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Your $$$ for Iraq

Today gas prices jumped to $1.65 at most stations in Louisville. The next time you pull up to the pump in your gas guzzler or set your home's thermostat to "über warm and toasty," consider these interesting facts:

Since December 1999, there have been no restrictions on the volume of oil Iraq is allowed to export through the UN's Oil-for-Food program. During the first seven months of 2002, the United States imported 566,000 barrels (smuggling not included) of oil per day from Iraq after it passed through the tanks and pipelines of numerous oil companies. The United States imported 1/3 of the oil Iraq produced during that seven month period.
[Source]

In 2002 the United States consumed 19.7 million barrels of oil per day, importing 11.2 million of those barrels. 3% of U.S. oil consumption and 5% of U.S. oil imports came from Iraqi oil wells. While this fraction may seem miniscule, the average cost of Iraq Kirkuk crude during the first seven months of 2002 was $21.27.
[Source] [Source]

From January to July 2002, the United States grossed over $2.5 billion into Iraq's Oil-for-Food program.

Humanitarian goods, Gulf War retribution, food, medicine, or dual-use items? That's for you to decide, folks. Tonight, I'm just stating the facts.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/06/2003 @ 22:36 :: [link] ::
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Gender Role Programming

A song from my childhood recently became stuck in my head, which started me thinking about the details surrounding it. First starting about a week and a half ago, the song keeps returning to my head, creating enough disruption for me to write about it.

I attended a rural public school system, in which things were occasionally done differently from its urban counterparts. In the first through fifth grades, we had music class once a week for an hour. We beat on percussive instruments like triangles, tambourines, cymbals, washboards, drums and simplified glockenspiels while singing along with songs on the record player.

The break from hum-drum classroom activities was welcome, but Mrs. Fink, our school music teacher, had a volatile temper she seemed to save for the boys. It seemed more kids were sent to the office by the music teacher than all others combined. In retrospect, I suppose the environment of the music room was against her. Without desks to restrict our movements, we sat on the floor, and were hard to keep still. Furthermore, striking a triangle in time to the music was often less than invigorating, and boys will be boys, so we'd play them out of sync with the music or between songs when Mrs. Fink was trying to talk. The cacophany of noise and impossibility of controlling 30 restless kids no doubt grated her nerves.

Along with puberty, the sixth grade presented us with choice in our music education. We could join Sixth Grade Chorus or Band as an alternative to pissing off Mrs. Fink with our ill-timed cymbal-bashing. Chorus and Band were encouraged for the more mature students because we gave a public performances for other students and parents.

When I went to school, the elementary school housed K-6 while the 7th-12th graders went to the high school. Mrs. Thompson normally taught music at the high school, but came to the elementary school for our chorus class. If the elementary school music room was the Land of Oz, Mrs. Fink seemed like Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, vis-a-vis Mrs. Thompson, who occasionally flew by on her broomstick as the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West.

She promoted gender stereotypes, and it wasn't until years later that I realized her subtleness in the form of this song that's been stuck in my head lately. I looked it up on the Internet, but it's not there, so either she wrote it herself or no one's gone to the trouble of publishing the lyrics electronically.

There were two choral parts to the song, one for the girls to sing, the other for the boys. The was like a conversation, with the girls and boys going back and forth. I seem to remember several exchanges in the song, but now all I can remember is the opening exchange, which reminds me of the song the Hare sings in Disney's Alice in Wonderland (I'm late! / I'm late! / For a very important date / No time to say hello, goodbye! / I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!) on his way to the Mad Hatter's Tea Party:

Girls (accompanied by peaceful, lilting music): Please, please, won't you help us?

Boys (music suddenly turns fast and harsh): I'm busy! I'm busy! I'm really much too busy!

We (the boys) liked our part at the time, but 15 years later, I really don't appreciate the suggestive gender bias symbolized by her choice in music. We sang that song weekly for 3 months, enough that it still bubbles up from my subconscious mind from time to time. I don't know what the parental response to our public performance was, but if I were a parent and discovered my male child was being programmed to play the role of the heartless, detached, can't-be-bothered-to-care male stereotype, I'd be at least a little concerned about a teacher using my child as in instrument of her social commentary.

Mrs. Thompson was a piece of work. Emotionally unstable and tempermental, she might have done okay teaching music to receptive students, say, at a music school, but she had no business teaching music to a bunch of kids at a public school who would have much rather been doing something else. Thinking back, I remember one day in 7th or 8th grade chorus when she got so frustrated with someone she broke down in tears while yelling at them, stormed out of the music room, and asked another teacher to watch us for the remainder of the class period.

Sadly, she realized too late that teaching isn't for everyone.

:: Bryan Travis :: 02/02/2003 @ 21:09 :: [link] ::
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