Web links related to the Back of the Book program of August 24, 2009

It's Sunday night, September 6, 2009, 19:58, and this Web page is finished. It might have gotten done sooner if my hard drive hadn't died. Updates of all sorts below. Here's the original beginning of this page ⇒ Well, the 'thon is over and we get to do a radio program tonight. This program will close out our 23rd year of doing this radio program. Celebration next program. And what about gender? Are our definitions realistic?

Did you know that I've got a brief synopsis of many of the WBAI LSB meetings? Well, I do, and I've recently updated this stuff a tiny bit.

There was a sudden Town Hall meeting held on Monday, April 13, 2009, at 7:00 PM at The Fortune Society, 630 Riverside Drive at 140th St. in Manhattan. Here's a flyer that was passed out at the event.

The next WBAI LSB meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 9, 2009, at 7:00 PM, at a location to be announced.

There was a regular meeting of the WBAI LSB held on Wednesday, August 12, 2009, at 7:00 PM, in the community room of Cathedral Parkway Towers, 125 West 109th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues in Manhattan.

After their big, ahem, showing at the PNB meeting in July one would expect the faction that's rapidly losing its strangle hold on WBAI to mount a similar effort at this LSB meeting. But once again the faction didn't make the huge, impressive showing they'd been threatening to make at these meetings. There weren't even as many FoBs at this meeting as in some previous meetings. One wonders if the videos of their disruptions of the PNB meeting in July have made them realize that they look like thugs and bullies, which they mostly are.

Of course the faction operatives who were there were disruptive. But they weren't nearly as disruptive as they'd been at the PNB meeting weeks earlier. So we had a meeting. We did not elect non-LSB members to the new Management Search Committee. So the deadline for applying to be on the Management Search Committee is now September 7, 2009.

The 2009, WBAI LSB elections are under way at Pacifica. So for the next number of months we'll be seeing the FoBs trying to regain a majority on the LSB and the PNB in an effort to reinstall their faction boss and turn back the clock for WBAI and Pacifica, which would of course result in the destruction of both, which may be exactly their goal.

At its January 21, 2009, meeting the LSB voted to hold its meetings on the second Wednesday of every month and/or the last Thursday of that month, subject to change by the LSB, which gives us the following schedule:

All of these meetings are set to begin at 7:00 PM.

WBAI has a program schedule up on its Web site. The site has gotten many of the individual program pages together to provide links and such, so check it out.

WBAI has an official Web stream of what's on the air at any time! You can go here and pick which type of stream you want! If this stream isn't working let me know. The stream was working at 10:12 PM last night.

WBAI is archiving the programs! Just go here and you'll be able to listen to the program any time for the next couple of months. When you first go to the Web page you'll only see the WBAI programs for the past 7 days. If you want to see older programs you can click on one of the “See ALL Shows” buttons.

Back of the Book is now one of the programs that you can download, as well as listen to on line.

I'm glad to announce that with a new person doing the archives there have been some positive changes. In the table on that Web page Back of the Book and Carrier Wave are both in the Show column. The “Date and Category” column shows the date of the program. After the program I go in and write the details of the program and say which program it is. Of course I'd recommend that you just listen to both programs in this time slot!

The 2009 Local Station Board Elections Have Begun!

The Local Station Board (LSB) is the primary governance body for WBAI. When meeting as delegates the LSB members elect the Directors of the Pacifica National Board, which is the governance body for the entire Pacifica Foundation. The Pacifica Foundation owns WBAI.

Here is the official time table for this crucial election.

This election is crucial for the survival of WBAI and Pacifica. WBAI and Pacifica are in a precarious position right now as current Management attempts to reverse the death spiral that the station and the network have been in for years. If some bunch of chuckleheads gets a majority on the WBAI LSB they'll be able to change the composition of the Pacifica National Board and revert to corrupt, incompetent and malfeasant Management, they might even sell WBAI.

We need decent people on the WBAI LSB who will be interested in preserving the station, not in selling it or running it into the ground. I hope that the listeners will educate themselves about the candidates and vote for good ones.

The official Web page containing the list of candidates and their statements is here. You'll have to scroll down the list to find the WBAI candidates.

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in New York City from Friday July 23, to Sunday July 26, 2009.

The meeting was held at the Beekman Towers Hotel, 3 Mitchell Place, in Manhattan, a couple of blocks north of the United Nations.

There's an election going on in Pacifica, so there were a few candidates attending and speaking during the public comment sessions. Some disrupted the meeting.

Here's the Web page I did about this PNB meeting and the amazing things that went on at it.

WBAI currently has interim Management and needs a permanent General Manager and a permanent Program Director. At its June 25, 2009, meeting the WBAI LSB voted to establish a search committee. This committee will produce a list of people whom it will recommend to be hired as General Manager and Program Director.

The committee already has its LSB members on it, but at the August 12, LSB meeting we'll be voting in the 3 listener representatives who are not members of the LSB, and the 3 staff representatives who are not members of the LSB to complete this committee.

UPDATE: This election will now occur at the September 9, 2009, LSB meeting.

If you're not a member of the WBAI LSB and you want to nominate yourself for this committee just go here and fill out this form and then E-mail it to WBAI-LSB-Public-owner@yahoogroups.com or send a paper copy to:

WBAI Local Station Board
att: Chair
120 Wall Street, 10th floor
New York, NY 10005

The vote is going to be held on September 9, so if you want to be on this committee you'd better make sure you get it to the LSB Chair by September 7, at the latest.

With all of the WBAI crazy stuff that's going on at least we can take solace in the fact that it's not as if planets are colliding. But somewhere some planets have collided!

It turns out that a few thousand years ago a planet about the size of Mercury and another about the size of our Moon did collide.

All of this happened around a star called “HD 172555” that's around 100 light years away. Here's the paper the scientists wrote about it.

Here's Astronomy Magazine's take on it.

We talked about the issue of Caster Semenya, an 18 year old woman from South Africa who has been setting records at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics track meet in Berlin, Germany.

Well, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is investigating her record setting performances. First they looked to see if she was using drugs, she wasn't. Then they turned to asking if she's maybe not a woman. And this has set off some controversy.

After Ms. Semenya won the 800 meter race the New York Times quoted Elisa Cosma of Italy as saying, “These kind of people should not run with us. For me she's not a woman. She's a man.” Wow! Ms. Cosma came is 6th in that race.

Other competitors also complained, some to the IAAF. So the IAAF started a bunch of tests on Ms. Semenya to determine her gender. Ah, but here we get into an area that some would like to avoid.

Gender is not as simple as male and female. Humans are not necessarily one or the other.

It is generally accepted that a person's gender is determined by their sex chromosomes. We mostly have a pair of these. For most of us we have either an XX pair or an XY pair. And so most of the time if you have an XX pair you're female and if you have an XY pair you're male.

But real life is not so simple. In fact even by the simple genetic definition there really are more than two genders. Some folks have more than two sex chromosomes, there are people with combinations like XXY, XXX, XYY, XXYY, XXXXY and on and on.

So is the IAAF going to ban from athletic competition anyone who has more than two sex chromosomes? And if they ban people from competing as women if they have anything other than XX chromosomes then will they be allowed to compete as men? Is that fair? And what about males who perform well? Is anyone testing their gender? What if some guy has XXXY or even more Xs or a bunch of Ys? Doesn't he possibly have an advantage over the other men who merely have an XY pair?

And beyond the chromosomal ambiguities there are also any number of other factors that can affect a person's gender and physical development.

The Y chromosome usually contains a gene called SRY. This SRY gene is what starts the fetus developing to be male. And, yes, we all start out female in the womb. But sometimes that SRY gene isn't functional. And so the person will develop to be apparently female even though they'll have the XY, male, pair. There are also cases where a female's adrenal glands produce a lot more testosterone than usual and so that person may become a rather butch looking woman or have stronger muscles than she otherwise would. In some cases there is something called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome where the SRY gene on the Y chromosome functions but the person's body just doesn't react to it as usual, so you again end up with someone who appears female but has an XY pair.

There is also something called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia where someone can have the XX, female, chromosome pair but their adrenal glands pump out so much testosterone that they appear to be male to anyone who looks at them. But in some cases the outward appearing male can have ovaries and a uterus!

There are just loads of combinations and variations that defy the pigeon holing of people into two distinct, easily discernible genders. And the IAAF is trying to squeeze Ms. Semenya into one of those pigeon holes.

I think that this is discrimination based on ignorance. As I pointed out above, there isn't any sort of gender test going on with men. So isn't it discriminatory to have such a thing for women?

I don't know what the doctors who are looking at Ms. Semenya are going to find, but there's a chance that they're going to be confounded when they try to pigeon hole her. And I think that it would be unfair to her to disqualify her if they find that she has a Y chromosome somewhere or that she has had an extra dose of testosterone from her adrenal glands. Hell, most of the women athletes are probably getting more than the average amount of testosterone from their adrenal glands. Is the IAAF going to start testing for testosterone levels in all female athletes and set a limit of how much their bodies can naturally make?

This all just goes to the issue of how people have come to treat the genders in general. We're all forced into gender roles, whether we like them or not. This has informed everything from homophobia to inheritance laws. I don't suppose that a rational look at these issues is about to happen any time soon, but I wish it would.

Oh, and at one point in this controversy one male track athlete from South Africa questioned whether any of these issues would ever have been raised for a European runner. Well, there's somebody who doesn't know his history. All of this gender questioning started with European athletes! We're probably all familiar with the infamous East German women athletes of the '60s and '70s. Some of them looked like they could break through the line of any NFL team. And we also know that the East German government, a bunch of commies, was doping those women with steriods to make them stronger and beefier. Some of them have had to have gender reassignment procedures in later life, some have developed cancer from the drugs and at least one committed suicide from the stress caused by the effects of the drugs over time. In 1967, a Polish runner was barred from competing because she “failed” the chromosomal test. A Spanish female runner with a Y chromosome was also disqualified for a while.

Well, it's just another of the things that happens in the world wide culture that insists on dividing the genders. Will the human species ever mature enough to stop this sort of nonsense?

One last thing, what if the human species is evolving through this gender thing? What if at some point in the future genders are just not the same as they are now? The Y chromosome is chronically looking like it's in trouble, and in some parts of the world there may be more folks whose genders are difficult to pigeon hole than in others. Some groups of people may be evolving past the genders that we know. Maybe that's the only way we'll ever get away from this battle of the genders nonsense.

Pickles of the North talked about her most recent Great Northern Trip to the North Pole. And there was a heat wave up there! She just couldn't escape it. Along with the unexpected high temperatures she also got stressed by a family member's health problem.

eternal flame at the end of June
The eternal flame with the old cap

So after the program Pickles and I frequently go to Battery Park before we go home. Down there they have a small memorial to the 9/11 attacks.

The memorial consists of the “Peace Sphere” sculpture that used to sit in the open courtyard of the World Trade Center and which was heavily damaged by the buildings' collapse, and an “eternal flame” that's there to commemorate the thousands of people who died that day.

Well, the “eternal flame” seems to have been under attack for quite some time.

We've noticed that the cap on the flame has been tilted at various angles from fortnight to fortnight. And some of those angles are rather severe and interfere with the functioning of the cap. The cap is there to spread out the flame so that it's not just a jet like your gas stove puts out, and in spreading out the flame it also makes it more visible.

eternal flame in mid-July
The eternal flame with no cap, still lit

The cap also protects the gas pipe underneath from damage and keeps the rain from putting the flame out. I don't know if there's some sort of automatic device that lights the flame if it goes out, but the cap also helps to keep flammable objects, like dead leaves drifting on the wind, from being set alight by the flame and then drifting somewhere else.

Well, that “eternal flame” appears to have been under attack for the past couple of years. I'm not at all sure that random happenstance can account for the tilted caps we see, nor for the occasional bit of stuff that ends up in the basin that houses the flame. And one time there was even some graffitti sprayed on the Peace Sphere.

It sure does look like someone is coming over and stomping on the cap or hitting it pretty hard with something. We have occasionally seen some of the stones that are usually around the flame's basin inside the basin. So maybe someone, or some group, comes by and pelts the cap with the stones.

In June the cap was at an angle, but by the end of June there was another new cap installed on the “eternal flame.” So there's this cycle of the cap getting more and more severely damaged and finally being replaced.

In mid-July we found that the cap was gone entirely. We've never seen the “eternal flame” missing its cap before. The flame was shooting almost straight up and was unguarded. One of the heavy rain storms we've been getting this Summer could possibly put it out.

eternal flame at the end of July
The eternal flame extinguished

And then, at the end of July, we came by and the cap was still missing and the flame itself was out. So much for the “eternal flame” idea.

So we wonder: if the memorial flame has been under attack on a regular basis for all this time, who's doing it? Is it the work of one nutcase? Is it a nutcase who's just generally crazy? Or is this some political nutcase who figures he, or she, is striking a real blow against capitalism, or ZOG, or maybe it's a 9/11 conspiracy nut who just freaks out at the sight of something that reminds him or her that 9/11 wasn't just something to talk and posture about, it really happened and thousands of people died?

Of course it could be some political group that comes by and periodically attacks it. I certainly wouldn't put it past some of them.

Maybe it's just random hooligans or drunks who come by and attack it with no political motive or connection to each other.

Whatever's going on with this memorial we're hoping that this problem of the flame getting vandalized gets resolved soon. Whether you're enamored of the “eternal flame” concept or not, it's a memorial to a lot of people who lost their lives just a few blocks away from the park in an attack on America, an attack on all Americans and an attack on people who just happened to be in America. And if people are attacking the “eternal flame” I hope they get stopped, in a sudden and definitive way.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even now that the gag rule has been lifted. However, there is the Internet! There are mailing lists which you can subscribe to and Web based message boards devoted to WBAI and Pacifica issues. Many controversial WBAI/Pacifica issues are discussed on these lists.

Probably the most popular list that's sprung up is the “NewPacifica” mailing list. This one is very lively and currently includes over 400 subscribers coast to coast.

Being lively, of course, it sometimes also gets a bit nasty. All sorts of things are happening on this list and official announcements are frequently posted there.

You can look at the NewPacifica list here, and you can join the list from that Web page too. If you subscribe to the “NewPacifica” mailing list you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list.

There is the option to receive a “digest” version of the list, which means that a bunch of messages are bundled into one E-mail and sent to you at regular intervals, this cuts down on the number of E-mails you get from the list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

This list also has a Web based interface where you can read messages and from which you can post your own messages.

There is also the more WBAI specific “Goodlight” Web based message board. It is sometimes referred to on Back of the Book as “the bleepin' blue board,” owing to the blue background used on its Web pages. This one has many people posting anonymously and there's also an ancillary “WBAI people” board that's just totally out of hand. UPDATE: The bleepin' blue board has had to add a step for folks to get onto it because it's under attack by spambots. When you click on the above link you may be asked for a username and password. Type in Username: poster Password: enternow

When the computer in Master Control is working we sometimes have live interaction with people posting on the “Goodlight Board” during the program.

Our very own Uncle Sidney Smith, whose program Carrier Wave alternates with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

My voice mail number at WBAI is 212-209-2996. Leave a message.

You can also send me E-mail.

WBAI related links

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

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The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2009, R. Paul Martin.