Oprah's ugly secret
By continuing to hawk "The Secret," a mishmash of offensive self-help cliches, Oprah Winfrey is squandering her goodwill and influence, and preaching to the world that mammon is queen.
By Peter Birkenhead
Mar. 05, 2007 | Steve Martin used to do a routine that went like this: "You too can be a millionaire! It's easy: First, get a million dollars. Now..." If you put that routine between hard covers, you'd have "The Secret," the self-help manifesto and bottle of minty-fresh snake oil currently topping the bestseller lists. "The Secret" espouses a "philosophy" patched together by an Australian talk-show producer named Rhonda Byrne. Though "The Secret" unabashedly appropriates and mishmashes familiar self-help cliches, it was still the subject of two recent episodes of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" featuring a dream team of self-help gurus, all of whom contributed to the project.
The main idea of "The Secret" is that people need only visualize what they want in order to get it -- and the book certainly has created instant wealth, at least for Rhonda Byrne and her partners-in-con. And the marketing idea behind it -- the enlisting of that dream team, in what is essentially a massive, cross-promotional pyramid scheme -- is brilliant. But what really makes "The Secret" more than a variation on an old theme is the involvement of Oprah Winfrey, who lends the whole enterprise more prestige, and, because of that prestige, more venality, than any previous self-help scam. Oprah hasn't just endorsed "The Secret"; she's championed it, put herself at the apex of its pyramid, and helped create a symbiotic economy of New Age quacks that almost puts OPEC to shame.
Read the article at SALON March 5, 2007.
Blogged 3/2/07 at Librarian.
Feb. 28, 2007. The New Standard reports: â€“ A government audit has found that a federally funded literacy initiative has been run more like a sales pitch for private interests than an education-reform effort.
The report, issued last week by the Department of Education's Inspector General's office, reviewed Reading First, a government initiative to improve child literacy programs under the No Child Left Behind Act. The program aims to fund the development of reading curricula based on scientifically proven teaching methods.
Blogged 3/2/07 at Librarian.
The ALA-APA reports:
The ALA Washinfton Office prepared a statement of ALA-APA Support for the Employee Free Choice Act
The U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on H.R. 800, which protects employees' right to form unions. In June, 2006, the ALA Annual Conference, the ALA-APA Council voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Employee Free Choice Act -
Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, ALA Washington Office
The American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA- APA) would like to take this opportunity to announce its support of H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act.
Formed for the purpose of promoting "the mutual professional interests of librarians and other
library workers," the ALA-APA is a strong advocate of workers' rights, and protecting the right to form unions is a cause we strongly support.
By being part of a union, library workers gain local allies who can help to achieve pay equity and better salaries. This is especially important in public libraries where the union brings greater power to win budget increases from local governments. Unions are one of many ways library workers may improve salaries. The Employee Free Choice Act goes a long way toward protecting library employees who form unions: it levels the playing field by strengthening penalties against offending employers, requiring mediation and arbitration to help employers and employees reach a first contract in a reasonable period of time, and permitting workers to form a union through "majority sign-up," a process in which workers present signed authorization cards as demonstration of their choice to belong to a union. Librarians are the gateways to our country's information and an essential resource for education and literacy. The ALA-APA thanks you for introducing the Employee Free Choice
Act, which will protect those library employees who wish to form unions, and we join you in hoping for its success.
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The National Endowment for the Arts offers the NEA International Literature Awards to provide American readers with greater access to quality foreign literary work in translation. The NEA conducts this initiative together with partner governments, with the first awards focusing on the literature of Greece and Spain. The NEA announces today that the 2007 award recipients are three nonprofit literary presses that will translate and publish a work from these countries and promote the book to American readers. The three American presses that each will receive a $10,000 NEA award are Archipelago Books of Brooklyn, NY; Dalkey Archive Press of Champaign, IL; and Etruscan Press of Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Archipelago Books, Inc., Brooklyn, NY
To support the translation and publication of Vredaman, a novel by Basque writer Unai Elorriaga.
Dalkey Archive Press, Normal, IL
To support the translation and publication of I'd Like, a collection of 13 interlinked short stories by Greek author Amanda Michalopoulou.
Etruscan Press, Wilkes-Barre, PA
To support the translation and publication of Amerikaniki Fouga (American Fugue), a novel by Greek author Alexis Stamatis.
Southern Methodist University's faculty senate went on record Wednesday as opposing an executive order that could limit access to presidential records-- a concern since the George W. Bush Presidential Library is probably headed to SMU.
Presidential Order 13233 and the purpose of Presidential Libraries.
As historians at SMU we have no collective position about bringing the Bush Presidential Library, Museum and Institute to this campus. Some of us favor it; others do not. We do believe, however, that there is one related issue on which we can speak. This is the matter of Presidential Order 13233, which gives current and former presidents the power to withhold records in presidential libraries virtually at their discretion. Like many historians elsewhere, we are worried about several provisions of the order. In our opinion, these go against Congress's purpose when it passed the Presidential Libraries Act. First, the order grants power to incumbent presidents to overrule determinations by former presidents that records in "their" presidential libraries may be released. We are very concerned that an incumbent president might exert this power to block the release of a former administration's material merely because it would be politically detrimental. That could happen in either direction, a Democratic incumbent blocking the access to the records of a Republican predecessor, or a Republican blocking access to those of a Democrat. Second, the order empowers former presidents to designate representatives who can act for them, including in cases of the former president's death or disability. If in such a case there is no designated representative, the former president's family may appoint one. These representatives will act with the full power of the former president, "including with respect to . . . constitutionally based privileges." In our opinion, these provisions create real possibilities for stifling legitimate and necessary public discussion. We accept that a former president may enjoy some continuation of the executive privilege that obtained during that person's time in office. But "designated representatives" exercising legal privileges on matters of public interest without public accountability are unknown to the Constitution. Moreover, until Executive Order 13233, membership in an American presidential family has never led to extraordinary political rights, beyond the rights we all share as citizens. Our two primary professional organizations, the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, are on record as opposing Executive Order 13233. They have sought in court to have the order overturned. In their opinion, which they seek to have tested in the courts, the order contravenes the spirit and intent of the Presidential Records Act. As the act makes plain, presidential papers from Reagan onward are the property of the United States, not of any individual or family. The clear purpose of the Presidential Records Act is to permit and encourage the fullest possible discussion of presidents and their policies at an early point following a presidency's end. Under the Act, release of materials is intended to begin 12 years after a president leaves office. The act already establishes conditions and procedures for withholding certain records. Mere choice by a former or incumbent president, by a "designated representative," or by a former president's family should not be enough to do so, beyond the
provisions of the act. We believe that the greatest benefit to SMU of having a presidential library will be to make the university a center of serious research on matters of the highest public import. We recognize that the records of this Administration will be of immense historical and civic interest. We believe that like its counterparts, the proposed George W. Bush Presidential Library should be a place of serious study and discussion, to the fullest extent and at the earliest time possible as mandated by the statute that makes the library possible. We are making this statement in regard to the Presidential Order, not in regard to the proposed Bush Library, Museum, and Institute. We do not expect that our opposition to the order could lead to its being rescinded. That will require a decision by the Supreme Court, or an act of Congress, or an executive order by a subsequent president. But we do believe that all material in all presidential libraries, including the Bush Library, should be open to full access in accord with the letter and the spirit of the Presidential Records Act.
Mark C. Rosenzweig, of the Progressive Librarians Guild has sent a statement to various librarian lists including the Council of the American Library Association. The statement is posted at Librarian
"I'm Alright, Jack."
"Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse" ["Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair"].
See the shortlists.
During a fateful conflict with another inmate, Jimmy was shaken by the voices of Neruda and Lorca, and made a choice that would alter his destiny.
Jimmy Santiago Baca, once in prison, became a poet. His book, A Place to Stand: The Making of a Poet, was a finalist to be taught to freshmen at the University of Akron. Inside Higher Education reports:
'The book tells the story of how Baca was illiterate until he started educating himself in jail, where he had been sent after a drug conviction and a childhood of poverty and abuse. In jail, he turned to writing, and when he got out of jail, he earned a college degree and turned his life around. But despite his life story and literary acclaim, university administrators banned his book from consideration because they didn't want him to visit the campus (as the authors of books selected are invited to do).'
Karla Mugler, associate provost at Akron, was presented with the finalists for the freshmen to read and she sent an e-mail message to the committee ruling out Baca.
In an e-mail interview Mr. Baca said:
"It's very sad the students at Akron, Ohio, are dumbed down in such a way, especially by educators... That dark-age mentality has led us blindly over the cliffs, one following the other into more and more violence, racism, and plain stupidity. Students deserve respect for their intelligence: Treat them like adults, with integrity, eyeing them as leaders of tomorrow, not timid little minions, slaves to ignorance. It's a dangerous time to nurture ignorance when we need, now more than ever, understanding and open-mindedness."
My family is from rural New Mexico and I thought this bookmobile story did a fine job in a few spare words of evoking the land.
Times Select has a feature, "Taking Books Far and Wide, on the Road Less Traveled By," about the bookmobile route of Cimmaron City Librarians Betty Palmer and Leroy Chavez in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. (Colfax County, NM).
Dan Barry writes:
The bookmobile makes its rounds--a Head Start school in Velarde, a post office in Alcalde, another one in Dixon-- all the while rolling past a landscape almost beyond any book's words. Mesas that resemble massive, futuristic tables. Bare apple trees with branches extended in hallelujah praise. The Rio Grande, now calm, now churning.
The Notable Books Council has selected its 2007 list of outstanding books for the general reader. These titles have been selected for their significant contribution to the expansion of knowledge and for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers. This is "The List for America's Readers."
Included are Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean; The Road by Cormac McCarthy; and Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne.
See the complete list at Librarian.
Asked what he'd like to do with the rest of his life by Newsweek,
Stephen King responded:
To live to see George W. Bush tried for crimes against humanity.
Despite the clamor in Congress from both conservatives and liberals for a national guest worker program, it is a reactionary policy with dire economic, social, and political ramifications. The working people of the United States must respond to the pending program of transient servitude with the same answer we have given to all forms of human servitude in the past--a resounding NO!
We are facing the fight of our lives.
writes Richard D. Vogel in "Transient Servitude: The U.S. Guest Worker Program for Exploiting Mexican and Central American Workers," Monthly Review (January 2007): 1-22.
GOING DOWN JERICHO ROAD: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign,
--by Michael K. Honey.Norton, 2007.
Washington Post reviewer, Kevin Boyle, writes:
In Going Down Jericho Road, Michael K. Honey painstakingly recreates the explosive situation King stepped into. On Feb. 12, 1968, Memphis's 1,300 sanitation workers, almost all of them African American, went on strike. They didn't ask for much: recognition of their union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; an agreement that the city would withhold union dues from workers' paychecks; a small pay raise; and improved safety standards. But for men who had always lived under the crushing weight of white supremacy, even such simple demands represented an exhilarating assertion of human rights. By walking off their jobs, the strikers were laying claim to the dignity and justice long denied them.....
See Union Librarian for more.
At 100, the Guild of Book Workers continues to embrace all the book arts, both traditional fine bindings and modern works with sculptural books and innovative structures. Juried by book artists Karen Hanmer, Richard Minsky, and Don Rash, the traveling exhibition features the recent works of 62 of the bookbinders and book artists who make up the membership of the Guild. Entries run the gamut from traditional bindings and historic structures, to pop-ups and other playful book forms, to purely sculptural works. Text and imagery are produced by numerous printmaking methods, calligraphy, photography and digital output. The broad range of content is another reflection of the diverse interests of Guild members: classic texts, political viewpoints, personal histories, and the sensual experience of reading a book.
See Librarian. No. 1.14.2007.No. 10 for details.
After six years of incompetence and cronyism, a failed war against terrorism, the quagmire that is Iraq, wars against science, the environment, corporate regulation and the public's right-to-know, a chummy working relationship with the country's most reactionary conservative evangelical Christians, a politicized faith-based initiative, giveaways to the energy industry, tax relief for the wealthy, a culture of corruption culminating in the forced resignations and imprisonment of some of the administration's key soldiers, and an attack on fundamental democratic rights and values, the Bush Administration is hatching plans to celebrate itself with a $500 million library (the costliest presidential library ever) to be built sometime after the end of Bush's second term.
See also Librarian. No. 1.10.2007.8.
"So it's a center run by Bush and his associates without regulation--an ideological center to burnish a president's reputation-- does that fit with the academic mission of SMU?"--Benjamin Hufbauer.
In "History vs. Hagiography," Inside Higher Ed observes:
Professors at Southern Methodist University who are worried about plans to create a George W. Bush policy institute there have said that they don't want a partisan center to hurt the institution's academic reputation. SMU officials are now saying that the center will not be part of the university, and will report to the Bush foundation. The question for faculty members is whether this independence insulates the university from a political taint or insulates the institute from academic oversight.
[for more including a copy of Turner's letter see: Librarian].
Librarians in the State University of New York (SUNY) system have begun a campaign to win pay equity with classroom faculty on campuses throughout the state, unanimously passing a resolution and issuing a six-page report written by an ad hoc committee of the SUNY Librarians Association (SUNYLA).
Under a joint resolution passed with little fanfare in the waning hours of California's 2006 legislative session, the statue of the man who helped preserve California's statehood during the Civil War will be uprooted from its home in the nation's Capitol.
The bronze likeness of Thomas Starr King, which has represented California in National Statuary Hall since 1931, will be replaced with one of a figure more recognizable to later generations: former President Ronald Reagan....
Protesting this decision:
David Dodd, a Unitarian and a librarian in Petaluma, has tried to mobilize opposition to the resolution through Internet postings critical of Reagan. He has written letters to his state and Congressional representatives and encouraged others to do the same.
While King "kept California on the right side during the Civil War," Reagan was a "ruthless governor" and an "actor posing as a statesman," Dodd said in a Sept. 6 posting on his weblog, "Librarian in Tie-dye."
"Not One More Death, Not One More Dollar"
The American Friends Service Committee is joining with local peace and justice groups worldwide to commemorate the lives lost in Iraq on the occasion of the 3,000th U.S. military fatality in Iraq. On the day after the 3,000th death is announced, we will hold local events in communities worldwide, mourning all the lives lost in this war and calling for U.S. troops to come home.