Monday, February 27, 2006

"The Universe bends towards justice"

It's Monday. The weekend seemed to sail by, don't they? Please visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's take on the news.

"Over 200 Dead in Iraq Since Wednesday's Mosque Bombing" (Democracy Now!):
In Iraq, at least 29 people died on Sunday even though security forces had imposed a rare daytime curfew barring all vehicular traffic in Baghdad and its suburbs. In the deadliest attack, a Shiite neighborhood came under mortar fire in Southwest Baghdad. 16 people died and another 53 were injured. Over 200 people have been killed since Wednesday's bombing at a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra. On Saturday gunmen broke into the home of a Shiite family northeast of Baghdad and killed 13 people. Three people also died on Saturday during the funeral of the Atwar Bahjat -- the well-known Al-Arabiya journalist who was killed last week.

Over 200 dead. In less than a week. I'm wondering how that number was agreed upon. I don't doubt it. I just know that the US government supposedly doesn't track Iraqi fatalities. (Iraqi Body Count does, based upon deaths reported by the press.) But over 200 dead in one week. You think Nightline will read off the names of those people? Probably not. They'll be a number, a large number, and that's all. It's easier for the killing to continue when the victims are nothing but numbers. Even easier when there's no number at all which is why the government maintains that they don't track the bodycount for Iraqis.

But every one of those 200 had parents at one point or another. They may have had children. They may not. They may have had a spouse or a significant other. They probably had dreams. Maybe there only dream was for the madness of the occupation to end? (A position favored by the majority of Iraqis -- they want the US out.) Maybe it was one of those dreams we all have on a routine day? Something like, "At the end of this hideous day, I'm going to treat myself to" whatever. For me, that's a banana split. About three times a year, things get so bad that a banana split is my remedy. Our father used to take my brother and out for them so that's probably why it's comfort food for me.

Whatever they were thinking, I doubt they were dreaming, "Today I die." The occupation needs to end.

"Army to Allow Halliburton Not to Repay Disputed Costs" (Democracy Now!):
The New York Times is reporting the Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.4 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq. Auditors had recommended the Army withhold $263 million from Kellogg Brown and Root, but the Army decided to withhold just $10 million. California Congressman Henry Waxman said "Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus."

But if the occupation ended . . . how would Halliburton make their billions? War is big business. I'd love to see a report tracking Halliburton's rise/fall each day on the stock market and the deaths in Iraq. A large portion of what they and others do in Iraq used to be done by the military. Such as providing the mess hall/grub. In one instance, soldiers died because of the privatization. The military knew to stagger the meals so that an attack wouldn't result in a large number of injuries and deaths. The company that took over the mess halls wasn't concerned about that. They were concerned about the "bottom line." The easiest way to increase their profit was to spend less time serving meals. So you ended up with the place being packed and, when the attack came, you ended up with more injuries and deaths than you would have had if the "business" had been left, as it used to be, to the military.

"Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler, 58, Dies" (Democracy Now!):
And science fiction writer Octavia Butler has died at the age of 58. She died on Friday night after a fall outside her home in Washington state. Her best-known work included "Parable of the Talents" and "Kindred." Butler was considered to be one of the first African-American women to break into the world of science fiction. Jane Jewell, of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, said "She is a world-class science fiction writer in her own right. She was one of the first and one of the best to discuss gender and race in science fiction." Butler joined us four months ago on Democracy Now:
OCTAVIA BUTLER: "I'm going to read a verse or two. And keep in mind these were written early in the 1990s. But I think they apply forever, actually. This first one, I have a character in the books who is, well, someone who is taking the country fascist and who manages to get elected President and, who oddly enough, comes from Texas. And here is one of the things that my character is inspired to write about, this sort of situation. She says:
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."

Octavia Butler's writing earned her a place in the science fiction world and that's a testimony to her talent. Women have made strides in writing fantasy but less so in science fiction. (I'm basing that on two friends who I have to read nothing but science fiction and fantasy, including graphic novels. They can list a number of women writers whose work is recognized and earns plaudits in the fantasy genre but not a whole lot in the science fiction realm. I wonder if that's also true of race?) C.I. asked Mike and I to note this tonight because she was one of Ty's favorite writers. C.I. had intended for it to be noted. But, as C.I. said on the phone, "Ay-yi-yi."
That entry was dictated and e-mailed with the hope that it would hit The Common Ills. It didn't. Repeated attempts failed. So finally C.I. had to call a friend who has the current password and get them to put it in and then there were problems with "word verification."

In case you missed it, someone apparently lodged a complaint with Blogger (the program we all use for our sites) that The Common Ills was a "spam blog" which is generated by a machine (the way spam e-mails are). This happened on Saturday after C.I. posted a list of stations (radio and television) carrying Democracy Now! (to note it's tenth anniversay and congratulations to Democracy Now! by the way). Since then, no post can go up without "word verification." This means that when you're ready to post, you have to first enter a set of random letters displayed on the screen. Kat attempted to post one of her reviews Sunday afternoon (she has two ready) and she couldn't read the random letters. "I'm not blind, it was in cursive. I thought they were doing a standard "o" the way they linked the tail to the next letter but apparently it was an 'a' because I got an error message," Kat explained to me. C.I. says even when the random letters are printed and not in cursive, entering them correctly still often results in an error message.

So our community lost out on Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts Sunday because of this. Isaiah e-mails those to C.I. as an attachment then C.I. posts them via a program called Hello. "Hello" is an e-mail program. No e-mailed posts would show up on the site due to this "word verification" nonsense. We heard about this while working on The Third Estate Sunday Review because C.I. was attempting to e-mail Maria's rundown of the headlines from Democracy Now! and they wouldn't hit the site. C.I. notified Blogger Saturday night. That on Monday morning they still hadn't done their follow up is pretty sad.

Jim's convinced C.I.'s about to pull the site from Blogger and go elsewhere. There have been too many problems. (Problems that none of the rest of us have. The closest would be The Third Estate Sunday Review which always has a problem around midnight each Sunday.) I don't know. C.I. feels Blogger offers everyone the opportunity to do-it-yourself and that's an important thing. I also know that C.I. has been looking at sites that require payment (which isn't an issue for C.I.). I think it will probably depend upon how many more problems occur.

I know that C.I. thinks it's "unacceptable" and I agree. There's no excuse for all the problems that happen (how about the "broken pipe" less than a month ago that kept refusing entries?). The rest of us don't have those problems. But coming off last week's being sick (I think it was food poisoning -- probably something wasn't cooked long enough or washed before cooking and I say that knowing where C.I. gets take out on Sundays -- overpriced but it's quick and close) and then having the never ending session on The Third Estate Sunday Review. I'm in the eastern time zone. For me, we started pitching ideas at noon because we wanted to get done early. And Dona also told Jim that there was no way they could do an all night marathon session as sick as C.I. had been. So we interviewed Ruth at one. (Ava and C.I. took notes in longhand so that was the easiest feature to redo.) By midnight we had it pretty much all done and were trying to post and started losing stuff over and over. Even the drafts. We didn't pull an all nighter, we pulled an all nighter and two dayer. In "A note to our readers" (which I wasn't involved in), Jim notes that it's 5:00 pm (eastern time). That's 29 hours. Wally had a test and a paper due on Monday so Dona insisted that he bail at 9:00 am. He had given input on the original versions of what posted so Wally helped with all the features (except the TV review that Ava and C.I. always do). But it was hellacious (if that's how you spell it).

It was the night that would never end. We were trying to remember how a joke was worded or how a point was made in the lost versions and it was just a nightmare. For the editorial, the main points had been outlined (by Jess) with pen and paper. But even that was rough. That was the last thing that those of us still helping out were participating on. The basics are from Jim and C.I. with the rest of us modifying them. We were all wiped out and saying things like, "I have nothing else to give." So Jim would grab a point and go with it and then get C.I. to speak on the next point. "Just pretend it's a speech," Jim would say and C.I. would give a five to ten minute speech which we'd boil down to a paragraph. Jim can go on forever and actually thrives on it. C.I. doesn't thrive on it but can pull out second, third, fourth, fifth . . . winds.

As Dona said, "I can't believe that was our entire weekend." That's what it ended up being. Jess pointed out that C.I. still had to do the "And the war drags on . . ." entry in a few hours (and ended up doing that plus an addition entry). And turn around right after and do the Monday morning entry. Jess and Ty are doing the "And the war drags on . . ." this Sunday because C.I.'s got a business/social thing. We were all offering to do last night's entry but C.I. felt that with being off next Sunday, some might be offended if it was two Sundays in a row.

So after the final feature ("A Note To Our Readers") posted a little after five eastern time, C.I. took a two hour nap, then (wisely) went out and killed and hour and a half looking at CDs and magazines (and grabbing take out). Then five hours for those two Sunday night entries, two and a half hours of sleep and then Monday morning's entry. All while having the problems with Blogger. My point here (and three people e-mailed me asking if C.I. was really going to pull the site from Blogger) is that a) C.I.'s probably not in the mood for any more problems with the site this week but b) having gotten through yesterday, I think it would have to be a serious problem for C.I. to end up pulling the site now -- serious meaning major.

Can you tell I'm tired? I am. From the marathon. I probably could have said the above in three to five sentences if I wasn't so tired.

If you missed it, back in June, The Third Estate Sunday Review did a summer reading edition which contained short stories and more. One of them was "K-Boy Tries To Get Back Home." Ty came up with the idea for that. He wrote a large portion of that solo until he hit "a brick wall." (Right after the rotting flesh is where Ty hit the brick wall and others helped him with the ending. I wasn't involved in the writing of that, in case anyone thinks I'm plugging myself.) The point there is that Ty is very talented. Also that he enjoys horror and science fiction writing. So if you read the name "Octavia Butler" and are ignorant of the genre, know that she must have really been some writer because she was one of Ty's favorites.

"NSA Hearings This Tuesday." (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
NSA Hearings Tuesday! So get ready to tune into to NPR! Oh . . . wait. Nothing pulls them from their canned coverage except, possibly, the death of a pontiff. So you're up the creek without a paddle!
Unless . . .
You listen to Pacifica!
As Ruth noted:
From KPFT in Houston:Program Preemption on Tuesday, February 28 - 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Senate hearings on the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program.
I do not doubt that other Pacifica stations may carry this but this morning only KPFT had a note up about it on their main page. Eight in the morning until five in the evening are Central Time Zone times.
Who else will carry it? The Pacifica website usually carries the live events there. The main website, not a site for one of the five stations. In addition, thanks to Kat who's taking a shower to try to wake up and put her cell phone by the radio, we can note that KPFA will carry it. We heard Larry Bensky announce that (starts at six am Pacific time) Tuesday he and Elizabeth de la Vega will be hosting it. C.I. says to point out that this may be only on KPFA and each station may provide their own anchors. (Bensky also announced that next Sunday on Sunday Salon, people from the Africa Peace Justice Tour will be among his guests.) (Kat's cell phone, by the way, comes in better than listening online. It may have something to do with her radio. Will ask her if she ever emerges from the shower and picks the phone up.)
So more NSA hearings on Tuesday. Senate hearings. Translation, you can't count on John Conyers to save the day. (Conyers serves in the House.) Will it be more of the same? Will the Democrats show some spine? (Yes, Russ, we know, you proved your bad, sexy self to be a fighter! We're proud of you. But you can't do it alone. Well, in many ways you did, but it doesn't have the same kind of impact as when you're getting support and backup from the others in your party. Don't say "party" around Feinstein -- she'll go into full "Miss Diane" mode.)
So Tuesday, get thee to Pacifica radio, either via the airwaves, online, or, hey, ask a friend to put the phone next to the radio.

So make a point to listen.

Peace Quote (via second hour broadcast on Feb. 26, 2006):
The universe bends towards justice.
-- Sister Helen Prejean