of the Real Job is pulling society apart. Mr. Harris is talking about British society in his article, but the same holds true here in the U.S. Too many temp workers are being hired as the rule rather than the exception. They are paid less and usually have no benefits. This saves U.S. employers billions of dollars a year but it is shameful and irresponsible. Solution: legislate wage parity for part-time and temp workers. Corporations have no conscience. They will always refuse to do the right thing until doing the wrong thing is no longer cost effective.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Both admiration and frustration with the public

We hear so much in the library blogosphere about Library 2.0 and the need (oftentimes portrayed as the desperate need) to bring patrons into the fold through high tech social software. So we librarians get excited. We learn to Twitter, Ning, and Flickr. We Digg, and Facebook and LibraryThing. But in the end, what do we end up spending time with the average patron doing? Mouse skills. Or the age old question, "how do I copy and paste?"

I don't know if it is the location of my public library, or if this is what all public librarians are seeing, but the overwhelming majority of our patrons are no where near ready for Library 2.0. And by the time they are, we will have released Library 3.0. Besides, who are they going to network with using the latest social software? No one that they know uses it. While MySpace and Facebook have become fairly universally popular with young people of all socio-economic backgrounds, the rest of Twopointoh Land is for affluent academics with too much time on their hands.

Yet there is something encouraging about people with no keyboarding skills, and no mouse skills, being willing to ask for help signing up for an email address so that they can attempt a job search online. What an intimidating experience for them! THAT is where the real benefits are being achieved. I think it's time to put 2.0 to rest while we meet our patrons where they actually are and show them that technology might be able to be of some practical, concrete benefit for them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fascinating



What does this video say about the information age? When the students say that "some have suggested that technology alone will save us" it really seems as though technology is causing us to be required to do so much more with our time. I would suggest that collective action alone can save us.

Hat tip to Michael Stephens at Tame the Web.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Che saves sight of his executioner

This may be one of the most powerful stories I've heard in a long time. Cuban doctors working in Bolivia have saved the sight of the man who is credited with having executed Che Guevara. Hat tip to An Unrepentant Communist on that one! Check out the story! This is the kind of thing that really makes my heart sing! And here's the story in The Guardian. Unfortunately, the article says that the Cuban government is using this as propaganda. Why the need to use the term propaganda? It's just an interesting turn of events and I don't see any need to shrug it off as simple propaganda.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Archbishop Tutu update

This is in reference to a previous post that can be read here. I followed up the response by Father Dease with this reply:

Dear Father Dease:

In my experience it is natural, and unfortunate, for wrongdoers to feel attacked when their wrongdoing is exposed. The current treatment of the Palestinian people by Israel so closely parallels that of formerly apartheid South Africa that few distinctions can be made. Who better to understand this deeply than Archbishop Tutu. And who, after having been the victims of indescribable persecution themselves, should know better than the Jewish people that this treatment is immoral and must ultimately be universally condemned. It also seems to me that Catholic social teaching falls clearly on the side of the marginalized, economically terrorized and displaced Palestinian people. On the whole, I find it difficult to disagree with the substance of Archbishop Tutu's comparisons though he may not score many style points. The problem, as I see it, is that Zionists claim anti-Semitism rather quickly and thereby control the debate by refusing to engage in one. Your actions now play perfectly into that hand. It is this issue, and the stand in support of Israel by the U.S. government, that arguably impacts world peace more than any other. Archbishop Tutu's informed opinion should be heard and debated by your Catholic campus community.

Sincerely,

[Proletarian Librarian]
I was both shocked and pleased to get the following in my email last night from Father Dease.
Dear [Proletarian Librarian],

I want to thank you for sharing your concerns about the University of St. Thomas’ initial decision not to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak and for your follow-up correspondence.

This has been a very difficult issue. In light of additional information, I have reconsidered my decision and will be inviting Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on our campus.

I hope that my letter to the St. Thomas community, attached below, will respond to your concerns.

Sincerely,

Reverend Dennis Dease
President


UST president says he made wrong decision, invites Tutu to campus

Dear members of the St. Thomas community,

One of the strengths of a university is the opportunity that it provides to speak freely and to be open to other points of view on a wide variety of issues. And, I might add, to change our minds.

Therefore, I feel both humbled and proud to extend an invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at the University of St. Thomas .

I have wrestled with what is the right thing to do in this situation, and I have concluded that I made the wrong decision earlier this year not to invite the archbishop. Although well-intentioned, I did not have all of the facts and points of view, but now I do.

PeaceJam International may well choose to keep the alternative arrangements that it has made for its April 2008 conference, but I want the organization and Archbishop Tutu to know that we would be honored to hold the conference at St. Thomas .

In any event, St. Thomas will extend an invitation to Archbishop Tutu to participate in a forum to foster constructive dialogue on the issues that have been raised. I hope he accepts my invitation. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas has agreed to serve as a co-sponsor of the forum, and I expect other organizations also to join as co-sponsors.

Details about issues to be addressed will be determined later, but I would look forward to a candid discussion about how a civil and democratic society can pursue reasoned debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other emotionally charged issues.

I also want to encourage a thoughtful examination of St. Thomas ’ policies regarding controversial speech and controversial speakers. In the past, we have been criticized externally and internally when we have invited controversial speakers to campus – as well as when we have not. Rather than just move from controversy to controversy, might there be a positive role that this university could play in fostering thoughtful conversation around difficult and highly charged issues? We also might explore how to more clearly express in our policies and practices our commitment to civility when discussing such issues.

I have asked Dr. Nancy Zingale, professor of political science and my former executive adviser, to oversee the planning for the forum. If you have suggestions regarding either the topic or other participants, please contact her at nhzingale@stthomas.edu.

I sincerely hope Archbishop Tutu will accept our invitation. I continue to have nothing but the utmost respect for his witness of faith, for his humanitarian accomplishments and especially for his leadership in helping to end apartheid in South Africa .

Sincerely,

Father Dennis Dease
President
I think that this is an excellent example of the power of the pen (or in this case the keyboard). I know that Father Dease received a large number of critical reactions to his decision, and I am glad that he was able to reevaluate his decision from a more open perspective. I think that the University of St. Thomas is well served by this flexible leadership.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

University of St. Thomas excludes Archbishop Tutu

Recently the University of St. Thomas decided to cancel a scheduled speaking engagement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu due to his outspoken criticism of Israel with regards to the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. I have been in correspondence with the President of the University of St. Thomas. My letter was as follows:



Dear Father Dease:

I am writing to express outrage over the decision to cancel Bishop Tutu's previously scheduled speaking engagement at your University. In canceling, you do a disservice to your students, your campus community, and the future of the Israeli / Palestinian debate. The facts on the ground in Israel are clear. Tutu's comparison of Israel 's illegal occupation to South African apartheid is entirely legitimate, and your decision to silence his opinion on your campus is not only short-sighted, but it is unAmerican.
I have received a reply to my email.
Dear [Proletarian Librarian],

I want to thank you for sharing your concerns about the University of St. Thomas ' decision not to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on our campus.

This has been a very difficult issue and I know that many people do not agree with the decision.

I hope that my letter to the St. Thomas community, attached below, will answer some of your concerns.

We will be considering the matter further.

Sincerely,

Reverend Dennis Dease
President
University of St. Thomas

Bulletin update

Dear members of the St. Thomas community,

I am writing to you today to explain the University of St. Thomas ' decision not to co-sponsor an April 2008 PeaceJam conference for high school students.

Last spring, a representative of our Justice and Peace Studies program advised my office of an opportunity to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at St. Thomas during the PeaceJam conference. I discussed the matter with my staff and decided not to take advantage of this opportunity.

Later, I learned that Youthrive, an Upper Midwest affiliate of Denver-based PeaceJam International, had invited Tutu to speak at St. Thomas without my knowledge or that of other senior administrators.

(Metropolitan State University has agreed to host the conference, which will be held April 11-13, with Archbishop Tutu as the featured speaker.)

St. Thomas receives hundreds of proposals to sponsor speakers and events, and we often decline for a variety of reasons. Why was this the case for the Archbishop Tutu opportunity?

We became aware of concerns about some of Archbishop Tutu's widely publicized statements that have been hurtful to members of the Jewish community. I spoke with Jews for whom I have great respect. What stung these individuals was not that Archbishop Tutu criticized Israel but how he did so, and the moral equivalencies that they felt he drew between Israel’s policies and those of Nazi Germany, and between Zionism and racism.

I was under no pressure from any pro-Israeli groups or individuals, nor did I receive any requests from them, to refrain from inviting Archbishop Tutu to speak.

I am not in a position to evaluate what to a Jew feels anti-Semitic and what does not. I can, however, take seriously the judgments of those whom I trust by not putting St. Thomas in a position that would add to that hurt.

Questions also have been raised about why Dr. Thomas Rochon, executive vice president and chief academic officer, removed Dr. Cris Toffolo as director of our interdisciplinary Justice and Peace Studies program. This is a personnel matter. I will say only that she was not removed because of any private or public disagreement with my decision not to invite Archbishop Tutu to St. Thomas . She continues to teach in the program and remains a tenured associate professor of political science.

I also wish to address concerns about threats to academic freedom at St. Thomas . I strongly defend the principle and practice of academic freedom at the university. This incident did not involve our curriculum or St. Thomas classroom activities. Instead, it involved the use of our facilities and name in connection with an external group.

I want to thank members of the St. Thomas community for sharing their concerns with me. This has been a difficult issue, and I know many people do not agree with the decision. As always, I welcome your comments.

Sincerely,

Father Dennis Dease
President
Turns out the University of St. Thomas allowed notorious right-wing hack Ann Coulter to speak. Ann Coulter once said of Muslims, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Hat tip to Juan Cole on that one. Somehow I don't think that Archbishop Tutu at his very worst could match the irrational ignorance of Ann Coulter.

The impending death of the UAW

One of the worst items in the new UAW contract is the two tiered wage and benefit set-up. Now, new hires will receive only half of the pay and reduced benefits as those who are already employed. Who is going to want to work there knowing that most of the other workers, doing the very same jobs, are making twice what you are? Another big problem with this system is that by the time this contract expires, those who are making less will likely be the majority. What is going to be the advantage to being with the union if the union isn't going to protect your wages and benefits? Union membership is sure to drop off dramatically in the face of this contract settlement.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Immigration

I attended a forum discussion at a university this afternoon about immigration. Some of the panelists were interesting. One was basically a fear monger. But strikingly, none of them addressed the "elephant in the room". They were interested in discussing border security, Visa reform, and what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here, but they gave no thought to WHY people are so desperate to enter our country. One Senator from Florida even suggested that additional "free trade" agreements would make economic conditions better for countries of the south. This is exactly the opposite of the truth.

The truth is, NAFTA allowed cheap U.S. corn into the Mexican market, putting millions of Mexican corn farmers out of business. These farmers, desperate for work, are streaming across the border. Well why don't they come legally? Why don't they wait in line like they are supposed to? Immigration law in the U.S. is a complicated thing. The fact is, we just don't issue Visas to Mexican corm farmers with a 5th grade education. Now, if the Visa applicant is a doctor, or a scientist, we usually will work something out.

The ugly truth is that "free trade" is good for U.S. farmers and bad for farmers elsewhere. We even offer huge subsidies to our farmers, making it impossible for foreign farmers to compete. Those subsidies actually fly in the face of the very idea of "free trade".

How does immigration affect your local public library? More on that interesting topic in a future post.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Taking a break

There are so many serious events happening in the world. Once in a while even the radical left needs to take a break. I'll protest injustice in the world again in a few days. But now I need to get some school work done. In the mean time enjoy Heartsong by Daisy May!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

On compassion

From an op-ed by Paul Krugman entitled Conservatives are such jokers in the NYT today.

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.
I don't often find myself wondering about the political affiliations of my fellow librarians. Most seem to be gracious people dedicated to public service. But you can see in the comments of the Annoyed Librarian's post today that every profession has its small minded camp. I challenge my fellow librarians to be more accepting of each other. We never need to talk a colleague down in order to feel like we ourselves are somehow "more". Even hypothetically.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Librarianship: really?

stop the trainI love being a librarian. I love providing information for a public that would otherwise be "out in the cold". But I must admit that I've reached the point where I don't think that it is enough. In November of 2006 our country sent a message, and the message was "what the hell do you people think you're doing?" Since then, our newly elected Democratic Congress has done next to nothing to put a stop to the insanity in Iraq.

Being a librarian and providing service to the public isn't stopping the war machine that our country has become. I feel sometimes like I'm going to have to lay down on the tracks politically, and probably also physically, in order to be heard. Is that what's coming? I'll let you know soon, because there are some options that will be presenting themselves within the next few weeks. We will not be a silent majority.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Speaks for itself

Monday, October 1, 2007

Give the people what they want vs. not underestimating the public

It has been a long debate. As a public library, should we simply "give the people what they want" by purchasing multiple copies of popular materials, or should we purchase some popular materials and yet maintain quality research collections? Those who fall into the "give the people what they want" camp often accuse their counterparts of elitism. They don't feel that quality judgments should be made, which I guess means that librarians are just over-trained fetch artists.

I would suggest that it is actually the "give the people what they want"ers who are the elitists. Here's my reasoning. Isn't it snobbish to assume that public library users have no need for a research collection? Are research collections only to be maintained in academic libraries? Should we really be proud of having ten copies of the DVD Jackass 2 even when we have to weed books on how to start your own small business? Sure Jackass 2 circulates well, but what are we providing for our patrons that isn't already being provided by Blockbuster, Netflix, or Hollywood Video?

Part of the issue is that the public library has become just another expression of corporate America. It's a numbers game now. Door counts and circulation statistics are the name of the game. If we can't show them increasing every year then we might be cut off from some kind of special funding that we would like to request. We are all experiencing a fear of becoming irrelevant, but I ask you, how could we become more irrelevant than if we stop providing access to quality information for the members of the public who are least likely to go out and buy that material?

For more on this issue see this post at the Effing Librarian, and an interesting debate (including the comments) at Blyberg's blog.

What the recent UAW strike may mean

The recent and incredibly brief UAW strike needs to be discussed without all of the whitewash attributed to it by most media outlets. Even the People's Weekly World tried to put a positive spin on what can only be seen as a loss for organized labor. The non-manufacturing employees of the UAW will now be hired for $14 an hour while current wages are $28 an hour. The retiree health insurance that GM had been paying for will now be underfunded and handled by the union. Yet the editorial staff of the People's Weekly World are trying to spin this settlement as a victory. In their editorial entitled, The Auto Strike, they state:

No matter the contract details, the strike illustrates key points in an emerging political action program for labor: national health care and retirement security; a demand that giant corporations reinvest in manufacturing to preserve jobs and a sustainable economy in the U.S.; workers’ rights and organizing rights.
No matter the contract details? Seriously? Do you think those folks joined a union for the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they attend meetings? Or was it to win?