Saturday, May 06, 2006

Weekend Akhmatova Blogging

"When the American national poet Robert Frost had visited her at a dacha in 1962, Akhmatova wrote: 'I've had everything - poverty, prison lines, fear, poems remembered only by heart, and burnt poems. And humiliation and grief. And you don't know anything about this and wouldn't be able to understand it if I told you...' Two years before her death at the age of 76, Akhmatova was chosen president of the Writers' Union. She did not live to see the publication of her collected works in 1986 in Moscow."

So, you know, for this alone, I would love Anna, even if I can't quite access her poems yet.

What do you think of this? I like it as well as I've like anything of her, i think.

When you're drunk it's so much fun --
An early fall has strung
The elms with yellow flags.
We've strayed into the land of deceit
And we're repenting bitterly,
Why then are we smiling these
Strange and frozen smiles?
We wanted piercing anguish
Instead of placid happiness. . .
I won't abandon my comrade,
So dissolute and mild.
1911 (Paris)
-- translated by Judith Hemschemeyer

My Goodness; That's A Surprise. No, It's Not!

The WaPo, which is a piece of crap newspaper whose Sunday readership declined by quite a bit last quarter due, inter alia, to the fact that they have a lying scumbucket for an "ombudsman", reports that -- big surprise -- under the Bush administration, rich women avoid unwanted pregnancies, while poor women increasingly do not.

Because governmental policies designed to do just that have been successful.

The article says: "The abortion rate also rose among poor women while declining among the more affluent.

'Clearly, something is changing, and it doesn't bode well in terms of unplanned pregnancies and abortions for poor women, in particular,' said Heather Boonstra, one of the authors of the report.

Asked what was driving the trends, the authors noted that some state and federal reproductive health programs have been cut or made more restrictive in recent years. State and federal programs have increasingly focused on abstinence rather than contraception, and some analysts have argued that the shift is leading to less use of contraceptives and more unintended pregnancies."

I hate these people.

Culture of Life, my smooth, round, peachy ass.

Through The Looking Glass

There's a natural tendency, I think, to suppose that most others believe what we believe. (You agree, right? See! I told you!) So maybe I'm mistaken, but I've always thought that most Americans generally agreed that there were some things that were best done by the government, particularly the federal government, and that, conversely, there were some things that the government should stay the hell out of.

Examples: Protecting Americans from attacks or natural disasters, building interstate highways, funding research into national problems such as cancer, HIV, or the need for clean energy are tasks best done by the federal government. Deciding who to marry, whether or not to have children, what religion, if any, to practice, and deciding when and how to die are decisions best left entirely to the people involved and the government, particularly the federal government, needs to carefully avoid trampling on the personal liberties involved in those sorts of decisions.

In fact, there was a time, not too long ago, when it was the conservatives who kept proclaiming that government needed to stay out of people's lives. They'd dig up examples of over-zealous Social Service agents who removed a child from her home because her parents sent her to bed without dinner one night to punish her bad behavior and worry that the next thing you knew, Big Brother would have cameras in everyone's home to monitor them 24/7. (OK, we didn't say "24/7" back then, but if the expression had been invented, they'd have used it.)

Now, in George Bush's America (I unfortunately mean that more literally than I'd like), it's as if we've stepped through the looking glass and everything's backward. Our first big clue was the federal government's failure to pay any attention to a Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) entitled "bin Laden Determined to Strike Within US." The president was too busy taking a month-long vacation in a hell-hole in Texas to bother with protecting Americans from attacks by terrorists. Even after it happened, the Bush administration had to be pretty much dragged, pouting and sticking out their lower lips, into attacking the country that had harbored the Saudis who attacked us. Not much fun for them in attacking Afghanistan, even if that's where our attackers had come from.

Our next big clue -- like we needed another one -- was Katrina. Again, Bush and his administration were on vacation and, even with plenty of advance warning, sat around and did nothing to protect Americans from this natural disaster, nor to help them deal with its aftermath. When pushed uncharacteristically hard about its failure to act by the generally lapdogiscal press, Bush & Co. trotted out an idea that should have shocked all Americans even more than it did: it was the State of Louisiana's responsibility to deal with this problem, size and scope of it be damned. It was a particularly amazing statement coming from an administration that had spent millions and millions of dollars "reorganizing" the federal government around the distastefully-named "Department of Homeland Security."

We got our third big clue just this week. Bush announced that, come the avian bird flu epidemic, Americans could count on whatever help they might get from their state governments, but the federal government -- you know, the people who run the CDC -- wasn't going to bother to get too involved, so don't expect it and don't criticize them when they don't lift a finger because, well, they told us a few months ahead of time not to count on them. A coming world-wide pandemic and the federal government of the United States of America says, "Americans, you're on your own."

Coupled with this stunning abdication of traditional federal responsibilities, we've seen an equally stunning intrusion into American's personal lives. Our fist clue should have been "faith-based" funding of religious activities -- something that would have turned the Founding Fathers' stomachs. From that point on, the Bush administration has been more concerned with legislating how Americans live their private lives than any American government ever in the 200+ years of the Republic. Access to birth control of all forms, but especially abortion, is denied, a particularly odious and distasteful brand of xian fundamentalism is shoved down our throats at every opportunity, right-to-die laws are fought all the way to SCOTUS, gay sex is used as a match to ignite the dry timber of Bush's "base," and Bush flies at midnight back from a Texas vacation -- something he wouldn't do for the PDB or Katrina -- to interfere in Michael Schiavo's decision concerning how his brain-dead wife would have wanted to die.

WTF? WTF? Where are all the conservatives of the 1970s and 1980s who wanted a limited role for government? I'm beginning to think they never wanted to limit the government's role in any aspect of American's lives at all. They wanted to limit the extent to which government could regulate corporations. Period. Because, otherwise, I sure as hell would have expected them to be rioting in the street over some of Bush's intrusions into American's lives.

Sure, we're beginning to hear that conservatives are "upset" with Bush over governmental spending -- which has gone up under Bush while taxes on the rich have gone down. They don't want more taxes, but less spending, apparently on the few social services the government still provides because I haven't heard any of them complain about the cost of our illegal war in Iraq coughHaliburtoncough. Recent polls seem to show that some of Bush's losses are due to people who call themselves conservatives being unhappy with him. Not, I guess, for lying us into a war or turning his back on the traditional role of the federal government, but for getting caught lying us into a war and threatening their control of both houses of Congress.

So get ready to start hearing that Bush was never a "real" conservative and that, in 2008, we should elect a "real" conservative who'll do it right this time. It reminds me of a speech that I heard the now-fired CEO of Reliant Energy give after the California energy debacle. (Maybe that should have been our first clue, when Cheney basically told California it was on its own, even though only the federal government could, by law, regulate the energy prices.) Reliant insisted that the problem wasn't that California had deregulated its energy markets, it was that California hadn't deregulated all the way. True, complete deregulation would, he assured his listeners, fix everything. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that Reliant had been manipulating California's energy markets and laughing on tape about it.

When Newt Gingrich says that the Democrats' slogan ought to be: Had Enough? it's because Newt plans to answer that question by saying that Bush was never a real conservative, but that a real, true, honest-to-goodness conservative (who'll cut social spending to the bone) would be a real change and great for America.

Goddess, I hope we're now too smart to buy that tripe. But the marketing campaign is coming. You watch.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Thank You Very Much Mr. Colbert. You Rock!

Go here and thank Stephen Colbert for having balls the size of Jupiter.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Beltane and Walpurgisnight!

Scant posting over the next few days. Monday is Beltane -- for me, the highest of high holy days! We celebrate new life, Spring, sex, growth, flowering, potential, fecundity, and -- frankly -- fucking. I love me some Beltane. And, at my age, I take me some time to recover. Also, huge conference that I've organized happening on Tuesday which, by my calculations, takes place precisely one day after Beltane, so I likely won't sleep for about 48 hours.

It's ok. It's worth it. I love to dance and, on Beltane, WE DANCE!

Here's hoping that Spring in all its forms is good to you. that what you've been wanting to see manifest becomes manifest, that all the seeds you've planted, in every area, germinate, and that, to quote the country song, when you get the chance, you dance.


Women! It's the first of the month! STOP what you're doing and go give yourself a breast self-exam!

Men! It's the fist of the moth! STOP what you're doing and get your woman to give herself a breast self-exam!

Here's how it's done.

At the very least, go calendar this so you'll remember to do it at the right time of the month.

I love you. I want you to live long and prosper. Breast cancer is almost 100% curable if found early.

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

In every revolution, the main issue is power.

V. I. Lenin

"Poetry is power," Osip Mandelstam once said to Akhmatova in Voronezh, and she bowed her head on its slender neck. Banished, sick, penniless and hounded, they still would not give up their power.

Nadezhda Mandelstam

Akhmatova continue to evade me. I think now I've been misguided in insisting upon reading her poetry before her biography. I'll need to read about her life if I ever hope to read her poetry even semi-competently. But how can I give up on a woman who agreed so eloquently that poetry is about power and about revolution.

At any rate, I like the feminist feel of this poem:

Lot's Wife
by Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Max Hayward and Stanley Kunitz

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,

over a black mountain, in his giant track,

while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:

"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,

the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,

at the empty windows set in the tall house

where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain

stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .

Her body flaked into transparent salt,

and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem

too insignificant for our concern?

Yet in my heart I never will deny her,

who suffered death because she chose to turn.

What's Anna saying? That it's ok to want to look back? That it's ok to love the comforts and memory of home? That men and their patriarchial god too often trail off into the desert ignoring the things important to women? Or was this a huge comment upon the Soviets that I fail to grasp because I know so little of her life? Well, Anna, I wish I could invite you over to sit in my yard and have tea and tell me, while we enjoy the herb-scented breezes, what you were writing about. I'd offer you cheese, fruit, bread -- the things that were in such short supply while you were writing. We could talk about women turned into "transparent salt," which sounds to me like as good a description as any I'm likely to read of tears.