Friday, May 26, 2006

Enron and education

To start off, Bully Boy's once again trying to act as though he was misunderstood when, as is often the case, it now appears that he lied, flat out lied. For a humorous take on this read Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY GOES 'WOOPS!'" and Cedric's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY GOES 'WOOPS!'" which is a joint entry they worked on together. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts on today's headlines and there will be a posting at this site (and others in the community as well) on Monday.

"Enron Execs Found Guilty On Conspiracy, Fraud Charges" (Democracy Now!):
The two top figures in the Enron corporate scandal have been found guilty. On Thursday, Enron founder Ken Lay was convicted in two separate trials on 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and for making false statements to banks. Enron's former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was also convicted. A jury found him guilty on 19 of 28 counts. The conspiracy and fraud convictions each carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Four years ago Enron filed for bankruptcy after years of defrauding its own employees and investors. The bankruptcy put over 4,000 people out of work. The value of the company's stock dropped from ninety dollars to about 30 cents. Thousands of Enron employees lost their lifesavings.

That seems like news to celebrate. And on one level it is. Two crooks got punished in spite of the Bully Boy and the administration running interference for them, in spite of the punishment coming almost five years after the world realized Enron had cooked the books, created energy 'crisises' and much worse. So, by all means, celebrate the conviction. But don't fool yourself into thinking that anything's changed.

"Enron - The Smartest Guys in the Room" (Democracy Now!):
AMY GOODMAN: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, an excerpt. It was produced and directed by Alex Gibney. Our guests are Robert Bryce, Pipe Dreams, and Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse. Greg, this is the point you were making about it being larger than Enron.
GREG PALAST: Yeah. I mean, basically the co-conspirators, the rest of the mob, was breaking out champagne yesterday, because they said, "We're off the hook." This should have been the beginning of new indictments, and like I say, the only new indictment are the guys that went after Enron, the law firm that sued Enron for its shenanigans. Milberg Weiss was put up. It was clearly political prosecution to say "We're going to go after the guys who went after Enron," and yet you heard the list. You had the law firm Vinson & Elkins, you had Arthur Andersen, you had a whole crew of characters who got off scot-free here.
And what's even worse is that the game continues. See, the last Ken Lay -- and this is important to understand -- was a guy named Sam Insull. In 1930, all those companies called Edison were actually started by Sam, who was the Ken Lay of his time, watered the stock, played games with the books, overcharged customers. F.D.R. came into office, had the guy busted, but even more, he says, "I'm not just going after the criminal. I'm going after the crime." And F.D.R. changed the law to say we're going to prohibit price gouging by these power pirates. We are going to prohibit them from flickering the light switches. They keep those lights on. No more freezing Grandma Millie, okay? And third -- this is the big one -- the law under Franklin Roosevelt said you cannot make political donations if you're a big power company.
Now, Ken Lay slithered around that to give the big bucks to the Bush family. I mean, the law says they can't do that, you have to understand. He was the number one giver, when the law says you can't give. And in 2005, Bush made it official by repealing the F.D.R. Public Utility Holding Company Act, which barred these contributions by power companies to politicians. In other words, basically they just opened up the game, they threw Lay and Skilling to the dogs, to the crowd, and the game continues on.

"Toll Rises For Haditha Massacre As Murtha Sees Dozen Court-Martials" (Democracy Now!):
The estimated toll of innocent civilians killed by US Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha is now higher than previously thought. Democratic Congressmember John Murtha told the Marine Corps Times that the number of dead Iraqis is actually 24, up from the previous figure of 15. Murtha says would not be surprised if a dozen Marines face court-martials for the killings. Retired Brigadier General David Brahms, a former top lawyer for the Marine Corps, said: "When these investigations come out, there's going to be a firestorm. It will be worse than Abu Ghraib -- nobody was killed at Abu Ghraib."

So this is where we are, with what's being covered as a crime. We couldn't do that with Falluja, we were too rah-rah to see either April 2004 or November 2004 as a massacre (and reporters like Dexy Filkins were too busy spinning). So are we finally going to face a few, never all, ugly facts about the illegal occupation?

"What If They Gave a War...?" (Tony Long, Wired News via Common Dreams):
1968. It was the height of the Vietnam War, the year of My Lai and the Tet offensive. Student riots in Paris nearly brought down the French government. Soviet tanks put a premature end to Czechoslovakia's
Prague Spring.
In the United States, the streets were teeming with antiwar protesters and civil rights demonstrators. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within two months of each other. The
Democratic convention in Chicago dissolved into chaos. And by the summer, America's cities were in flames. The world was seething, and for good reason. There was a lot to be angry about. It was a lousy year, 1968.
I was in high school then. I quit the baseball team because, frankly, sports seemed frivolous. In 1968, there were more important things to worry about than perfecting a curveball. All very high-minded and, in retrospect, more than a little pompous. But nearly 40 years down the road I don't regret having done it. My political consciousness was awakened and I was actively engaged in the world around me.
But as bad as things were then, they seem infinitely worse now.
So why aren't the streets clogged with angry Americans demanding to know why their president
lied and deceived them so he could attack a country that had absolutely nothing to do with his so-called war on terror? To an extent, we got suckered into Vietnam. We can't make that claim about Iraq. Iraq was the premeditated, willful invasion of a sovereign nation that was threatening nobody. "Saddam Hussein is a prick who treats the Kurds miserably" is no justification. By the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal and international law, our president is a war criminal.

On Wired News, forgive me, I've been meaning to note something for the last few days. You probably know about the Wired News story "Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut" and the documents in the next story (PDF).

"AT&T's Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens, 31 December 2005" (
In 2003 AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden deep in the bowels of its cetnral offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy, operation which taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire Internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities.
The physical arrangement, the timing of its construction, the government-imposed secrecy surrounding it, and other factors all strongly suggest that its origins are rooted in the Defense Department's "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) program which brought forth vigorous protests from defenders of Constitutionally-protected civil liverties last year.

If you don't know about the above already, please check them out.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Focus on Enron, Greg Palast and Robert Bryce," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue but Bully Boy and Tony Blair appear to have their minds elsewhere. Al Jazeera notes that Bully Boy's concerned about speaking better and Tony Blair hides behind the puppet government. [See Cedric's excerpt of Norman Solomon writing on puppet governments.] The AFP and Reuters report that Tony Blair, unable to fly the American flag, is saying it's the duty of the entire world to support the puppet government he and Bully Boy have created. Apparently not buying into Blair's bluster, CBS and the AP report that Romano Prodi, the new prime minister of Italy, held a talk with his cabinet "to map an exit strategy for the nation's troops in Iraq, who are being gradually withdrawn." Updating that story, Maria Sanminiatelli reports that Italy has announced they are pulling 1,100 troops out of Iraq (which would leave 1,600 stationed in Iraq). This as the Guardian of London reports Bully Boy's begging Tony Blair to stay on as England's prime minister.
In Baghdad, the AFP reports that two players on Iraq's national tennis team as well as their coach have been murdered "reportedly for wearing Western-style tennis shorts." The AFP reminds that "[l]ast week 15 members of the Iraqi Taekwondo team were kidnapped between Fallujah and Ramadi." The BBC reports on roadside bomb attacks on two markets that have resulted in the deaths of at least nine and at least fifty wounded. There were other bombings that wounded Iraqis today but no reports of any other fatalities. Reuters notes that three corpses ("bullet wounds and showing signs of torture") were discovered in Baghdad.
More corpses were discvered today. In Kut, the Associated Press notes the discovery of four. Reuters notes the killing of two police officers in Baquba following the kidnapping of employees of a TV station. In Sinjar, a liquor store owner is dead from a bombing (two others wounded).In Basra, the BBC notes the death of a "Sunni Imam and his bodyguard" from a drive-by shooting. Also in Basra, the AP reports that mosques were closed following the murder of the Sunni cleric. KUNA reports on an oil pipeline fire in Khour Al-Emmaya, reportedly caused by a leak in a pipeline "at a docking station." In Kirkuk, the Associated Press reports that a roadside bomb took the life of one police officer and wounded four others.
CNN reports on the investiation into the deaths of civilians in Haditha last November and quotes Pentagon sources that "Charges, including murder, could soon be filed against Marines allegedly involved." Editor & Publisher notes that the investiagtion and the off the record admissions take place months after the press reported the events in Haditha. Gulf News reports that Human Rights Watch John Sifton as stating: "There is no excuse for a massacre and anyone concerned about America's image can only wish that those who are responsible will be severely prosecuted and those who tried to cover this up will be punished.'' This as CBS and the AP note "Investigators believe that their criminal investigation into the deaths of about two dozen Iraqi civilians points toward a conclusion that Marines committed unprovoked murders, a senior defense official said Friday." Finally, the Scotsman reports that "the bodies of Privates Adam Morris, 19, and Joseva Lewaicei, 25, British troops who died in a roadside bomb attack near Basra two weeks ago, arrived back at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire yesterday."

So the college talk. Which ended up of more interest than I thought and was certainly due to people being able to fill in their own details and memories and not a reflection upon my own writing.

The point is that you can go through college with your head stuck in a book, always doing what's expected (what will bring you good grades), or you can show some bravery and take control of your education. If you enjoy reading (and I do), do not stick to the required texts. Find something to read on a similar topic. Find several things to read. You'll increase your understanding of the subject.

Join study groups where you'll be able to reinforce knowledge and to interact with other students.

Don't be afraid to stand up and don't be afraid to stand out. I remember the fear of being called on. Rebecca could and did charm anyone (male professor or female professor) if she was called upon. I remember in one class, asking her after, "What was that answer?" She had no idea herself. She said she just grabbed the last words of the question and smiled a great deal. She got away with it too, repeatedly. That's not slamming her. Rebecca's very smart, and always has been and, I'd argue, not to use the benefits of the package wouldn't be smart at all. So if a question threw her, that's how she dealt with it. If you've got that gift, by all means use it.

If you don't? Steal from C.I. as I learned to. There was never a question that threw C.I. because the work was done long before the class began. I'm not suggesting you immerse yourself the way C.I. did (I didn't, I did learn to strengthen my own learning away from classes) by following up on footnotes, reading up to the point that you're ahead of the instructer. But if you're having a problem in a class that has nothing to do with the grade but has to do with the professor, follow the example. C.I. could and did take on racists and sexists. It didn't matter that they were in the role of teacher. It shouldn't matter to you either. You can be one of the many who sits there silently and complains to your friends afterwards or you can challenge directly. To challenge directly, you need to know your facts and have them at the ready.

Stealing from C.I., I learned to do that but needed note cards in front of me. You can figure out what you need to arm yourself. But you don't need to passive. This is your education and you need to take a lead role in it. People my age needed to do that (and hopefully many did) but it's only more important today when education is mistaken as memorization of facts that you can be 'tested' on as opposed to actually learning how to question, how to evaluate and how to form your own opinions.

Doing that may allow you to look at your entire life differently. You may end up someone like Kat able to write something as amazing as "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Long but is there a topic?

In case there are any Rebecca-like readers, I did get the Dixie Chicks' new CD The Long Way. I also got a Ben Harper live CD that I haven't had time to listen to yet. Not that I've had that much time to listen to The Long Way but I did listen to it last night and am listening right now.
I really enjoy it and I think most people will so if you've been thinking, "Should I get it?" -- the answer's probably yes. "Easy Silence" is probably the one that stands out first to me. I love the "EEE" in "Easy Silence" note that Natalie Maines sings. I grabbed the case. There are fourteen songs. I'm not able to place them all by their title but I do enjoy the entire CD and can listen to it all the way through -- no clunckers.

I'm off tomorrow (as usual). Other than that? C.I.'s trying to get everything figured out community wise. Regarding The Third Estate Sunday Review, Jim's said that anyone who wants to bail or wants to help in part on the edition can. Rebecca's the only one up in the air right now due to some plans that she and Fly Boy have. You'll see something at all the community sites on Memorial Day (usual holiday post) and we'll all be working on that. Friday's up in the air for me right now. I do have plans. C.I. will cover items with Mike if I'm unable to post. (Thank you.) But I think I'll be able to get something up. If I'm not able to, I will do so on Saturday. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts on today's headlines.

"Senate Intel. Committee Approves Hayden Nomination" (Democracy Now!):
General Michael Hayden has moved a step closer to becoming the next head of the CIA. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to recommend Hayden's confirmation. Four Democrats joined the committee's Republican members in supporting Hayden's nomination. During his confirmation hearing, Hayden staunchly defended the Bush administration’s domestic wiretap program he oversaw as director of the National Security Agency. In a statement, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, one of the three Democrats to vote against, said: "General Hayden directed an illegal program that put Americans on American soil under surveillance without the legally required approval of a judge."

That's multi-star General Hayden. Four? Yes, four. I looked online for ten minutes and finally found one story. No link to it, it's Fox "News." But I did hear it on the radio that a Senate committee decided Wednesday to reappoint him. This isn't a "good" thing. Swiping from C.I. who noted these remarks by Barbara Olshansky on KPFA's The Morning Show (from Tuesday of last week):

One of the things that I think is underling this type of authorization [. . .] is this notion that this presidency has, that this administration has, that the commander-in-chief powers which are supposed to be used outside the United States in a zone of miltary hostility . This president says, we can turn that power inside, into the United States, into the domestic, civilian, civil society and use that power here. And that underlies everything that this president is doing. . . What's really troubling is when you think that we're now going to appoint military people to fundamentally civilian posts. It adds even more structure to that idea that we can operate militarily inside the United States. That's something that [. . .] in the history of this country we have never abided. It's something the Framers, way back, were concerned about and it's something the courts have been really clear about and yet that is what this administration is completely -- using the military powers inside the United States to justify all of these violations.

Are we a democratic government or are we a military junta? Why would we put a general in charge of the CIA?

"FCC Won't Investigate NSA's Access To Telephone Records" (Democracy Now!):
The Federal Communications Commission says it won't investigate whether the National Security Agency has obtained access to the telephone records of millions of US citizens. Calls for an investigation followed a USA Today report that three major telecom countries handed over customers' phone data to the NSA. The FCC says it cannot investigate because of the classified nature of the NSA's activities. Democratic Congressmember Ed Markey, one of several lawmakers who had requested the probe, said: "The FCC has abdicated its responsibility to protect Americans' privacy to the National Security Agency without even asking a single question about it."

That's not surprising. The FCC is packed with Republicans. And the new head, replacing Colin Powell's son Michael, was a Bully Boy pick. So once again, Americans have no line of defense between themselves and the Bully Boy. (Read C.I.'s "On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy.") We've seen the Christy Todd Whitman EPA roll over (most famously right now for her actions, she's no longer the head, after 9/11 when she allowed a safety ruling to go out that had no basis in fact but also in terms of repeatedly altering science and research to play down global warming) so it's no surprise that every government agency does as well. It's really sad that Congress and the Supreme Court also roll over. But citizens have no protection from the out of control Bully Boy and his lackies in the White House.

Rebecca called to see if I'd gotten the Dixie Chicks CD and, as noted above, I did. She was talking about the lyrics and I have no idea. I don't usually listen for the words when I'm first listening. I'm listening for the notes being sung, the music and it's often days and weeks before I have the words down. Which is a great way to drop back into the college discussion I planned to do last week because Rebecca always studied the lyrics. She has a wonderful voice and would be able to sing along within a day (tops) of buying an album because she'd learn the words so quickly. I'd listen for the music and often take weeks (in college) before I even knew the words.
C.I.? On first listen of a song, we're talking brand new, C.I. could usually provide every other line on first listen. (That's still true today.) However, C.I. would often, after knowing a song, make up lyrics to the songs because they'd be better that way. One that comes to mind is Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." I love that song, I think it's a wonderful song. If you know Carly's version, you know that after the third verse you get a vamp until the end. "You're so vain, You probably think this song is about you" and "You're so vain, I bet you think this song is about you" are the two lines. C.I. always adds, "You probably think I'm talking about you" and other lines. I always remember, when we're all singing along that one but get lost on the others. One more C.I. story because Rebecca said if I was going to bring up making up lines, I needed to bring up verses and the reason for that. (C.I. won't mind and said last week to use my "best judgement" and there'd be no problem.) Rebecca used to get really upset in college when we'd all be singing a song and C.I. would go to a different verse. If it's a song C.I. played on piano or guitar, forget it. (Rebecca's other complaint would be when we'd be singing "Me and Bobby McGee," the Janis Joplin classic, and C.I. would rush the "la-la" part when we were just singing it without the song playing on the stereo.)

You know what? I'm really not into a heavy post tonight. I think there's already plenty of "heavy" here. I'll talk about that the next time I blog. But if you're in college now (maybe you just graduated), I hope you've made time for life around you. Activism, absolutely. But you can't go through college with your nose in a book. Part of the experience/education is being tossed in with people you wouldn't normally be. People you might not ever talk to are all around you and that's really part of the experience. (I'm remembering a real jerk right now from a philosophy class -- an Ayn Rand devotee who always had to try to interject his love for Rand into a class on Plato.) Most important, it's a time to make friends.

Most important? You need to blow off steam, absolutely. You also, if you're lucky, will find friends who will support and aid you. Both Rebecca and C.I. were more than willing to go to the library with me on late hours. They'd help me with research (C.I. is a whizz with research and would usually surpise the reference libraian who was helping me with cross-references and raw data). I don't believe that any time is the "best time." (Hopefully, life will always have "best" moments.) But it is a time that you can build memories and a strong foundation. Rebecca and C.I. both taught me it was okay to say, "I don't know." They also taught me that it was okay to ask for help and that it was foolish not to use any help you had access to.

I struggled in one class in the second semester of my freshman year and a lot was riding on my paper. They both knew it and they insisted upon reading it when I was finished with it. I wasn't the type to say, "I wrote a great paper!" (nor were they). But you do need input. On that paper, I handed it to them and then left. I came back and was pretty upset because they'd market it all up. (In those days, that meant retyping.) Rebecca focused on spelling, C.I. focused on comprehension. There were circles (Rebecca's) and arrows (C.I.'s) and I thought, "Do they know how long it took me to type this paper?"

It wasn't even an ego thing, just, "Oh my God! I'm going to have to retype the whole thing." (As opposed to, travel back with me children, putting it back in and using white out to type over a mispelled word.)

But I retyped it, cursing them the whole time, and turned it in. Even before it came back (with the grade needed to pass), I felt okay with it, more than okay, and that's the sort of thing that I needed to learn and learn quickly.

Rebecca was always real good about making sure we attended every performance of a play or a band on campus. There were times when I'd think, "I have no interest in ___" (whatever playwright) but it did help. On a very basic level, I'd often have those plays later in English class. On another level, it rounded me out as a person.

The three of us didn't plan our schedules together. Rebecca was not an early riser (even then) and wanted her classes later in the day. I am an early riser and wanted to get them out of the way as soon as possible. C.I. took whatever was interesting -- C.I.'s degree plan was done by C.I. and never filed until graduation neared. People would say, "Oh, you've got to get a degree plan!" The department advisor would always be scheduling meetings -- then as now, if C.I. didn't ask for a meeting, attendance is 'optional.' (C.I.'s attitude with advisors was always, "Are you paying for my college? Then you don't need to worry.")

But one class we did take together in our freshman year was illuminating because I didn't do study groups. C.I. talked me into joining one and it was a big help. Rebecca taught me, on study groups, that when you forget to do your work for the group, show up with food and you'll be forgiven at least slightly. She always brought muffins, doughnuts and was, of course, Rebecca
so the guys would always give her a pass and no woman wanted to look bitter and point out, "We're going into the final and she's never done her work."

I'm realizing this is probably better, topic wise, for people who will be entering college. So let me talk about something that happens every summer. I always have at least one friend who has a child in college and they've had a rough time. That's normal. Never let that paralyze you. Even if you get placed on academic probation, it's not the end of the world (though many have thought so). When I speak to those people (and they're usually high achievers in high school who've managed to achieve in a more regimented structure -- high school -- and are now a little lost since college is quite a bit looser) the first thing I ask after they've explained their problem is, "Did you speak to anyone on campus?" Most students aren't aware that many universities provide counselors -- either for a small fee or free.

If you have an emotional problem of some kind (feeling overwhelmed or whatever), there are people on campus who are there to help to you.

One issue that has come up repeatedly is sexuality. You are who you are. But a number of people seem to think that they can keep their sexuality under wraps while in high school and, the minute they step onto a college campus, everything will suddenly make sense.

It's a process. If you're straight and shy or whatever in high school, you have to learn how to mix with the opposite sex. If you're gay and you've been keeping that under wraps (shy or not) until college, you're going to have to learn to mix as well.

The ones I've seen who suffered the most usually got into a relationship freshman year with someone who wasn't out. They had something in common at that point. But then the person they've fallen for isn't interested in much of anything except making sure that no one knows he or she is gay.

That's very hurtful. To put it in straight terms, it's like being the girl in high school that some guy's going to visit to have sex with but doesn't want to be seen with (or see outside of sex). It's the same type of situation because the person will wonder what's wrong with them?

Nothing. You can be perfect or the worst and it doesn't matter. If someone's not willing to acknowledge their sexuality, it doesn't matter what you are, they're not going to acknowledge you. I saw a young man who was very upset because he and a guy whom I'll call Adam would get together for mutual masturbation sessions. Sometimes they weren't mutual and often the person trying to address his or her own sexuality ends up pleasuring the one still hiding over and over.

Because you've been waiting all through high school for this adult moment when you could be you and you could be free about who you were, it's very easy for some to stay in bad relationships. This is the first relationship and if something's not working, it's easy to take that on yourself.

But it's not a relationship. A relationship is sharing and a person who is hiding himself or herself can't truly share. But what happens is often that this becomes (for the person attempting to deal with his or her sexuality) first love due to the fact that they've put themselves on hold until college. You need to know that this is common among staight people and gay people and that it has nothing to do with you. The young man I saw was sure the problem was with him.

It wasn't. It was first love and while he was ready to grow, his partner wasn't. That's life and it happens to most people (straight or gay). You pick yourself and move on. That means you don't slip (but if you do, you move on after) and fall back into a pattern because it's comfortable or because you're afraid you'll never find anyone else.

The thing you should do, if you're afraid of being alone, is ask yourself could you put up with this relationship for many years? Not if he or she changes, but if he or she stays the same? You probably can't. But those weeks, months or years that you do you will be taking yourself out of the game. If you are worried about ending up alone, the easiest way is to give your heart and time to someone who will not bring you happiness. You'll be alone in the 'relationship' and you'll find it harder to move on the longer you stay.

If you're gay or lesbian (or bi or trans), I'm not talking about coming out to your parents. (In fact, if they're paying your tuition and you don't think they'd be able to deal with your sexuality, it might be better to wait until college is over.) But if you're someone who kept your sexuality under wraps throughout high school, just being open with someone you fool around with isn't being who you are. Find a counselor, find a friend, but find someone that you can be out to, someone you're not having sex with.

Moving from sexuality, in college, a friend (who I haven't named here and won't name here) was someone who looked like she had it all. She would go out on dates but always ended it. Why? She had scars on her legs from a childhood accident and was convinced no guy would want her because of that. We had been in college for three years before she told anyone. She told C.I. after three years, when she'd broken up with a boyfriend and gotten drunk. (With alcohol or without, people always sought out C.I. for their problems.) I saw them engaged in a very intense conversation and thought (because I knew this pattern), "What's her big secret?" A few weeks later, she told Rebecca and me.

It was a few weeks later before we saw the scars and they weren't that bad. They'd gotten much smaller since childhood and I remember showing her my leg that I'd just shaved (and nicked badly) to back that up. Her fourth year was wonderful for her. But it takes sharing something to release it. You can't just hold it in. Maybe it's something exterior like a scar or maybe it's a part of you like your sexuality -- but whatever it is, you need to find a way to talk about it.

With good friends, you'll realize quickly that what you think everyone is focused on, they really aren't. Either it's no big deal to them or they're too focused on their own problems (which always seem more intense than what's going on outside them). That's a big part of college, discovering yourself and finding people you can share with.

The people you can share with, those are going to be the people you'll count on -- today and tomorrow. They may get on your nerves from time to time, but they will be there.

I get on Rebecca's anytime I call her before she's had morning cup of coffee -- her opening line is always, "Try to do somebody a godd*mn favor." That's an old joke. When we were in college, someone came over one night crying. She just wanted to sleep on the couch. She didn't want to talk. So we all go to sleep and an hour or so later, she wakes us all up. She wants to talk. But then she doesn't. This repeated twice more and the second time, C.I. said it to the woman in exasperation. So whenever we're irritated with one another, one of us will say that -- causing us to laugh and move on. (But Rebecca will tell you, she doesn't like to answer the phone before she's had her first cup of coffee and only does in case it's an emergency "even though I'm not a lawyer and not a doctor so I don't know what fire I'm supposed to be putting out!")

By the way, neither Rebecca nor myself was the person who played Liz Phair over and over.

"Surprise interview" (Mikey Likes It):
Mike: Okay, I asked Elaine to give me something and she said to ask about music. Specifically, Liz Phair and Aimee Mann.
C.I.: I know why she said that. I love Aimee Mann and have the CDs but I don't listen that often because her songs tend to stay in my head, I'm always humming them or singing them to myself. Today it was "That's Just What You Are." Liz Phair is the opposite. I pushed Exile in Guyville off on a friend. One of those, "You have to listen!" And when it doesn't happen, you end up holding the phone up to the speakers. The friend and I ended up making spur of the minute plans one July 4th. By this time she loved Phair's CD. I never travel on a holiday because of the traffic jams. But it was spur of the moment and "fun," she swore. We ended up stuck on an interstate for hours and the only thing she had was Phair. Over and over. Over and over. Hour after hour. I've never wanted to hear Liz Phair's Exile again after that. It's like a brand of chips that a group of us took to a rock festival years and years ago. I burned out on those chips, they were new at the time, and as we made our way back after something like thirty-six hours of music, I never wanted to see those chips again. I still don't. That's how I feel about Exile. I think Elaine paired them up because, in one case, you're dealing with something I will not listen to (Phair) and in the other you're dealing with something I love but don't listen to because it's already playing in my head.

That wasn't us. Rebecca and I were talking about the e-mails that we've both gotten on this. It wasn't us. (We do know who it was.)

"Iraq snapshot"("Democracy Now: Ann Wright, David Zeiger, Sir! No! Sir!, Michael Massing," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence -- the only consistents.
noted by Amy Goodman on Democray Now!,yesterday in Iraq: "at least 40 people were killed in violence around the country. In Baghdad, 11 people were killed and nine wounded in a bombing near a Shiite mosque".
Reuters notes that General Ahmed Dawod was shot by assailants. The AFP notes the death of Ahmed Daoud as well ("Daoud" is their spelling) and lists him as "Baghdad's deputy police commissioner." The Associated Press notes that drive-by shootings in Baghdad resulted in at least nine deaths: "a college student, a police officer, two street vendors, a university professor, two taxi drivers, the owner of a grocerys tore and a builder". Along with the shootings, bombings continued. Reuters reports on one that went off where people were seeking "day labouring jobs." The AFP notes two other bombs that wounded at least 10 (targets were a minibus and Palestine Street). AFP notes the discovery of eleven corpses in Baghdad.
Outside of Baghdad? The
Associated Press notes an oil blaze on a pipelin "south of Baghdad" as a result of a bomb. "Near Baquba," Reuters reports that a convoy was attacked resulting in the death of two bodyguards working for a provincial council member. In Basra, the AFP reports "gunmen" attacked a "British armored patrol."
AFP reports that Nuri al-Maliki, who couldn't keep his own deadline and barely kept the constitutionally mandated deadline, now says that by this weekend he expects to fill the posts of defense, interior and national security.
In the United States,
Michael Rowland reports on the case of Sergeant Santos Cardona -- prosecutors are arguing Cardona's actions at Abu Ghraib resulted from a desire "for entertainment." The Associated Press reports that seven people were arrested at the Port of Olympia protesting in Olympia, Washington where "military vehicles" and convoys were "to be loaded onto a ship." Five are charged with "pedestrian interference," one with trespassing and the seventh "was arrested a day earlier." Sam Green, activist, is quoted as saying, "Everybody's a little terrified right now. We were doing what we thought was legal." Finally. Remember Donald Rumsfeld's annoying smirk and dismissing the looting in Iraq -- joking it was one vase shown over and over in a media loop? Evonne Coutros takes a look at the looting and speaks with Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos who tells her that "almost 6,000 of the 14,000 known missing antiquites" have been recovered (Bogdanos has been working on the recovery since April 2003).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Amy Goodman interviewed Arundhati Roy; Gore Vidal on KPFA's The Morning Show Weds.

I'll be rushing through this because Rebecca phoned to remind that the Dixie Chicks' new CD came out today. So I'm going to try to get this posted and then go grab a copy. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts which will probably be more formed and informed than my own.

"Video May Tie Rumsfeld to Abu Ghraib Abuses "(Democracy Now!):
Court martial proceedings have begun for an Army sergeant accused of using military dogs to threaten detainees at Abu Ghraib. The trial of Sgt. Santos Cardona may expose who within the Pentagon's chain of command ordered soliders to abuse and torture detainees at the Iraqi prison. For the first time Major General Geoffrey Miller is expected to testify about what happened at the prison. Until now Miller has refused to publicly speak about his role overseeing interrogations at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Meanwhile it has now been revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directly communicated with Miller and other senior defense officials by video-teleconference about interrogation matters in November and December 2003. Lawyers for Sgt. Cardona are attempting to obtain copies of these videoconferences to use as their defense.

Why are we only now learning that Donald Rumsfeld and Geoffrey Miller were communicating via video-teleconference. I'm not remembering that detail in the Taguba Report. Was Antonio Taguba allowed to review the communications before writing his report? Was the Senate informed of this when they were looking into the issue when the photos first broke?

I actually do buy the "few bad apples" argument. I just don't believe they were the low hanging fruit. I think the "few bad apples" were sitting at the top: Miller, Sanchez, Rumsfeld, Bully Boy and Cheney. Bully Boy has disgraced the nation before the world. But note the next item.

"Bush Warns of 'Erosion of Democracy' in Venezuela & Bolivia" (Democracy Now!):
President Bush warned Monday that Venezuela and Bolivia are suffering from what he described as an "erosion of democracy." Bush's comments come a week after the U.S. cut off military sales to Venezuela and three weeks after Bolivia announced it would nationalize its natural gas resources. Bush said he had a message for Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the hemisphere. President Bush: "I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries in order for there to be prosperity and peace. I'm going to remind our allies and friends in the neighborhood that the United States of America stands for justice; that when we see poverty, we care about it and we do something about it; that we care for good -- we stand for good health care. I'm going to remind our people that meddling in other elections is -- to achieve a short-term objective is not in the interests of the neighborhood."

I think the erosion of democracy is taking place in this country. Projecting democratic calamity onto other countries (which, in both cases, have leaders who are democratically supported and were democratically elected) can't hide the damage Bully Boy's done to our own country. We're given the false choice of security or liberty. Without liberty, there's no security. People like to say, "Without security, there's no liberty." But they rarely make the other point. Robert Parry's "Liberty Over Safety" makes that point, quite clearly. Just as the nation's gone from "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" to "Fear everything!" we've also gone from "Give me liberty or give me death" to "Take anything, take it all, just let me cower."

"Day of Action Organized to Save Public Access & Net Neutrality" (Democracy Now!):
In media news, a national coalition of community media organizations is organizing a day of action to save public access television and protect net neutrality. Protests are planned for Wednesday in New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco. Protest organizers are calling on Congress to reject the COPE Bill which would effectively end what is known as "net neutrality" the concept that Internet users should be able to access any web content without restrictions of limitations imposed by their internet service provider. Another provision of the bill would cut back the obligation of cable TV companies to devote channels to public access and fund the facilities to run them.

I'm taking in part in action tomorrow. I had an open slot that I was going to use to catch up on some things when Sunny asked if it was okay to take some time tomorrow to participate? I told her we'd shut down the office and I'd go with. This is important and "net neutrality" has gotten attention but just as important is public access. If you watch TV (I really don't) and this isn't stopped, be prepared for getting your "community" reports from areas other than your own city or town because if public access dies, you're left with nothing but big media and most of it won't be covering your area or providing a platform for voices in your area.

Amy Goodman did a wonderful interview today which isn't a surprise by any means, but the person she was interviewing is one of my favorites. I'm choosing this section of the interview because there seems to be some confusion on the part of one commentator about Bully Boy's visit to India (he has argued Bully Boy was embraced by all but some fringe elements).

"Arundhati Roy on India, Iraq, U.S. Empire and Dissent" (Democracy Now!):
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush in India.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, the strange thing was that before he came, they wanted him to address a joint house of Parliament, but some members of Parliament said that they would heckle him and that it would be embarrassing for him to come there. So then they thought they would ask him to address a public meeting at the Red Fort, which is in Old Delhi, which is where the Prime Minister of India always gives his independence day speech from, but that was considered unsafe, because Old Delhi is full of Muslims, and you know how they think of all Muslims as terrorists. So then they thought, "Okay, we’ll do it in Vigyan Bhawan," which is a sort of state auditorium, but that was considered too much of a comedown for the U.S. President. So funnily enough, they eventually settled on him speaking in Purana Qila, which is the Old Fort, which houses the Delhi zoo. And it was really from there that -- and, of course, it wasn't a public meeting. It was the caged animals and some caged CEOs that he addressed. And then he went to Hyderabad, and I think he met a buffalo there, some special kind of buffalo, because there is a picture of Bush and the buffalo in all the papers, but the point is that, insulated from the public.
There were massive demonstrations, where hundreds of thousands of people showed up. But it didn't seem to matter either to Bush or to the Indian government, which went ahead and signed, you know, deals where this kind of embrace between a poorer country or a developing country and America. We have such a litany of the history of incineration when you embrace the government of the United States. And that's what happened, that the Indian government, in full servile mode, has entered into this embrace, has negotiated itself into a corner, and now continues to do this deadly sort of dance.
But I must say that while Bush was in Delhi, at the same time on the streets were -- I mean apart from the protests, there were 60 widows that had come from Kerala, which is the south of India, which is where I come from, and they had come to Delhi because they were 60 out of the tens of thousands of widows of farmers who have committed suicide, because they have been encircled by debt. And this is a fact that is simply not reported, partly because there are no official figures, partly because the Indian government quibbles about what constitutes suicide and what is a farmer. If a man commits suicide, but the land is in his old father's name, he doesn't count. If it's a woman, she doesn't count, because women can't be farmers. AMY GOODMAN: So she counts as someone who committed suicide, but not as a farmer who committed suicide.
AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Tens of thousands. And then, anyway, so these 60 women were there on the street asking the Indian government to write off the debts of their husbands, right? Across the street from them, in a five-star hotel were Bush's 16 sniffer dogs who were staying in this five-star hotel, and we were all told that you can't call them dogs, because they are actually officers of the American Army, you know. I don't know what the names were. Sergeant Pepper and Corporal Whatever. So, it wasn't even possible to be satirical or write black comedy, because it was all real.

Arundhati Roy continues to speak out on issues that matter while The New Republican and other useless publications focus on "We can win in November!" They suffered from "War Got Your Tongue?" before and they continue to suffer from it. Now they want to waste our time playing psychics on the subject of the upcoming elections, playing king maker (or more likely "pawn maker"). However, considering The New Republicans "joke" of Arundhati Roy being on the receiving end of a 'bunker buster,' maybe it's just as well they waste everyone's time being a Democratic Party organ as the elections near. In the real world, there are real issues (and I'm not seeing any indication that the Democratic Party, in power or not, is going to address any of them).

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Arundhati Roy," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue.
Didn't Bully Boy say corner turned?
The news didn't make it to Iraq apparently.
Throughout the country, bombs and drive-bys continued.
In Baghdad,
CNN notes the death of Ahmed Ali Hussein (professor at the University of Technology). The Associated Press notes a car bomb "at the entrance to a police station" that resulted in the death of at least five. CBS and the AP note the death, from a drive-by shooting, of a cigarette vendor. Three elderly people were shot dead -- "one of whom was blind, and another disabled." The AP notes that bombs claimed the lives of many and estimates that at least 23 died across Iraq today.
AFP notes that three corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes Hani Saadoun, one of the three found -- Saaoun had been twelve-years-old and was found "dumped ... bullet hole to his head and another through his chest .. . He had been whipped with cables, tormented by electric drills and his body dragged through the streets behind a car." Again, twelve-years-old, one of at least three corpses discovred in Baghdad today.

Reuters reports that four corpses were found ("handcuffed, blindfolded and shot dead") in Ain al-Tamur. In Kiruk, as noted by Sandra Lupien on KPFA's The Morning Show and by the Associated Press, high school teacher Nazar Qadir was killed in a drive-by shooting. The AP and CBS note a drive-by "near Baqouba" that resulted in, as Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, the death of three "Iraqi laborers." A second drive-by in Baquba resulted in the death of three more.
In, Balad Ruz,
CNN notes the death of a child ("and wounded another person") following a roadside bomb exploding "outside a courthouse." AFP reports that in Mosul, "a family of blacksmiths" were the fictims of a drive-by with four being killed and one wounded -- a second drive by claimed the life of a former Baath party official. Reuters notes that two were wounded in Najaf from "four mortar rounds."
In other developments in Iraq, the
AFP notes that Hussein Shahristani, newly installed as the Iraqi Oil Minister, is already doing the job that corporations have been waiting for (addressing the concerns that led the US to get nervous about the previous Iraqi prime minister): he's welcoming them and planning to "launch wide-raning contracts with international oil companies."
Outside of Iraq?
Today in London,
KUNA reports, Hero Ibrahim Ahmad addressed the Women in Business International Conference -- Ahmad is "wife of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani."
In the United States, the
Associated Press notes that the White House has "played down prospects of major troop withdrawals from Iraq in the near future." Also in the United States, Marilyn Elias reports (for USA Today) on a link a health survey has noted between PTSD and physical health in Iraq veterans. The survey of close to 3,000 soldiers who had been back in the United States for at least one year found that "17% of the soldiers had PTSD symptoms." And finally, Australia's ABC notes that Cindy Sheehan is attending a peace conference in Australia and urging Australians to send the message to John Howard that he works for them.

I need to wrap up if I'm getting out the door and to the store (for the CD), but please read
Dahr Jamail's "Easily Dispensable: Iraq's Children" at Truth Out. He's writing about the malnutrition. Also, (as C.I. noted) Gore Vidal will be on KPFA's The Morning Show tomorrow. I'm not sure if it will be as a guest or a broadcast of a speech he's given but it should be worth hearing regardless.

Monday, May 22, 2006

KPFA's Radio Chronicles' "John Ono Lennon" special

It's Monday and it's hot and muggy. I usually don't mind the heat but today seems unreasonably warm for May -- maybe it's just me? Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts and the news items we're noting.

"Report: Iraq Is 'Disintegrating as Ethnic Cleansing Takes Hold'" (Democracy Now!):
British journalist Patrick Cockburn says Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold on a massive scale. On Sunday at least 24 people died including 13 at a Baghdad restaurant that was attacked by a suicide bomber.

He, Patrick Cockburn, compared it to Bosnia. This is very scary and it's really sad that the strongest reporting on Iraq continues to come outside the United States. Cockburn, last week, was one of the few reporters to note the UNICEF study on the overwhelming rates of malnutrition for children in Iraq. He's also related to Laura Flanders in some way. Flanders is the host of Air America Radio's RadioNation with Laura Flanders and her uncle, if I remember correctly, is Alexander Cockburn who is one of the two founders of CounterPunch magazine. (The other is Jeffery St. Clair.) Patrick Cockburn is Alexander Cockburn's brother, I think.

I'm a big fan of CounterPunch and noted that in a discussion at The Third Estate Sunday Review which I can't find now. C.I. was talking about something and I think the value of The Common Ills and I noted it had been valuable to me and provided the example that I didn't even know CounterPunch before The Common Ills but now it's probably my favorite magazine. Though I couldn't find the discussion, I did notice that here, I don't have a link to CounterPunch. That's because I snap that up eagerly at the bookstore and avoid it online (so as not to spoil something -- though online has additional stories and the print version has articles exclusive to it). I'll add a link to CounterPunch on my permalinks/blogroll. If you've never read the magazine, visit the website or, better yet, buy the print edition.

"U.S.-Air Strike Kills 76 in Afghanistan; Up to 30 Civilians Killed" (Democracy Now!):
In Afghanistan, a U.S.-led air strike has killed at least 76 people. The BBC reports the dead included as many as 30 civilians including children. The bombing raid in Southern Afghanistan occurred shortly after midnight today. The U.S. military has denied reports of civilian casualties and claimed that all of the dead were members of the Taliban. The air strike occurred in a region which has recently seen some of the country's fiercest fighting since the fall of the Taliban nearly five years ago.

Five years ago? I wasn't on board for the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001. I loathed the way Laura Bush attempted to jump on the back of feminists to get everyone on board for her husband's war. It wasn't going to make life better for women in Iraq -- and feminists knew about Afghanistan long before the mainstream media found some interest. In fact, the mainstream media in this country spent much of the 90s white-washing the realities of Afghanistan. The country was already damaged from the battle with the then-Soviet Union.
For those who don't remember or forgot, the US told Afghanistan to turn over Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan's response was to say "Show us proof" of his involvement in 9/11. Lot of blustering by the administration as they asserted they had proof.

But they wouldn't show it. We don't make it a policy in the United States to extradite people just because another government makes an accusation, we ask for proof (and if you're a terrorist who attacked Cubans, the Bushes always find an excuse not to turn over the person). Is Osama bin Laden the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks?

I don't know. Like Afghanistan, the American people were never shown the government's proof.
So Bully Boy did his war dance and that country suffered. Then, Bully Boy was bored and needing to hit Iraq to satisfy his blood lust, so Afghanistan was allowed to revert back -- all the nonsense out of Laura Bush's mouth about how we were going in to liberate Afghanistan women was forgotten and the war lords began controlling the areas they'd controlled before.

By the way, England's plan was to deploy from Iraq to Afghanistan, but if you caught today's news, you know Tony Blair, prime minister of England, is saying now that British troops will be in Iraq until 2010.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: James Yee & Guantanamo," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue -- despite the new cabinet.
In fact, despite the new cabinet, Australia's ABC reports that new cabinet or not, John Howard, prime minister of Australia, "says the new Government in Baghdad will not affect any decision Australia will make about its troops and forces in Iraq." Australia's ABC also reports the Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister of Japan, is making noises about expanding the role of Japanese troops in Iraq. In what only the reality challenged could see as 'good news,' Tony Blair says that maybe, sort of, if everything's just right, British troops might, maybe, leave Iraq by the year 2010. As Blair was grand standing in Iraq, Canada's CBC notes that 108 British troops have died in Iraq. And on the new cabinet, Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) notes "US Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad . . . exerted strong pressure on Nouri al-Maliki" which continues the "muscular" thread John F. Burns noted Sunday.
Far from the myth of democracy and self-rule, as Reuters reported Friday, Hussain al-Shahristani did become the oil minister. You'd think Operation Happy Talk would trumpet the news but they probably don't want to draw too much attention to al-Shahristani's exile period (including the cheerleading of war) or, for that matter, his new post. As the Guardian notes "Another new day in Iraq: Events are stubbornly refusing to conform to the sunny scenarios Bush and Blair are so desperate to paint."
In Baghdad, bombs continued to be a regular feature. Reuters notes a car bomb "in southeastern Baghdad" as well as one "in the capital's New Baghdad district." The Associated Press counts the toll from the two bombing as at least nine dead and at least thirteen wounded while estimating that, on Monday, before "parlimaent met for its first session" 17 Iraqis had died from either car bombs or shootings. Killed by gunfire, the Associated Press reports, was "the general director of the youth ministry." KUNA notes a roadside bomb which killed four Iraqi police officers.
In Samarra, the Associated Press reports that "a police colonel" was shot to death. Reuters notes three killed in Baquba. The Associated Press notes, also in Baquba, that "an employee of a cell phone company" was killed. In Jbela, Reuters notes a roadside bomb took the life of at least three and wounded at least six. And a the corpse of a police officer was found, the Associated Press notes, "in the Aziziya area, south of Baghdad." In Baghdad, CNN reports, nine corpses were found.

That's the sad reality of Iraq on Monday. Tony Blair can visit and chatter away, it doesn't change a thing. Last night, C.I. noted ("And the war drags on") a radio program that I wanted to talk about. KPFA's Radio Chronicles for Sunday, May 21st, 2006 which was a documentary that I believe was entitled John Ono Lennon. We could certainly use someone with his bravery and committment today. If you're nodding your head and thinking, "Yes, we could," but you didn't catch the program, consider listening. (There's no charge and the broadcast is archived so you can listen to it right now if you missed it.) It provided a look at Lennon's actions and music via interviews with him and clips of him performing (both his songs from his solo career and his songs with the Beatles -- some were done acoustic). It just brought home something I felt I already knew, how important John Lennon was to the times.

He wasn't afraid to speak out. He wasn't hesitant to use his voice. This while he was a target of the FBI and on Nixon's enemies list. That alone is amazing but when you also consider that using his voice meant risking deportation from the United States (where he and Yoko Ono wanted to make their home), you really grasp his bravery. There was a very funny moment (actually many) when he was speaking (I'd guess in 1979 or 1980) about the withdrawal of so many in music from activism and participation in the world around them. He compared them to angry, small children whining that they didn't get their way so they'd just withdraw.

There was also a moment that I won't be able to capture or do justice to; however, a very young Sean Ono Lennon is singing his favorite song. What was it? The Beatles "With A Little Help From My Friends." He had the words to one section down pat but needed help from his father on the second part.

Lennon and Ono discussed the bed-ins and why they did them so maybe that will interest someone? If you're a John Lennon fan, you should make a point to check out the program.