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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

This is the moment, or Condoleeza Rice for President '08

This could be the moment that everything changes.

The US has stated that if Iran agrees to halt Uranium enrichment they're ready to enter talks.

Condoleeza Rice has made the ouverture.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5034228.stm

At this point, in what I must confess I find to be an astoundingly and atypically reasonable proposal of diplomacy.

At this point, not only is war with Iran avoidable, It is now up to Iran to avoid this war
I truly did not expect this gesture from the United States' government It surprises me and gives me hope.

It gives me hope because for the first time since before Clinton, Bush Sr., or Reagen, it is entirely possible that cooler heads will prevail in America's Middle East foreign policy.
Is Israel ready to extend the same olive branch?

Most importantly, is IRAN?

I pray that they do...but I suspect they won't. Especially considering that only yesterday, ahead of this announcement by the 'States, Iran precluded nuclear talks with them, instead making an ouverture to the EU.

The question is, then, is this just a cynical attempt by the Bush Administration to curry public support of their planned invasion? Because the pundits and talking heads of the Media WILL seize this as a means of saying "See? Iran really isn't being reasonable!" should Iran refuse. If the 'States pull out of Iraq for Iran, they'll have a more popular war to fight.

With a more "acceptable" war, the United States would have three nations in the Middle East under its direct, if albeit tenuous, control. The disintegrating situation in Iran could alter drastically when the two countries' fundamentalistic Muslim governments combine. Iran is, after all, a strong vocal supporter of the Iraqi parliament.

The result would be all-out war in the Middle East. After prolonged carnage with "Collateral" carnage in the West and especially the United States by terrorist cells.

After this prolonged and universally destructive war, a new Persian state would emerge. Either it would carve up the Afghanistan-Iraq-Iran delta into loosely affiliated theocratic provinces, or the power would be centralized in an American Colonial Persia, composed of the former Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, controlled or administered by an American governor.

But what if the war is avoided? What if talks to begin, and what if those talks succeed? Only Nixon could go to China. Can only Rice go to Iran? Because as Secretary of State, Rice is the only person levelheaded enough in Bush's power sphere to dream up this offer, and the most likely person to go to direct talks with Iran; a woman in power, an automatic, historical symbol of The West Versus The East. Likewise, as Secretary of State, it would essentially be her prerogative to go.

Is she already being groomed to replace Cheney as Vice President? Is she already being prepared for the 2008 election?

To be honest, I do believe this to be the case. Unless some charismatic straight-shooter comes out as a Democratic Party candidate, a Hip, Young, New Charmer - think the Kennedy-Nixon debates, or Slick Willie playing sax on Arsenio Hall - the best that the Dems will have to offer in a desperate Hail Mary play to beat Presidential Hopeful Condoleeza Rice would be Bernie Sanders with Hillary as his running mate.

I think a Sanders/Rodham-Clinton ticket would look more like Mondale/Ferraro than it would Bill and Al. But a Rice/McCain - or dare I dream and say a Rice/Powell ticket would be the ticket to ride.

Rice is more of a moderate Republican on domestic issues, though she is a hawk when it comes to foreign policy. This would be good for America during a post-2008 America, where the War in the Middle-East is sure to still be ongoing. She'd protect America's interests abroad by staying the course and hopefully listening to her military advisers on how to do it, while very firmly defending America's diplomatic and commercial issues with the emerging from the fledgling economic Superpower of the European Union; ten more years and it will probably be the European Republic.

Meanwhile Rice's Africa policy would probably be the most beefed-up in decades. Not only because she (and hopefully her ex-military Veep) is Black, but because of the Public's perception of this first Black President of the United States would be shaped by the still-influential (In other words everybody but Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton) Black Community leaders and their inevitable very public demands for action on Africa.

This would present Rice with an historic opportunity to expand the current definition of "Terrorism" to include the atrocities engineered by some of the barbaric governments and juntas that prowl the Dark Continent.

Nevermind bringing decency and honour back to the White house; President Condoleeza Rice could bring decency and honour back to the Republican Party, heralding back before Nixon first soiled it with corruption and crime.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Is anyone else as pissed off as I am with "Mainstream" publishing?


I guess I should elaborate on that inflammatory title.
I'm talking not just as an author, but as a reader.
I've been to the bookstore recently, and is it just me or are all the new releases "best sellers" and other so-called "Mainstream" offerings these days nothing but synthesized product delivered to appeal not to the reader but to the Lowest Common Denominator?
Books like "The Crimson Code" pop out at me; not only the title but the "teaser" (and presumably the whole novel) an obvious riding-on-the-coat-tails-and-copying-as-much-as possible-without-legally-being-plagirism of "The Da Vinci Code", a book, which itself, was already very formulaic and derivative?
I've identified one such formula used as the back bone across several genres, from speculative fiction thrillers like the aforementioned Da Vinci Code, as well as the spy / police / thriller novels of the incomprehensively prolific authors like Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum (who strangely enough continues to write books years after his death) Nelson DeMille and John Grisham.
I call it the Ludlum Formula:
"Ordinary Man" becomes "Reluctant Hero" placed in "Extraordinary Situation". "Bystander Woman" gets swept up as "Events Unfold", "Casting Her Lot" in with Ordinary Man. "Shocking Plot Twists" make Ordinary Man and Bystander Woman question "Who They Can Trust". "Last Minute Race To The Finish" makes for "Reader Excitement". "Book Ends" with Ordinary Man and Bystander Woman either "Getting Married" or "Getting Laid".
Grisham's noveld usually follow a similar storyline: "Small Town Lawyer" or, alternately "Small-Time Lawyer" takes on "Case Bigger Than Him". At this point, "Sanctimonious Opposing Lawyer" or "Showboat Opposing Lawyer" or possibly "Corrupt, evil Lawyer" enters the picture and complicates things. Throught the novel, we're peppered with either or both "Lawyer Backstory" and "Victim / Plaintiff / Defendant's Backstory". The latter depends entirely on who the Small-Time Lawyer happens to represent.
Then comes the "Dramatic and Frightening Interlude" in which our hero is either "Attacked or Pursued", always depending on the context of the case.
Add your usual assortment of twists and turns and then the inevitable legal showdown, followed by the consequences and / or conclusions. Being a Good Southern Gentleman, Grisham usually tries to impart a Strong Moral Lesson tied in at the end of the novel.
The formulae for fantasy and science fiction is even easier these days, given that almost everything out there either seems to involve a Fallen Kingdom and a Reluctant Hero on an Epic Quest, or a Galactic Alliance or Galactic Empire either Struggling To Survive the Alien Foe, or alternately Fighting To End a revolutionary war.That's assuming the book isn't part of a franchize of recurring characters, television adaptations, RPG or videogame adaptations, or continuing "legacy" series from old, original sci-fi novels, written during a time when sci-fi really WAS "Speculative Fiction".
And is it just me, or is everything that is non-genre and just slightly better than the "mainstream", both genre and non-genre is so goddamn highbrow that it only appeals to pseudointellectuals, college professors or people who otherwise enjoy the trappings of elitism?
I mean, am I just utterly cynical? Or does anyone else see the same thing?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Coming Soon...










Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bookmarks, Coffee, MySpace Bring Success To Self-Published Author



For those of you who doubt the power of MySpace and self-publishing, consider the following:

Bookmarks, Coffee, MySpace Bring Success To Self-Published Author

May 17, 2006 -- When author Steven Oliverez first started posting his short stories in his personal profile on the popular MySpace.com, the response was little more than an occasional friend popping in to offer words of encouragement. Now that same web log has grown into an outlet with readership numbering in the thousands, and a vocal fan base that grows daily.

Until now, most promotion on MySpace, which has a membership approaching 80 million users, has been limited to musicians and bands trying to hit it big – MySpace has even started their own music label – but Oliverez is seen as the first author to attract such attention through the site. By offering his short stories for free to the internet community, he has made a name for himself and created widespread interest in his fantasy novel, 'The Elder Staves.' Every short story is met with almost instant feedback and discussion, something which Oliverez himself participates in.

The web log has also been a media target, prompting a slew of articles including a piece from The Book Standard, featuring Oliverez's role in this new style of marketing. Very recently, it also brought Oliverez an offer from a movie studio to purchase the film rights to an unpublished manuscript he had written before releasing his first novel (an excerpt from this earlier story also appears in his MySpace.com blog).

"The response has been far better than I had imagined," Oliverez says about using MySpace.com as a marketing tool. "Being able to instantly receive feedback from literally hundreds of readers at a time has made the writing process more enjoyable and interactive."

He expects more established writers will shortly follow suit.

More traditional venues have also been generating attention for the young author. Select bookstores across the country have been handing out bookmarks depicting the cover of 'The Elder Staves,' including Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million – and even the coffee giant, Starbucks.

Success has always been the extreme exception, not the rule in the self publishing world.

"There's a stigma," Oliverez admits. "You have to prove that your work is worth reading, and that's no easy task. I'm still thrilled every time I receive an email from a reader telling me they've recommended my book to a friend. When you add it all up, that's still the best type of marketing out there."

I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to my fellow independant author, Steven Oliverez. You've paved the road ahead for me and many others. Thank you for showing us that it can be done.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bell lays off thousands, posts record profits, CEO Michael Sabia takes 555% pay increase


For the past few weeks, Bell Canada has not left any respite to its employees by making business decisions that put their jobs at stake. The Company is fuelling the insecurity that has been hovering over its offices for some years now.

The offhand closing of the Kingston locality (District 17) is a blatant example.

In early April, Bell indicated that 5% of the calls already being sent to Canadian sub-contractors are now being forwarded overseas where working conditions are poor.

Lastly, the Company just announced that the percentage of Consumer Customer Service calls being outsourced has been increased and could become even higher.

Bell is playing with the issue that is most important for the CTEA: the JOB SECURITY of its members. Our members have a lot of questions. They are worried. They remember having made huge CONCESSIONS during 2005 bargaining. Now, they are entitled to ask what more does it take for Bell to stop making business decisions that are detrimental to its employees.

There are frequent conference calls and meetings between CTEA Vice-Presidents and Bell Representatives. The CTEA’s message is clear: Bell must honour the agreements made during the 2005 bargaining. Moreover, the CTEA attorneys are presently working on the case. Emergency Consultative Meeting The Chairman of the Clerical Bargaining Committee, Line Brisson, wrote to the Company’s Bargaining Committee to demand an emergency consultative meeting to discuss the Company’s recent decisions, and particularly the decision affecting Consumer Customer Service. Mrs. Brisson asked the Company to honour the Memorandum of Agreement on Outsourcing/Contracting Out of the Collective Agreement:

“The parties agree that any differences concerning the interpretation or application of this Memorandum of Agreement shall first be discussed through the consultative process on an expedited basis. In the event that the CTEA is not satisfied that its concerns have been addressed, it may file a grievance at Step 2 in accordance with the terms of the Collective Agreement.”
--Bell Canada Clerical and Associated Employees Collective Agreement, p. 121

The Company Bargaining Committee verbally agreed to meet with the CTEA Bargaining Committee as soon as possible.

CTEA Demands

These decisions recently made by Bell are creating a lot of frustration within the membership and the entire CTEA organization. We keep questioning the Company. We keep insisting on answers. We keep demanding that the agreements made during the 2005 bargaining be honoured.

The CTEA expects Bell Canada to abide by the Memorandum of Agreement on Outsourcing/Contracting Out.

The CTEA wants Bell Canada to meet with its Bargaining Committee before implementing decisions that will have major impacts on the jobs of our members.

The CTEA is asking Bell Canada to provide appropriate and acceptable conditions to members affected by office closures.

****

Is Bell closing offices, cutting jobs and contracting out in order to give Michael Sabia a generous wage increase?

“BCE Raised Sabia's Annual Pay to C$6.71 Million

April 28 (Bloomberg) -- BCE Inc., Canada's biggest telecommunications company, increased Chief Executive Officer Michael Sabia's total compensation more than five-fold last year as profit rose 23 percent from a year earlier.

Sabia was awarded C$6.71 million ($6 million), up from C$1.21 million, BCE said today in a regulatory filing.

The pay included a C$1.25 million salary, a C$2.2 million bonus that Sabia converted to deferred share units, a ``long-term incentive payout'' of C$3 million and other compensation, the filing shows.

Montreal-based BCE exceeded its sales, profit and cash flow targets last year, posting net income of C$1.96 billion after the company cut costs and increased sales from its cellular phone business. BCE shares dropped 3.6 percent in 2005”.

Source : Bloomberg

We must bring BCE President back to reality!!! Tell Michael what you have sacrificed in order for him to get his pay raise.

Send your email to michael.sabia@bell.ca or your fax to (514) 398-9313.

***

Mr Sabia,

I have recently become aware that BCE has granted you not only a salary five times higher than your previous annual restitution, but that you have also received millions of dollars in stock options and other benefits.

Meanwhile, Mr Sabia, Bell has made continued job cuts and closed entire districts in order to remain competitive. How, when posting the highest revenues Bell has seen over the last several months and taking such a huge chunk of that revenue for yourself can you justify making cuts to employee rosters because Bell must “remain competitive”?

Mr Sabia, I was recently declared surplus and am currently still unemployed. I, unlike you, did not earn millions of dollars every year. I, unlike you, was barely getting by as it was. How do you justify FORCING employees, who work hard to create the huge revenues that you profit from, to lose their jobs and still take such a huge (five hundred and fifty five per cent increase) in your salary?

My debts are mounting and I have no income. Perhaps, Mr Sabia, you could be generous enough to send me some money to supplement the pittance I will receive as severance pay.

After all, I did my part to help generate the revenues that allowed Bell to post such record earnings; likewise, my being declared surplus along with several thousand of my fellow employees means that you have been able to put a large dollar figure into the “savings” column of Bell’s revenue ledger.

Bell Canada’s employees are the ones who worked hard to allow you that five hundred and fifty-five per cent increase in your salary, Mister Sabia. It seems only fair that you should give something back to the employees who lost their jobs, their pensions and their benefits to earn you that increase.

One of the core values of Bell Canada’s ethical guidelines is mutual respect. We all work for Bell, Mr Sabia, but it seems you have no respect for those who work at the lowest echelons of the company.

As I am also a BCE shareholder, I received an invitation to the upcoming shareholder’s meeting. It is my intention to be there, Mr Sabia. It is my hope that the Board of Directors will tell the shareholders why it is in a time of cutbacks, closures and layoffs in order to remain competitive that you have taken a five hundred and fifty-five per cent increase in your salary.

Respectfully,

Steve Karmazenuk