Archive for April, 2007

27
Apr
07

The Redstar Perspective History Month Farewell

With three days left in April, and my departing flight to Ft. Lauderdale scheduled for 4:30 pm today, I’m not sure when I’ll be blogging again in the coming days.  This rainy Friday afternoon in Cambridge seems like an appropriate time to wish you all many thanks for joining us here for the festivities this month. 

For the newbies, April was The Redstar Perspective History Month, celebrating the first anniversary of this blog, for which no official date-of-first-post was ever recorded (how un-Virgo of me!).  Over the month, we hosted interviews and profiles; debates; a lecture series; memorable quotes; coverage of the atrocities at Virginia Tech; rants and reflections; and of course, public service announcements and endorsements to enrich your lives. 

During the month, I had my first peer-reviewed academic journal article accepted for publication by Economic Development Quarterly, applied for several more rounds of funding to shore up my summer research plans, renewed my blog domain and host, visited NYC and my girlfriends for the weekend and felt the tug to return for the first time in a long time, rounded the 11-month mark with the M.A.S. (anniversary: May 19th!), and, of course, paid some taxes.  With the exception of the latter event, it’s been a forward-looking month for Redstar, even as we celebrated this anniversary here. 

It’s onward and upward for this diva-scholar, and I hope you’ll continue to come along for the ride.  You’ve still so much to learn, don’t you think?

🙂

Happy Anniversary, Redstar!

And a wonderful weekend to all my Redstarettes out there!!

 

26
Apr
07

The RP History Month Profile: Mike Bloomberg Hates Poverty

Unlike Weboy, I’m not giddy over NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s efforts to turn the Big Apple into the Big Green Apple (did I really just write that? Yep, there it is in front of me.  Eeek.).  Try as I may, I just cannot get interested in climate change, the environment (other than my own personal space), or energy, despite the realization that these are THE policy issues du jour.  You know me, it’s nothing but poverty, the poor, public housing and inequality over here at the RP.  (I know, poverty and the environment are hardly mutually exclusive.  Can we just move on already??)

I’m not alone.  Bloomberg, the only male GOP I’ve ever voted for, has made tackling poverty the core issue of his second administration.  And true to my form of trying to meld my MBA/PhD ways, he’s tackling the issue with non-traditional, innovative, public-private approaches (ok, public-private partnerships are not new nor pathbreaking, per se, but Bloomberg’s attempts to use city government as a host for entrepreneurial pilot programs rather than situating such initiatives outside the bounds of municipal control is original). 

Like Wesley, I’m generally on board with Bloomberg and his initiatives.  Keep in mind he’s a generous philanthropist for whom the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins is named; a friend of mine working for the NYC Dept. of Health was told by a colleague that now is the “golden age” for the department on Bloomberg’s watch.  (That they give her NO paid maternity leave is abysmal; that she works in their Maternal & Infant Health group is beyond ironic.)

So of course I’m pleased to see several developments in the last six months in NYC:

the creation of the Center for Economic Opportunity ($), a venture-philanthropy like city office that will spend $150m/year on “experimental programs” and “nontraditional solutions” to fighting poverty;

and

– the launch of one program with the Center, a $50M privately funded initiative to give cash bonuses to poor families ($) (“conditional cash transfers”) for specific actions such as attending parent-teacher conferences or going to the doctor.  Similar programs in Latin America have proven to raise school attendance and nutrition rates; one program in Mexico that provides grants to 25% of the country’s population has found the overall number of families living in extreme poverty has dropped.

At broad brush, these are great initiatives and a good sign of things to come from this administration that has worked hard at confronting homelessness, the lack of affordable housing, and arguably, shrinking economic inequality in the city.  Their focus on outcomes and the combination of government stewardship with flexible private funds are popular and easily sold on funders.  (We obviously can’t ignore the value of Bloomberg’s rolodex here either.) 

Yet, keep two things in mind before you add Bloomberg to your list of idols (especially now that Sanjaya’s departure has opened up a spot). 

Continue reading ‘The RP History Month Profile: Mike Bloomberg Hates Poverty’

23
Apr
07

The RP History Month Meditations

I disappeared from the blog waves last week, leaving my exploration of the tragedy of VA Tech unfinished as I moved into the weekend visiting with friends and family.  I lost a productive work week trying to make sense of the VA Tech massacre, not just from blogging, but watching the news, talking it through with the M.A.S., my mom, and my aunts, and just generally driving around from errand to errand in a state of shock that this could occur.

In college, I had a Korean-American boyfriend for two years, a partner who remained one of my closest friends until an inexplicable falling out in 2005. (Ever have a painful misunderstanding unravel a friendship because too much time and silence passes?  ‘Nuf said.)  A year apart in college, my girlfriends and I met him the summer between our sophomore and junior year when we sublet the two remaining rooms in a house he was occupying in lieu of his fraternity brothers gone until the fall.  He was a shy, quiet kid when we met him, and for years after he’d describe fondly my marching into the apartment on the first Friday night in June and, as our first introduction, instructing him to help us unload the mattress from the roof of my car.  He inherited three surrogate mothers from that moment onward, if parenting includes teaching one another drinking games, providing his unemployed ass with a summer’s supply of cigarettes, and ultimately – in my case – becoming his girlfriend (after a painful breakup, our relationship evolved far enough into an elder sister-younger brother dynamic that the notion that we ever dated was definitely off-putting for both of us, even if I looked back on it warmly).  But he needed us, and we adored him.  He’d be the first to tell you that.

He was a tortured kid – at 15, he lost his father to his third heart attack and simultaneously lost his religious faith, discovered partying in NYC in religion’s stead, and eventually escaped to college with an array of behaviors and presentations reflecting his emotional pain that I’ll spare him the exposure of recapping here.  I’ve had a host of Korean women and male friends since college, and I’m familiar with the tough, restrained culture, the fiercely high expectations of Korean sons in particular.  Furthermore, in the ethnic hierarchies of the world, Koreans have a long, suffering history at the hands of Japanese and Chinese imperialism.  As one Korean b-school friend told me over too many drinks after our miserable accounting mid-term, Koreans are the “Irish of the Orient.”  According to my aunts, my Boston-Irish family comes from a long line of “drunks and nuts.”  Are you starting to see the connections here? 

  Continue reading ‘The RP History Month Meditations’

23
Apr
07

The RP History Month Memorable Quotes: Pure Conjecture

The NY Times reports this weekend on rising infant mortality rates in the U.S. South (check out the disturbing graph to the left of the article).  Obesity and hypertension are some of the medical causes among women that lead to the poorer health of their children; chronic poverty and reductions in social services for the poor are the social and political causes.

In the example of Mississippi, 54,000 individuals, mostly kids, have been dropped from Medicaid (health care for poor families, elderly and the disabled) and Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) rolls since 2005, following Gov. Haley Barbour’s 2004 election on a campaign in part that promised to shrink Medicaid.

Nonetheless,

Mississippi’s Medicaid director, Dr. Robert L. Robinson, said…that suggesting any correlation between the decline in Medicaid enrollment and infant mortality was “pure conjecture.â€? (my emphases)

I prefer to think of it as a hypothesis, with initial supporting evidence including:

– The state Health Department has cut back its system of clinics, in part because of budget shortfalls and a shortage of nurses. Some clinics that used to be open several days a week are now open once a week and some offer no prenatal care.

– The department has also suffered management turmoil and reductions in field staff, problems so severe that the state Legislature recently voted to replace the director.

“Oleta Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund,” extends the hypothesis:

“When you see drops in the welfare rolls, when you see drops in Medicaid and children’s insurance, you see a recipe for disaster. Somebody’s not eating, somebody’s not going to the doctor and unborn children suffer.�

At least these poor women and their unborn children will be spared the threatening practice of dilation and extraction should these pregnancies ever pose risks to these women’s health.  You can’t say we’ve never done anything for ya’, ladies!

 

18
Apr
07

The RP History Month Rant: Protecting Women’s Bodies and Our Right to Choose

The Supreme Court upholds the partial-birth abortion ban and ignores, in fact, “refuses to take … seriouslyâ€? 30 years of previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion.

Bush “pleased”; Redstar and pro-choice individuals everywhere “aghast” and “infuriated.”

I don’t understand how a nation that allows capital punishment, has such flimsy gun control laws that a 23-year old mentally ill student can buy two guns, tortures prisoners, and blindly invades other countries (what else am I missing in my fury right now…help me out here…), can justify this decision based on the “sanctity of life.” 

Bullsh*t.

Never mind that the type of abortion procedure at issue here is a very small percentage of all abortions.  It’s the symbolism of this decision (listen up ladies: your lives are not your own, nor are they particularly valued), and the expectation that it will accelerate the erosion of abortion rights in the U.S.  Ginsberg, the sole women on the Supreme Court wrote the dissent and lambasted her colleagues for this blatantly partisan decision; the lawyer for Planned Parenthood claims:

“This ruling flies in the face of 30 years of Supreme Court precedent and the best interest of women’s health and safety. … This ruling tells women that politicians, not doctors, will make their health care decisions for them.â€?

Wesley has been writing extensively lately about the conversations among men regarding gender in his separate discussions of Don Imus, Hillary and the threatening blogosphere.  Our gendered power imbalance in this country is absolutely manifest in the abortion debates.  Of course, there are pro-life women, and like the Hillary-haters, they’re often the most staunch in their opposition to abortion.  But research ($) shows that

a state’s abortion policy is determined by the strength of interest advocacy groups and political forces. The greater the membership in the National Abortion Rights Action League, the percentage of female state legislators and the percentage of Democratic female legislators, the less restrictive a state’s abortion policy. The greater a state’s population that are Roman Catholics, the more restrictive a state’s abortion policy. (my emphases)

Continue reading ‘The RP History Month Rant: Protecting Women’s Bodies and Our Right to Choose’

18
Apr
07

The RP History Month Reflections: Career Gals

F*ck.  Now I can never become a cab driver in Beijing. 

No red hair or big earrings for women?!?!

What kind of communist police state is this???

Apparently hating the red-headed stepchild has universal cultural appeal!

18
Apr
07

The RP History Month Fast Facts: Fewer Boys Being Born

I could have told you this – of my 13 friends who became first-time moms in the last few years, nine had daughters.  I was so ready for someone to have a boy that I told my newly pregnant cousin Erin last fall that I’d give her $50 if she had a boy (she’s delivering on this one; you think she’ll hold me to it??). 

The falling male birth rate presented in this article is restricted to the U.S. and Japan, and blamed on environmental toxins.  Vague, and creepy.  Apparently, it’s important that the male birth rate remains higher than that of girls because it naturally corrects for the higher rate of male deaths at birth.  Or something.  Boo.  (It’s nothing but uplifting reporting this week at the RP!)

I am learning after all my kvetching that there’s a much better range of clothing for little girls out there.  And it seems, whether we’re 4 or 34, we never grow tired of being a princess!  Eeek.

 

17
Apr
07

The RP History Month Tribute: Lost Lives at VA Tech

Memorials of the VA Tech victims are being collected and disseminated across the web.  I can feel the emotion creeping up as more and more information becomes available; reading Seung Cho’s plays tonight, I felt more than a little trite after my pert intellectual soapboxing this morning.  (And as the experts remind us, profiling such killers is a relatively futile process.  Though, as the NYT rather distastefully observes, “Mr. Cho does not shatter the mold for mass murderers.”)

I’m thinking of a totally rad visiting professor my department hosted last year, Earthea Nance, a civil engineer on leave from VA Tech, who specialized in international development, specifically water and sanitation.  Earthea has moved on to the Office of Recovery Management in New Orleans, and thank god (for her and the city).  As I’m reading of students majoring in Water Resources and engineering, I’m thinking of her relationships to the place she so recently left behind. 

Yesterday’s tragedy also uneasily brings to mind the M.A.S., another product of the Fairfax County, VA school system.  VA Tech for his school was like UMass Amherst at mine – the default destination for so many of our high school classmates.  Even worse, the M.A.S.’s brother-in-law is a rabid VA Tech alum (even owning a sports car in the maroon colors of the university).  Finally, the M.A.S. was once in lockdown in high school after someone showed up on campus armed.  Both he and his sister were enrolled at the time; the school locked students in their classrooms and didn’t release them for hours after school should have ended.  No one was harmed.  I can’t imagine how worried his parents and others’ must have been, and how scary it was.  This memory has certainly been a part of the M.A.S.’s emotional processing of this horror in the last 36 hours.

As I sit here now, the local news is highlighting two local kids killed yesterday, Ross Alameddine from Saugus, MA, and Daniel O’Neil from Lincoln, R.I.  I’d cry if I could get the tears out when I read one student’s fond remembrance of Ross, a M*sshole through and through:

Ross Abdallah Alameddine, 20, a sophomore from Saugus, Mass., was known as fun loving and full of humor, friends said.

Leah Robinson, 20, befriended Mr. Alameddine last semester when they discovered they were the lone nonmusic majors in a music theory class. Mr. Alameddine was a “hardcore� fan of the jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood and loved the grilled chicken sandwiches at the West End Market dining hall and the teal Pontiac Grand Am that he had won in a raffle.

“He called it the car he got for a dollar,� Ms. Robinson said.

I’m right there with you, Ross!

There is just no solace in these moments right now (Walking from my car to campus this morning, there just happened to be a dorm evacuation underway…never seen that before…) 

What a f***ed up world.  Spring snow at VA Tech during the worst massacre in history, in the same week as the Columbine murders in 1999.  Trying to cope from a distance, high and dry in my urban abode away from the coasts and rivers now flooding the rest of Boston and New England (as a submerged Morrissey Blvd in Dorchester flashes across my tv screen).  This urbane cynic could probably benefit from the convocation tomorrow afternoon at MIT. 

17
Apr
07

The RP History Month Reflections: How Could This Happen?

(Update, 6pm: I encourage readers to continue through the comments, to see the conversation unfolding here.)

The first day after the VA Tech massacre begins with a preliminary shooter identification: Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean resident who emigrated to the U.S. in 1992 and was a senior at the university.  He grew up in Centerville, VA, and was an English major.

Still not enough information for you to understand how he could have committed such a brutal act?  Join the club.  In our typical differing responses to yesterday’s tragedy, I was in cynical shock and musing aloud on lost jobs, failed executive decisions and the spell-binding power of the internet to disseminate information, while the M.A.S. sadly wondered aloud, how could someone do this?  According to rock star Princeton sociologist Katherine Newman, author of Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings, commonalities across the multiple school shootings she studied for her 2005 book were:

– a self-perception of being a “loser” that often included the presence of depression or other forms of mental illness in the shooters;

– the tendency for information loss in schools that led to these students failing to be identified as likely candidates for such acts of horror;

– the tight-knit nature of the rural communities where the majority of shootings (60%) have occurred in the last thirty years.

I want to talk about the first two; I don’t know enough about the places where this kid grew up – neither Centerville nor VA Tech/Blacksburg – to postulate on the “environmental” determinants of yesterday’s events. 

Continue reading ‘The RP History Month Reflections: How Could This Happen?’

16
Apr
07

Breaking News: VA Tech Massacre (We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of the RP History Month)

I’m still processing today’s events at VA Tech.  Aren’t we all.  As a current full-time student at MIT, I walked across Harvard campus today for a class, trying to imagine how and where such a brutal event might unfold on either of these campuses I’ve come to know well.  VA Tech police and administration are already under fire for failing to notify the campus sufficiently of the initial two shootings (there’s two jobs  – university president and campus chief of police – that should open up within the year), and no doubt they’ll be living with the guilt and tortorous “what if’s” of their decisions today while we also question their ability to protect the 2,600 acre campus of 25,000 students (of which more than half are commuters).

I’ve been following the story since about 11 am, and I was struck how restrained the tone was as the news unfolded.  I couldn’t tell if that was the nature of breaking news via the internet, versus the intimate hysteria of watching video over and over on tv (until we’re numbed by the repetition).  Or if it was the suspended disbelief given no one was really sure what the f*** happened.  What f***ing chaos, occurring on a campus effectively the size of a small town, and early in the day.  Not unlike those first moments of confusion of 9/11, before word spread and we watched the second chapter of that atrocity unfold on television.  In the VA Tech microcosm, given the delay in alerting students about the apparent “domestic” dispute in the dorms, as the NY Times reported, “few students seemed to have any sense of urgency” as they went about their morning routines.  So horrible.  I remember what it was like to be at Brandeis, when about a dozen student and faculty died over the course of my four years there, including a junior killed in a bus bombing while studying abroad in Israel.  We came to believe there was a black cloud over our community.  I have no idea how VA Tech picks up the pieces from this.  To begin, they need to raze Norris Hall. 

Given the shooter blew his own head off, authorities have to resort to “[tracing] purchase records for two handguns found near the body.”  As The Financial Times is one of the first to report – while U.S. media races to supply us with endless video and first-person coverage of today’s horrors - we will see what this means for gun control laws in this country, if anything.   

My heart and mind goes out to the victims’ loved ones and members of the VA Tech community tonight.