Saturday, March 26, 2011

Budgets and books

Want a headache? Read this poorly written piece by Peter Cary and Nancy A. Youssef (Center for Public Integrity and McClatchy Newspapers) which comes off like a press release and not reporting. After you've got your headache, read the two on the same topic at the Fort Worth Star Telegram and you'll be reading an actual report. The point of the reports is that roadside bombings became a point of interest (finally?) to the Defense Department which decided that the issue needed its own little corner in the Pentagon to address it. However, having tasked it to a retired general, the government did what it increasingly does: Outsourced the whole issue.

Over $17 billion has been wasted: "the technologies it's developed have failed to significantly improve U.S. soldiers' ability to detect unexploded roadside bombs". The money appears to have been mismanaged and misspent (such as "$24.6 million to hire private contractors for intelligence operations in Afghanistan" which has nothing to do with what they were tasked to do). This is a bi-partisan problem, an agency began under Bush and continued under Son of Bush Barack. The GAO has raised serious alarms on the agency since 2008.

Turning to books and dropping back to the March 1st snapshot:

Journalist Annia Ciezadlo's new book is Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War. She was a guest on Think with Krys Boyd (KERA) today (here for audio).

Annia Ciezadlo: There's a story in the book, a short chapter, about a mother in Baghdad. And-and it was just this heartbreaking thing that I actually wrote for the Houston Chronicle. It was the first story I wrote from Baghdad. This mother who had been very, very spooked -- as had many parents in Iraq -- by this terrible bombing that happened right at the beginning of Ramadan. And, as it happened, it was the week before her daughter's birthday. And so she kept her daughter out of school for -- I think it was a week and a half. She-she finally -- Her daughter was going crazy, but it was this terrible choice that she had to make: Let my daughter go to school and take the risk that their might be a bombing on the very road she might be taking to school? Or do I say ''no, education comes first, we can't live like this" and send her to school? It was a horrible choice to have to make. So she decided that she was going to throw this extra special birthday party for her daughter and she was going to get her this fabulous cake. And-and the more she talked about the cake, the more I realized, really, it wasn't about having a fancy cake. The cake had become this symbol to her of normal life, her ability to go to school and send her daughter to school and all of these things that they had lost. I think -- I think it's natural. I think we all do that with food. I think we all have a food that symbolizes to us something more than just that food.

Krys Boyd: And one thing that, you know, people may not make this direct connection a lot about market places being targeted in times of war, particularly in that part of the world. Even shopping for food can be a dangerous thing. This is this day-to-day thing we always have to do, even when there's a war going on. And it might be the most dangerous thing people go out and do.

Annia Ciezadlo: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's one of the first places that gets targeted: Marketplaces, restaurants, hotels, cafes. I think there's a couple of reasons for this. I think terrorists like to target these places because nothing sews fear like this attack on something you have to do every day, really an attack on normal life. And I should add that in a place like Baghdad where electricity is very irregular, you have to go shopping every day because you can't just keep stuff in the freezer or refrigerator. So all of these forces combine to make it absolutely essential that you go to the market but also dangerous. I think there's another thing about markets and I have a real -- I'm a real market nut. I love markets. And one of the reasons I love markets is that they're often in a city that might be somewhat segregated or somewhat, you know, Balkanized. But the market is usually the place where everybody goes. It's usually a place that's free of divisions or relatively free of divisions of sect or gender or, you know, religion, ethnicity, these kinds of things. And I think that's one of the things that makes them so wonderful and I think that's why terrorists like to target them.

Christina Asquith (Washington Post) surveys several books including Annia Ciezadlo's:

"Day of Honey" covers a lot of ground and sometimes loses sight of its main subject: food. But Ciezaldo is a wonderful traveling companion. Her observations are delightful — witty, intelligent and nonjudgmental. Skirting the politics, hotel food and headline-grabbing violence, she spills the secrets of this region so rich in history as if they were spices from a burlap sack.

The following community websites -- plus -- updated last night and this morning:

Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and author of the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. This is her article "Three Members of the Granny Peace Brigade Given the First Clara Lamlich Award:"

As part of the week-long commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirt Factory fire of March 25, 2011, the first Clara Lemlich Award was presented to thirty older women on March 21 in a ceremony at the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. Three of the recipients are members of the legendary anti-war group, the Granny Peace Brigade. The Award was given "in celebration of unsung activists."

The members of the Granny Peace Brigade receiving the Award were Marie Runyon, 96; Lillian Pollak, 95, and Joan Wile, 79. Another Granny Peace Brigader, actress-activist Vinie Burrows, presented the Awards.

The Granny Peace Brigade came to the forefront of public awareness on Oct. 17, 2005, at which time 18 women were arrested and jailed at the Times Square recruiting center when they tried to enlist in the military as a means of replacing America's grandchildren in harm's way. The grannies felt they had been privileged to live long lives and didn't want young people denied that privilege because of a war based on a lie.

The grandmothers were on trial for six days at the end of which they were acquitted of the charge against them -- blocking a public entrance. Each of the 18 women were given the opportunity during the trial to express their reasons for engaging in civil disobedience and were, in essence, therefore able to turn the tables and put the war on trial.

Marie Runyon, one of the 2005 arrestees, was honored for her life-long work as a housing activist; Lillian Pollak for her years of activism and recent publication of a novel, "The Sweetest Dream," a historical novel about the radical politics of the 30's; and Joan Wile, also an arrestee, for founding Grandmothers Against the War in 2003 which led to the formation of the Granny Peace Brigade. Vinie Burrows, another one of the "Times Square 18,"
in addition to her internationally acclaimed reputation as an actress-playwright, is also known for her role as Permanent Representative for the U.N. Women's International Democratic Federation.

Clara Lemlich was a young woman garment worker who, after the fire, successfully organized women workers in the industry to go on strike for better, safer working conditions. Her organizing was the basis of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).

"We are very honored to be chosen for this significant award," said Ms. Runyon, "particularly in view of the fact that so many of us Granny Peace Brigaders are among the recipients. Three out of thirty is pretty awesome. And, I hope we inspire elderly people with our ability even at our ages to continue contributing to peace and social justice."

It is hoped this Award will help enlighten people to the necessity for unions in this current climate of union busting. Without the Clara Lemlichs of the early labor movement, regulations would not have been instituted in factories protecting the lives of workers. It's vital that people be educated in that regard and hopefully rise up, as they did in Wisconsin, against the Scott Walkers of the world.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends