Monthly Archives: November 2007

Charming News

One is advised against repeating the news in one’s blog, as this merely turns the ether into an echo chamber. However there is so much news, and each piece of it is so overwhelming, that I cannot refrain from pointing out that there are now veterans who, having accepted enlistment bonuses and now having been wounded before their term of enlistment ended, are being asked to return a prorated portion of their bonuses, and that several European countries have been complicit in secret renditions to Guantánamo by letting us fly through their airspace or, in the case of Spain, land there on the way to Cuba.

Check out Stephen Gray’s GhostPlane (cited in the Times of London), which links to source documents on the Turkey – Greece – Spain – Portugal – Cuba route: a fascinating one for travel, it must be said, although not in these circumstances. This website also permits you to see a photograph of the inside of a transport plane, loaded with hooded and pinned-down prisoners.

Finally, do not forget to learn how manhole covers for New York and other U.S. cities are made by barefoot workers in at least one Indian foundry. Impeachment will not remedy all of this, but it is one excellent place to start. My student says the only way to remain calm is not to know the news, but I favor spreading it.

Axé.

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Reassigned Time

Last month Reassigned Time was called “selfish” for planning to go on the market for a job she may like better than the one she has. I find it is very strange how often professors are told they are selfish, arrogant, or childish to want other jobs and/or other careers. But it is true. The reasons I have been given why I should stay in academia, or in particular academic jobs I have had, include the following:

+ I should be grateful to have a career and no children, and I should therefore suck up whatever my current job dishes out;

+ I have an academic job and not everyone who wants one does, therefore I should keep mine whether I want it or not;

+ I am good at this, so I am probably not good at anything else.

I also note that the words selfish, childish, and arrogant are typically those used to shame women into relinquishing independence.

Axé.

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Globalization

The New York Times 11-26-2007

FOLLOW LINK TO FASCINATING PICTURES AND AUDIO

Workers in Haora, India, have few protections while making manhole covers for Con Edison and some cities’ utilities

By HEATHER TIMMONS and J. ADAM HUGGINS

NEW DELHI — Eight thousand miles from Manhattan, barefoot, shirtless, whip-thin men rippled with muscle were forging prosaic pieces of the urban jigsaw puzzle: manhole covers.

Seemingly impervious to the heat from the metal, the workers at one of West Bengal’s many foundries relied on strength and bare hands rather than machinery. Safety precautions were barely in evidence; just a few pairs of eye goggles were seen in use on a recent visit. The foundry, Shakti Industries in Haora, produces manhole covers for Con Edison and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, as well as for departments in New Orleans and Syracuse.

The scene was as spectacular as it was anachronistic: flames, sweat and liquid iron mixing in the smoke like something from the Middle Ages. That’s what attracted the interest of a photographer who often works for The New York Times — images that practically radiate heat and illustrate where New York’s manhole covers are born.

When officials at Con Edison — which buys a quarter of its manhole covers, roughly 2,750 a year, from India — were shown the pictures by the photographer, they said they were surprised.

“We were disturbed by the photos,” said Michael S. Clendenin, director of media relations with Con Edison. “We take worker safety very seriously,” he said.

Now, the utility said, it is rewriting international contracts to include safety requirements. Contracts will now require overseas manufacturers to “take appropriate actions to provide a safe and healthy workplace,” and to follow local and federal guidelines in India, Mr. Clendenin said.

At Shakti, street grates, manhole covers and other castings were scattered across the dusty yard. Inside, men wearing sandals and shorts carried coke and iron ore piled high in baskets on their heads up stairs to the furnace feeding room.

On the ground floor, other men, often shoeless and stripped to the waist, waited with giant ladles, ready to catch the molten metal that came pouring out of the furnace. A few women were working, but most of the heavy lifting appeared to be left to the men.

The temperature outside the factory yard was more than 100 degrees on a September visit. Several feet from where the metal was being poured, the area felt like an oven, and the workers were slick with sweat.

Often, sparks flew from pots of the molten metal. In one instance they ignited a worker’s lungi, a skirtlike cloth wrap that is common men’s wear in India. He quickly, reflexively, doused the flames by rubbing the burning part of the cloth against the rest of it with his hand, then continued to cart the metal to a nearby mold.

Once the metal solidified and cooled, workers removed the manhole cover casting from the mold and then, in the last step in the production process, ground and polished the rough edges. Finally, the men stacked the covers and bolted them together for shipping.

“We can’t maintain the luxury of Europe and the United States, with all the boots and all that,” said Sunil Modi, director of Shakti Industries. He said, however, that the foundry never had accidents. He was concerned about the attention, afraid that contracts would be pulled and jobs lost.

New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection gets most of its sewer manhole covers from India. When asked in an e-mail message about the department’s source of covers, Mark Daly, director of communications for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, said that state law requires the city to buy the lowest-priced products available that fit its specifications.

Mr. Daly said the law forbids the city from excluding companies based on where a product is manufactured.

Municipalities and utility companies often buy their manhole covers through middlemen who contract with foreign foundries; New York City buys the sewer covers through a company in Flushing, Queens.

Con Edison said it did not plan to cancel any of its contracts with Shakti after seeing the photographs, though it has been phasing out Indian-made manhole covers for several years because of changes in design specifications.

Manhole covers manufactured in India can be anywhere from 20 to 60 percent cheaper than those made in the United States, said Alfred Spada, the editor and publisher of Modern Casting magazine and the spokesman for the American Foundry Society. Workers at foundries in India are paid the equivalent of a few dollars a day, while foundry workers in the United States earn about $25 an hour.

The men making New York City’s manhole covers seemed proud of their work and pleased to be photographed doing it. The production manager at the Shakti Industries factory, A. Ahmed, was enthusiastic about the photographer’s visit, and gave a full tour of the facilities, stopping to measure the temperature of the molten metal — some 1,400 degrees Centigrade, or more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

India’s 1948 Factory Safety Act addresses cleanliness, ventilation, waste treatment, overtime pay and fresh drinking water, but the only protective gear it specifies is safety goggles.

Mr. Modi said that his factory followed basic safety regulations and that workers should not be barefoot. “It must have been a very hot day” when the photos were taken, he said.

Some labor activists in India say that injuries are far higher than figures show. “Many accidents are not being reported,” said H. Mahadevan, the deputy general secretary for the All-India Trade Union Congress.

Safety, overall, is “not taken as a serious concern by employers or trade unions,” Mr. Mahadevan added.

A. K. Anand, the director of the Institute of Indian Foundrymen in New Delhi, a trade association, said in a phone interview that foundry workers were “not supposed to be working barefoot,” but he could not answer questions about what safety equipment they should be wearing.

At the Shakti Industries foundry, “there are no accidents, never ever. Period,” Mr. Modi said. “By God’s will, it’s all fine.”

Heather Timmons reported from New Delhi and J. Adam Huggins from Haora, India.

Axé.

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Carlos Gardel

The country of Argentina has never been my very favorite, but it has my favorite vocabulary and syntax. Observe and if you wish, repeat. Consider words such as “muchachada” and phrases such as “mi cuerpo enfermo,” “el bacán que te acamala,” and many others.

MANO A MANO
(Gardel / Razzano / Flores)

Rechiflao en mi tristeza
te evoco y veo que has sido
en mi pobre vida paria
sólo una buena mujer;
tu presencia de bacana
puso calor en mi nido,
fuiste buena, consecuente,
y yo sé que me has querido
como no quisiste a nadie,
como no podrás querer.

Se dio el juego de remanye
cuando vos, pobre percanta,
gambeteabas la pobreza
en la casa de pensión;
hoy sos toda una bacana,
la vida te ríe y canta,
los morlacos del lotario
los tirás a la marchanta
como juega el gato maula
con el mísero ratón.

Hoy tenés el mate lleno
de infelices ilusiones;
te engrupieron los lotarios,
las amigas, el gavión.
La milonga entre magnates
con sus locas tentaciones,
donde triunfan y claudican
milongueras pretensiones,
se te ha entrado muy adentro
en el pobre corazón.

Nada debo agradecerte,
mano a mano hemos quedado;
no me importa lo que has hecho,
lo que hacés y lo que harás.
Los favores recibidos
creo habértelos pagado,
y si una deuda chica
sin querer se me ha olvidado
en la cuenta del lotario
que tenés, se la cargás.

Mientras tanto que tus triunfos,
pobres triunfos pasajeros,
sean una larga fila
de riquezas y placer,
que el bacán que te acamala
tenga pesos duraderos,
que te abrace en las paradas
con cafichos milongueros,
y que digan los muchachos
“¡es una buena mujer!”

Y mañana, cuando seas
descolado un mueble viejo,
y no tengas esperanza
en el pobre corazón,
si precisás una ayuda,
si te hace falta un consejo,
acordate de este amigo,
que ha de jugarse el pellejo
pa’ ayudarte en lo que pueda
cuando llegue la ocasión.

ADIOS MUCHACHOS

Adiós muchachos, compañeros de mi vida,
barra querida de aquellos tiempos.
Me toca a mi hoy emprender la retirada
debo alejarme de mi buena muchachada.

Adiós, muchachos, ya me voy y me resigno,
contra el destino nadie la calla.
Se terminaron para mí todas las farras.
Mi cuerpo enfermo no resiste más.

Acuden a mi mente recuerdos de otros tiempos,
de los buenos momentos que antaño disfruté,
cerquita de mi madre, santa viejita,
y de mi noviecita, que tanto idolatré.

Se acuerdan que era hermosa, más linda que una diosa,
y que brioso de amor, le di mi corazón.
Mas el Señor, celoso de sus encantos,
hundiéndome en el llanto se la llevó.

Es Dios el juez supremo, no hay quien se le resista,
Ya estoy acostumbrado, su ley a respetar,
pues mi vida deshizo con sus mandatos
llevándome a mi madre y a mi novia también.

Dos lágrimas sinceras derramo en mi partida
por la barra querida que nunca me olvidó,
y al dar a mis amigos mi adiós postrero
les doy con toda mi alma, mi bendición.

I would like to throw away all textbooks and teach the subjunctive with expressions of time and the future tense with Gardel’s EL DIA QUE ME QUIERAS.

Axé.

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Alberto Fujimori

There is a good website for the trial of ex-President Alberto Fujimori, for very serious human rights violations in Peru. The trial begins 10 December 2007 in Lima.

This video has a slightly anti-Asian frame (Fujimori fled to Japan and claimed Japanese citizenship at one point, and he is known in Peru as “El chino”) but it also has footage of tanks rolling in, placards about the disappeared, and people searching for remains. The “self-coup” of 1992 dissolved Congress and reorganized the judiciary, so that all power resided with the executive branch – which then ruled by decree.

We are pretty well set up to have the same thing happen here, so this is a double preview: of what could happen, and then of the human rights trial which in this case is actually taking place and which is doing so only 15 years later, most fortunately.

II

I am of course fascinated with strange rules, incarceration, propaganda, brainwashing and fascist shifts for personal reasons having to do with Reeducation. I have boiled Reeducation’s message down yet further, to one simple sentence: it is wrong to be who you are! This is the internalized sentence which breaks my concentration and keeps me stir crazy much of the time.

So in three simple phrases, anti- and de-Reeducation involves taking and holding: autonomy, pleasure, and being who one is. These things are most elementary and would have gone without saying before Reeducation. Since, however, they have not seemed so simple. Reeducation is also on trial for human rights violations. I preside, and I am going to exile it.

Axé.

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El Indio Gitano

Flamenco is, I think, my Official Favorite Music, and I am enthralled with the Indio Gitano, also known as El Moro. With Manuela Carrasco, Soleá and Bulerías. If I could find good Flamenco dance lessons, I would take them. Perhaps I can study Flamenco guitar.

Part I
Part II

Axé.

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On Perception and Reality

Tower of Babel – Western Epistemology, by Jennifer Cascadia. A snippet:

“Rational thinking has become a lost art, and catering to one another’s ‘perceptions’ by treating all perceptions (no matter how outlandish) as if they were already valid components of reality itself has become more common. In other words, social interactions have become politicised. . . .”

Axé.

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