Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thursday Night at the Ballet --This Season Is Almost Over and I've Yet to Be Wowed.

Well, it's exceedingly odd, but this time I agree with the WaPo's ballet reviewer. I'll just add that recorded music does not, IMHO, belong at the ballet. I don't mind modern, a-tonal music, but ballet music should be live. The dancing was somewhat better than I've come to expect from the Kirov, but still nothing like the Bolshoi, the NYC Ballet or America Ballet.

Here's what the WaPo had to say:

One Step Forsythe, Two Steps Back for The Kirov
By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 15, 2006; Page C04

The Kirov Ballet, which so desperately wants to be thought of as stepping boldly into the new century, instead seemed to be taking a backward leap Wednesday night at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

The venerated Russian company has been fast-tracking through the choreography of the past half-century, trying on all the modern ideas it missed out on during the Soviet regime. In past seasons, we've seen a subversive "Nutcracker," with its violent snowflakes and a sexy Clara. We've seen a stripped-down "Cinderella" dressed in warehouse chic. Works by George Balanchine, one of the most famed of the Kirov defectors, have been triumphantly reclaimed.

Now the company has discovered William Forsythe, the American choreographer who made his name with Germany's Ballett Frankfurt, where he boldly, heartlessly and at times brilliantly broke ballet apart and slammed its pieces back together in novel ways. The Kirov performed four of his dark, experimental works: "Steptext" (1985), "Approximate Sonata" (1996), "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" (1996) and "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" (1987) .

If this were the late 1980s or early '90s, the evening might have seemed edgy and raw. That was when Forsythe felt thrillingly new. That was when his style -- the abrupt beginnings and choked-off endings, the ostentatious slouching, the whiz-bang technical feats -- felt fresh. That was also a period of unfavorable economics, when many companies were cutting back on costumes and decor, and forgoing live orchestras. It was that kind of spareness that made Wednesday's program feel as though it were taking place in a past we had already painfully experienced. With virtually no design elements and all taped music -- except for one solo piano -- it looked like recession-era art.

None of the four works on the program was a clinker. I would see any of them again, on a program leavened with other, lighter styles. But viewed all together, they became a recitation of Forsythisms. Most noticeable was the unemphatic layering of duets and solos, an accumulation of little moments. Lots of little moments, few markers as to what was important and what was secondary. Performing the works together clearly has meaning for the Kirov, which is plainly eager to update its image from that of 19th-century powerhouse to 21st-century player. And to their credit, the dancers, all glorious long lines and elasticity, dived into the works with zeal. One could admire their execution, but choreographically the program had fewer rewards.

It also produced a rarity for the company in its annual series of Opera House seasons: rows of empty seats. And the empty seats increased after the intermissions.

It's a pity, because "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated," which was the strongest work, came at the end. A frequent fixture of mixed-repertory programs, it was given an unusually supple account by the Kirov, and it felt like a full ballet rather than a series of exercises. Irina Golub added a dash of glamour and catlike play to the central ballerina role, putting a luxuriant finish on a cold display of how far hip joints and hamstrings can stretch. Here, also, the sound was best. Thom Willem's aggressive clanging had the force of thunderclaps.

This work was preceded by the evening's worst musical moment, a poor-quality recording of the finale to Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C that accompanied "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude." It was Forsythe's wish that the recording be used rather than a live performance, a choice that furthers the skewering of ballet conventions happening onstage. Yes, it looks like the most "classical" of the Forsythe works -- the women wear tutus the color of pea soup, while the men are in blood red, and the steps are actual ballet steps. But there's mischief at work in the dazzling speed of the nonstop pirouettes, the endless repetition of movements, and the dancers' wild-looking glee at racing through the classical vocabulary they have so meticulously perfected in their training.

"Steptext" and "Approximate Sonata" resembled each other a bit too closely, with the dancers in practice clothes, a black-draped stage and abrasive snatches of music. "Steptext" featured Daria Pavlenko, the company's premier ballerina, wearing lipstick red and stabbing the stage with those perfectly arched swan queen feet even as she seemed a bit cautious about a running jump into her partner's arms. This work was a particular showcase for the flair and finesse of the male dancers: Igor Kolb, Andrey Merkuriev and Maxim Khrebtov.


Spent all day today in a class on Herbology. Mostly, while the teacher talked, I smelled the plants. I really can't describe the joy, pleasure, and ecstacy that I get from holding and smelling herbs. I'd brought a huge bottle of water, and I broke off a bit of rosemary and put it in the water. All day, I was drinking rosemary. It was heaven. On the way home, I was kicking myself for ever drinking "plain" water.

I came away with a few resolutions. Next year, I am going to grow bee balm, which I've avoided because it's so aggresssive, but today I remembered how amazing it smells. Also, I'm going to grow catnip. Miss Thing is, oddly, one of those cats who really don't get too wild about catnip. But our teacher was telling us today that, in large enough doses, catnip can make humans as euphoric as it does cats. Euphoria is good. I'm going to grow a lot of it.

Also, you know how sometimes a smell can take you all the way back to another time? A plant that I'd completely forgotten about -- Virginia Allspice -- was in the sample of plants that the teacher brought to class. My mom used to grow that and I'd completely forgotten it. The smell hit my brain like a time bomb and I was ten years old again, just like THAT. I'm going to find some and work it into my plans for re-landscaping this old yard.

Some people --maybe you -- would have been bored to tears today. But you have to find whatever it is that transports you, that makes you feel alive and happy and content and, then, you have to do it. Take a music lesson. Travel. Cook. Write. Dance. Fix cars. Finish furniture. We have to protest, and write letters, and work hard to save our world. And, we have to do what feeds our souls. We have to thrive. For me, a day smelling live plants is transportative.

What is it for you?????

Friday, June 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Miss Thing, Happy Birthday to You. You Look Like a Great Grey Cat. And You Act Like One, Too.

Today is the birthday of my sweet grey cat, Miss Thing.

She completely rules my little brick cottage.

She eats only Fancy Feast, and that only if it's flaked or in gravy. No nasty aspic for Miss Thing.

When my ankle was broken, she would come sit on the cast and purr.

When I am disconsolate, she comes and sits on my lap.

She has even deigned to accept my grandson into her life, assuming that he undersands lese majeste.

Here are the words she knows: Canned Cat Food, Treats, It's OK (just before I sneeze). Snuggle. Nose scratch.

When I go sit on the screen porch in the morning to eat breakfast, she come out with me and observes the birds and the squirrels without running and hiding. I daresay that few of you have been loved like this.

When I sit zazen in my ritual room, Miss Thing comes and sits with me. See above re: having been loved like this.

Miss Thing, it was a lucky day for me that you came to live with me.

Why I Won't Donate One Dollar to Any Democratic Presidential Candidate Until The Democrats Make It Job ONE -- I Mean ONE -- To Elect Ohio & Fla SoSs

And, why we need our November Wednesday Plan right now.

From People for the American Way:

As you may know, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is at it again, abusing his power by disenfranchising already underrepresented communities in the coming elections. Election Protection 365 is not taking it sitting down.

Secretary of State Blackwell effectively shut down all voter registration efforts in Ohio when he enacted regulations a week and a half ago that severely restrict the operations of groups seeking to register traditionally disenfranchised voters. Under these new regulations, compensated voter registration workers must turn in the forms they collect directly to elections officials, and not to the group sponsoring the voter registration drive. This means that voter registration groups can’t keep good records – and that means they can’t do the necessary follow up to make sure the voters actually make it onto the voting rolls (and we all know we’ve seen problems with that in the past!).

As if that weren’t enough, these new rules also threaten criminal penalties for individuals registering voters if they do not exactly conform to complicated, burdensome procedures. The threat of criminal prosecution will have such a chilling effect that no one will want to risk engaging in voter registration efforts that expand democracy and empower their communities, and poor people, young people and African Americans will be shut out of our democracy.

On June 26, the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) will have the opportunity to reject the Secretary of State’s new policy and they need to hear from you! Even if you don’t live in Ohio, your voice matters – this type of blatant voter suppression in any state sets a dangerous precedent [and all Americans have an obligation to speak out against it].

Or, We Can Just Stick Our Head In The Sand And Pretend It's Not Going To Happen

I think periodically it's a good idea to review Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

We've got an important election coming up in less than twenty weeks and the Democrats, by and large, still appear to have no plans for how to respond when the Republicans, once again, steal this election via Diebold, old-fashioned voter intimidation, fraud, phone-jamming, etc. If we wait until the Wednesday morning in November to organize the cells, select the targets of our civil disobedience, run into court for restraining orders in fifty states, and plan the protests, it may very well be too late. Herewith, Rules for Radicals:

Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”

Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

According to Alinsky, the main job of the organizer is to bait an opponent into reacting. “The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.”


How would Saul Alinsky plan for the upcoming November Wednesday?

Good News for the Ocean

Allow me to get the disclaimers out of the way, first. The idea for this originated at Interior when Bruce Babbit -- a Democrat -- was there. Fishing interests blocked the idea at that time, and it's taken a while to work out a deal with them. Further, I'm not so naive as to imagine that this wasn't done now in response to AIT and the upcoming Fall elections. Finally, Bush sucks and this one act can't begin to compensate for all the environmental damage that he's caused. But let's forget about that and focus on what's happened.

And what's happened is very good indeed. As BBC reports, yesdterday, the United States government "designated a swathe of Hawaiian islands as a US national monument, making them the world's largest marine sanctuary. [Bush] signed a law on Thursday which will give the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands the highest protected status in US law. The area, nearly as big as California, supports more than 7,000 species, a quarter of which occur nowhere else." Further, BBC notes that, "'This is really for the first time saying the primary purpose of this area of the ocean is to be a pristine, or nearly pristine, kind of place,' David Festa, director the ocean programme at Environmental Defense, told the New York Times. 'It would take it off the books as a fishing ground. That's really the first time we'll have done that in any kind of sizeable area,' he said."

As tne NYT editorialized, "Some in Hawaii call them the "kupuna islands," using the Hawaiian word for elders, since they teach people what the Pacific was like before plundering and pollution. Sharks, not fishing boats, are still at the top of the food chain. Ancient colonies of living coral reach heights of 80 feet. A quarter of the 7,000 marine species there exist nowhere else.

These islands are distant, but not undisturbed. The monk seals are endangered. Black-lipped pearl oysters were wiped out 75 years ago. The lobster fishery crashed in the 1990's. The islands' bottom-dwelling fish, snappers known on Hawaiian menus as opakapaka and onaga, are in serious decline."

This is good. This is very, very good. We need lots more like this.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Fireflies Are Back

Saw my brilliant friend Renee, a gifted artist and the world's best cook, tonight. Renee walks her dogs every day in Congressional Cemetery. Tonight, she told me that she's seen fireflies this week. So, of course, I came directly home and went out onto my back deck to see if they'd returned to Arlington, yet. And, there, blinking in and out of the branches of the oak trees, against an indigo-black sky, were the first, few, brave fireflies.

On my wheel of the year, the fireflies are very important. Just after I bought this house, after years and years of living in high-rise apartments, some medication I was taking for breast cancer threw me into a horrible depression. Never having suffered anything remotely like that in my entire life, it took me a long time to realize what was going on and what was causing it. So my first summer here was a time of confusion and saddness for me -- except for the fireflies. I still remember the night that I wandered out onto the screen porch in back and saw hundreds of fireflies, blinking in and out of all the trees, across the yard, up against the screen. How could anyone look at something like that and feel anything except happy?

And, so, every year since then, I watch for them and mark their coming. I tell everyone when they're back and beg them to come over to my porch, sit in the dark with me, and watch the beauty.

Here we are. As Blog o'Gnosis points out, the Summer Solstice, midsummer, is only a few days away. And, the dragonflies are back. Sometimes, it's the small, personal rituals that we use to mark the turning of the wheel that mean the most, that help us to truly thrive.

Rimbaud Could Write Love Poetry When He Put His Mind To It

So, here, right here on the Wheel of the Year, when we are only hours away from the Summer Soltice, it's good to read a bit of Rimbaud devoted to deep Winter:

L'hiver, nous irons dans un petit wagon rose
Avec des coussins bleus.
Nous serons bien. Un nid de baisers fous repose
Dans chaque coin moelleux.

Tu fermeras l'œil, pour ne point voir, par la glace,
Grimacer les ombres des soirs,
Ces monstruosités hargneuses, populace
De démons noirs et de loups noirs.

Puis tu te sentiras la joue égratignée…
Un petit baiser, comme une folle araignée,
Te courra par le cou...

Et tu me diras : "Cherche !", en inclinant la tête,
- Et nous prendrons du temps à trouver cette bête
- Qui voyage beaucoup...

Poésies. En wagon, le 7 octobre 1870.

In the winter, we shall travel in a little pink railway carriage
With blue cushions.
We shall be comfortable. A nest of mad kisses lies in wait
In each soft corner.
You will close your eyes, so as not to see, through the glass,
The evening shadows pulling faces.
Those snarling monsters, a population
Of black devils and black wolves.

Then you'll feel your cheek scratched...
A little kiss, like a crazy spider,
Will run round your neck...

And you'll say to me : "Find it !" bending your head
- And we'll take a long time to find that creature
- Which travels a lot...

As translated by Oliver Bernard: Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)


As we march headlong into stagflation -- something that I'm old enough to remember but in which many young people don't believe -- I've been thinking a lot about how our desires drive us and, strangely, get in the way of our thriving. Our spending tends to reflect our desires. How many of your desires are divinely inspired? Jung said that all of them were, at some level, although sometimes our experiences and shadows send us scurrying after poor substitutes for what we REALLY desire. Here's a fascinating exercise from Rob Brezsny:

"Imagine it's 30 years from now. You're looking back at the history of your relationship with desire. There was a certain watershed moment when you clearly saw that some of your desires were mediocre, inferior, and wasteful, while others were pure, righteous, and invigorating. Beginning then, you made it a life goal to purge the former and cultivate the latter. Thereafter, you occasionally wandered down dead ends trying to gratify yearnings that weren't worthy of you, but usually you wielded your passions with discrimination, dedicating them to serve the highest and most interesting good."

What does this history look like? Can you write it out for yourself? Can you draw a picture of it? Can you dance it? What Tarot card best represents it? You know what the Wiccans say about desire:

"Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices,
For behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.
Therefore let there be beauty and strength,
Honor and pride, power and compassion,
Mirth and reverence within you.

And you who think to seek for me~
Know that your seeking and yearning will avail you naught,
Unless you know the Mystery:
That if that which you desire you find not within you,
You shall never find it without.
For behold: I have been with you from the beginning,
And I am that which is attained at the end of desire!"

~Doreen Valiente (d. 1999) What is at the end of your desire????

BTW: Isn't "wielded your passions with discrimination" a fantastic phrase? Goddess, I'd love to be able to write like that.

So, one of the Tarot cards show above represents what I set out 15 years ago to achieve. The other is the one I selected to represent my 30-year history 30 years from now. Can you guess which is which?


Lady Liberty League Call to Action
Special Bulletin - circulate widely

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Contact Capitol Hill to Urge Pentacle Approval by VA June 14-21, 2006


A Flag Day to Remember and a Father Who Will Never Be Forgotten:

Sgt. Patrick Stewart and his Widow's Quest For the Pentacle


* Sgt. Patrick Stewart is a casualty of Operation Enduring Freedom
and George W. Bush's "war on terror." Sgt. Stewart put his life on
the line. He fought for freedom. He died serving our country.

* Sgt. Patrick Stewart was shot down in a US Chinook helicopter on
September 25, 2005. He was only 34 years old. He was not just a
soldier. He was a beloved son, a husband, and a father of two
beautiful children.

* Sgt. Stewart wore military issued dog tags that identified his
religion: Wiccan. When his widow, Roberta Stewart, asked the US
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to place the Wiccan religious
emblem on his memorial plaque, she was told the Pentacle was not on
the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) list of 38 religious
emblems and could not be included.

* A recent survey found that a mere 28 percent, that's only about
one in four Americans, know their First Amendment rights. In the
event the top officials at the US Department of Veterans Affairs are
among the 72 percent who don't know the rights guaranteed by the
First Amendment, it is time for a refresher course:

* Mr. President, VA Secretary James Nicholson, Under Secretary for
Memorial Affairs and head of the NCA William Tuerk, "We The People"
would like to remind you that Freedom of Religion is protected under
the First Amendment!

* President Bush signed "The Respect for Fallen Heroes Act" on
Memorial Day, May 29, 2006. Yet neither President Bush nor the VA
officials he appointed have shown their respect for this young
father, husband, and fallen soldier.

* Nine months have passed since Patrick Stewart died for his
country -- but there is still no government-issued Memorial plaque
for him on the Wall of Heroes at the Northern Nevada Veterans
Memorial Cemetery. His space remains blank.

* This Sunday, June 18, 2006, will be the first Father's Day his
children will spend without their Dad. His grieving wife and family
will be visiting the Wall of Heroes where Sgt. Stewart's memorial
plaque with Pentacle should be. It continues to be blank and without
the plaque because the VA continues its 9 year pattern of
discrimination against the Wiccan religion and its emblem of belief.

* Beginning Flag Day, June 14, 2006, through Father's Day and until
sundown on the first day of Summer, June 21, join others in this
special nationwide call to the US Department of Veterans Affairs to
approve without further delay the addition of the Pentacle to its
list of emblems of belief.

* Join others to raise a call for Religious Freedom for All to our
elected officials on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Write and FAX
letters to your US Senators and Representatives. Ask them to launch
a Congressional investigation into the conduct of the US Department
of Veterans Affairs regarding their on-going discrimination against
the Wiccan religion and its emblem of belief. Ask your Senators and
Congressperson to call, fax, and send letters to the VA demanding
the approval of the Pentacle for use on government issued
headstones, markers, and plaques for deceased veterans.

* The VA's failure to honor a dead soldier's freedom of religion is
an insult -- and it is symbolic of the disintegration of our
Constitutional rights.

* Do not give up your right to Freedom of Religion without a fight.
Sgt. Patrick Stewart deserves the same respect any of us would
expect if we ourselves or our loved ones were killed in an act of
war, especially while fighting for freedom and justice for all.


From June 14-21, 2006, write a letter & Fax it to your elected
officials on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC:

* Fax your US Congressional Representative.

* Fax the US Senators that represent your state:

* Follow up your letter with phone calls to your Congressperson &

* Send Lady Liberty League a copy of your letter for our files --
send by postal mail (Pentacle Quest, LLL, Circle, PO Box 9,
Barneveld, WI 53507 USA) or email us:

* Send LLL by postal mail a copy of any responses you receive.

* PLEASE help get the word out about this action to others.


* Write the letter in your own words, rather than copy a letter
written by someone else.

* Fax or send your letter by postal mail -- don't email. In print
letters receive more attention.

* In your letter, state that you are a constituent and voter.

* It is not necessary to state your religion in writing, unless you
wish to do so.

* State that you want the Congressperson/Senator to launch a
Congressional investigation into why after 9 years and multiple
applications, the VA has failed to uphold the US Constitution by not
adding the Pentacle to its emblems of belief list.

* State your outrage with the failure of the VA to give Sgt. Patrick
Stewart and other deceased Wiccan veterans their due.

* Some points to consider including in your letter are listed in the
Call to the VA to approve the Pentacle NOW:

* More background information is on-line -- if you wish, include
this resource page URL in your letter:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tie the Minimum Wage to Congressional Raises -- Hil Has Yet Another Good Idea

In my continuing effort to get people to read what Hillary Clinton actually has to say, rather than what the press reports that she said, here's the text of her speech this weekend. She gets it about the Republicans stealing votes. She gets it about the economy. She gets it about how the Republicans hate science. Read it for yourself (emphasis mine):


Thank you. Good morning.

This is an enthusiastic, energized group. And we need that energy and enthusiasm as we go into these November elections, because we have to take back the Congress in order to stop this administration and their unaccountable undermining of our constitutional democracy.

I want to thank my long-time friend, Hilary Shelton, for that introduction. It is nice having somebody else named Hilary. He gets a lot of press, as well.

He and I have worked together on so many issues, particularly with respect to the Voting Rights Act and the overwhelming need to return integrity to our voting system.

And I believe so strongly that if we do not go to the local and state level in the next several months to see what local election commissioners are doing, to see what secretaries of state in the ilk of Katherine Harris and Blackwell in Ohio are doing, that we may not have the victories that we deserve and that I think the American people want us to have in November.

So my first and perhaps most important request to all of you is we're not going to get my legislation, Count Every Vote, through the United States Congress. The Republicans have absolutely no interest in changing the way we vote and holding the machine makers responsible, and having a verified paper trail, and eliminating conflicts of interest so that people who run partisan campaigns can't also run the independent verification of election campaigns for states and local communities.

So until we get back a Democratic Congress, we have to hold local and state officials accountable.

So please, join with me and make sure you do everything you can in the next several months, so we don't have a repeat of what happened in Ohio what happened in Florida

There are so many issues at stake. And in order to take back America, we have to take back our electoral system, because we meet at a time when the stakes could not be higher. We all are here in part, because we are fed up with what has been going on for the last five and a half years.

Now, we've had a few small victories along the way. You know, last week we stopped the Congress from mangling the Constitution by enshrining discrimination.

And we stopped them from eliminating the estate tax and adding $1 trillion of debt to our children and our nation.

We stood together. But it is hard when you're in the minority, which is why we've got to elect more Democrats in November. Because right now, that is the only way that we can prevent them from continuing on the agenda that they are so determined to pursue.

You know, it takes daily skirmishes from those of us in the Congress to try to hold the line on everything from college loans to health care for children, even health care for our veterans.

These particular battles should be viewed in a larger context, because they do represent the stark, philosophical differences between our progressive Democrats and, increasingly, even some moderate independents and a few Republicans who have found their way back to sanity.

I think we have a few of those in the audience today -- and the right-wing Washington Republicans who are determined to set this country on a disastrous path.

You know, Democrats believe in equal opportunity, in shared responsibilities, in a more inclusive community. They believe in concentrating maximum wealth and power in the hands of the people they consider entitled to rule the rest of us.

We believe in a government that empowers people to live their own dreams, but a government that is also accountable to the people.

They believe -- they truly believe in a government that is run for the benefit of their partisan and commercial allies and without accountability.

We believe in forming policies based on evidence and argument. They believe ideology determines policy, and that evidence is a weak substitute for attack.

We believe in fighting terror and other threats to our security by cooperating with others whenever we can and acting alone only when we are forced to.

They believe in just the reverse: in acting alone whenever they can and cooperating only when there is no alternative.

So for five and a half years they have controlled the White House and the Congress, and they have succeeded in concentrating wealth and power and resisting accountability and ignoring evidence and going it alone in the world.

And what a price Americans have paid in exploding debt, stagnant wages, rising poverty, more people without health insurance, a more polluted environment, weaker workplace protections, an anemic response to the threat of global warming, exploding oil prices, increasing crime rates, a deeply divided citizenry, and more hostility and alienation from much of the rest of the world.

Now, I have been honored to fight for our values against the right wing's determination to take America away from our founders' vision of a more perfect union for many years.

And I'm grateful for the successes we've had, including the great success we had in stopping their frontal assault on Social Security and undermining the legitimate right to protection that every generation should have in old age and widowhood and orphanhood and disability.

But I am tired of defining success by what we prevent. It is time for us to start defining success by what we can build and what actions we can take based on that foundation.

Now, when this administration came to power, it became abundantly clear that they wanted to turn the clock back on the Clinton administration. And I admit, I took that kind of personally because I thought we'd done a lot of good things for our country and the world in those eight years.

But, you know, it became clear to me is that it wasn't just the eight years of the Clinton administration; they wanted to turn the clock back on the progress of the 20th century.

That starting with Teddy Roosevelt, all the way through Bill Clinton, this crowd had been unhappy. They'd been unhappy with saving capitalism, which is what Franklin Roosevelt had done. They had been unhappy with the bipartisan consensus about how we should act in the world to promote America's interests. They had been unhappy with the extension of civil rights and civil liberties.

So they came to town to reinstitute a 19th-century attitude that was basically: "We know best, you don't know anything at all, and we're not going to explain it to you."

And so we've been living with that systematic destruction of everything that happened in the 20th century. I don't care whether it was consumer protection or actually a FEMA that worked and protected people and saved lives and property.

It was an assault on the environment that had been pent up inside of them for decades, despite the fact that the environment originally was not only a bipartisan issue but the modern environmental movement was led by Republicans. But not for this crowd.

They had a determined effort to suppress science that didn't suit their ideology, to weaken key provisions that protected our air, our land and our water.

They had a clear idea, with their misnamed Clear Skies Initiative, that they were going to turn over control of the air we breathe to the dirtiest polluters in America.

Now, we've stopped that in the courts temporarily. But we have absolute evidence that their support of pollution is not only undermining people's lives; it is leading to premature deaths.

After 9/11, I said repeatedly, "This White House, this EPA is not telling us the truth. It is not safe to breathe the air at ground zero in Lower Manhattan."

And we fought them and we tried to stop them. And they ignored us, and they ignored scientific evidence.

And now I have firefighters and police officers and other people who came down to work and to help who are suffering from all of the diseases that they have incurred because they were not protected by their government

And that is the kind of attitude that we have to stand against and end starting this November.

Well, what do we need to do? Well, first of all, we need a change in direction to make our economy work for everybody, an economy that honors hard work, responsibility and opportunity.

Second, we need dramatic change in direction in our foreign policy, in our national security policy, to protect our country, to begin to unwind the situation in Iraq as soon as we can, and to make it clear to the rest of the world that America's values are what we stand on.

It is not only security we seek, it is to build a safer, more prosperous world that will be better for our children and our children's children. We need a change in direction if we're going to have the values that we care about.

I believe in a very simple principle: that the engine of our economy is a strong middle class, that America is better than the government we currently have, that we can come together once again as a nation.

We can start by standing up for an economy that honors work again. It is unacceptable that people working for a minimum wage have not had a raise in 10 years.

You know, my husband and I are often bewildered by the fact that it appears that the Republican majority and the president just can't do enough for us. Every time we turn around, we're getting another tax cut.

And we keep looking at each other and saying, "Wouldn't it be nice if people who worked hard and played by the rules got tax cuts? Wouldn't it be nice if they were given a chance to get beyond the stagnating wages?"

Productivity's up. Profits are up. But people's wages are not up.

I have introduced legislation that would tie the minimum wage to congressional salaries

No more increases for Congress until we raise the minimum wage.

Now, we also know that education is still a key to our future, individually, as a society.

And during the 1990s, Democrats gave students the largest increase in college aid in 50 years. I was very proud of that because I meet people all the time who had to drop out of college or could never start because they and their families didn't have enough money.

So we were making progress and, sort of, narrowing the gap between high tuition and costs and what the average student and his or her family could pay.

Well, this Congress just passed and the president signed the largest cuts to student loans in our nation's history.

We ought to be doing more, not less, for our students. We ought to be making sure every qualified student can go to college and pursue his or her dreams.

And, you know, there's a very easy way to do that. All we have to do is cut all the tax breaks for oil companies, pharmaceutical companies and billionaires and put it into student aid.

I also believe in a fair shot in life. I've lived long enough to know that things happen.

And things you never expect.

Well, we ought to reverse the mean-spirited bankruptcy bill that makes it harder for people to get back on their feet and get a fresh start.

And we ought to stand up for the right to organize workers and the right for decent health care.

You know, this is how they think, though. Just imagine this. After Katrina, after the president finally looked at the video that his staff asked him to look at and saw that there was a major national disaster along our Gulf Coast, what was their first decision?

Well, their first decision was to suspend the rules that made sure workers would get prevailing wages. That's how they think.

Well, we successfully reversed that. But they still haven't cleaned up the Gulf Coast.

I don't know how many of you have been down there. It is a national disgrace. It is heartbreaking. And it didn't have to happen. But the combination of incompetence and insensitivity have left so many people still all on their own

You know, when the president talks about an ownership society, that's what he really means: "You're on your own."

"And the rest of us; we're not going to be there for you."

It is also time for us to restore the basic bargain in America and to expand it.

You know, I was raised to believe that if you worked hard, you did what you were supposed to, you would have opportunities to fulfill the American dream.

It's gotten a little more complicated because of global competition. And we have to be smarter about how we do it. But one thing that is clear to me is we still have not recognized how hard it is for people to work for a living and fulfill their family responsibilities.

It is as hard in this country as it is anywhere in the world. And yet here we are: the richest of all nations. Why it is so hard for moms and dads to be able to have flex time, to be able to have time off to go to a student-teacher conference or a school play or an athletic event?

Why is it still absolutely the case that working women don't get equal pay when so many of them are supporting their families and contributing income that's necessary?

I really appreciate the work that Joan Blades is doing, the co- founder of Move On along with her colleagues on the Moms Rising agenda.

She'll be addressing this conference. And please pay as close attention, because there is an incredible opportunity here for us to make our society stronger by helping working families fulfill the most important obligation they have, which is to care for the next generation and, increasingly, to care for our parents and our grandparents.

We are in the sandwich generation, many of us, where we have family responsibilities on both ends of the age spectrum.

We need to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act. It doesn't cover enough people.

We need paid parental leave so that people can afford to have time off. We need to ensure that every single child in America has health care.

And these are the kinds of issues that Moms Rising is promoting.

Now, much of what we need to do cannot be done unless we return to fiscal responsibility. You know, people say, "Well, is fiscal responsibility a progressive issue?"

Well, as Hilary Shelton said, if the strategy on the other side is to bankrupt the government so that it can't do anything like enforce election laws, like have a functioning FEMA, you know, like take care of people's most basic needs, they're doing a good job of it.

And their ideologues believe that.

You know, one of them famously said they wanted to shrink government so that it was small enough it could be strangled in the bath tub.

Fiscal responsibility gives us an opportunity to promote a progressive agenda. What do you think we were doing in the 1990s?

We were building the capital needed to make the hard decisions. And they knew it.

So at the end of the Clinton administration, when we had a balanced budget and a surplus, that was not just to put a checkmark in history against the Clinton administration and say, "Oh, look what they did," that was to equip us to do what needed to be done in reforming Social Security the right way, reforming Medicare and Medicaid the right way, making investments in clean, alternative energy, dealing with global climate change, making health care available and affordable to every single American.

That's what that was for

And sometimes I think our opponents understand us better than we do ourselves. Because we have to put fiscal responsibility back at the core of the progressive agenda or we will never be able to achieve our goals.

And that is equally true when it comes to national security. Because of our fiscal recklessness, we are undermining our ability to lead the world in the way that I think it should be lead.

You know, we have done so little to send the message to friend and foe alike that the United States wants to lift up the rest of the world, not put it down.

We want to be partners, not opponents.

We borrow money -- $60 billion of it -- every month to maintain the Republican Party's spending habits. And where do we go to borrow that money? Well, we go to China or Saudi Arabia or Japan or South Korea.

Recently, the top 10 holders of American debt -- guess who broke in as number 10? Mexico.

I believe in maintaining our own fiscal sovereignty. But we're giving it away.

And when I travel around upstate New York -- and we have so many wonderful people who have seen the plants close and move to China or move somewhere else, and they come up to me, and they say, "Senator, why can't we get tough on China?" And I'll say, "Well, I agree with you. They manipulate currency. They steal our intellectual property. They don't abide by the rule of law and contracts. But do you know how tough it is to crack down on your banker?"

You know, this administration has rendered us weak.

You know, they have the toughest rhetoric in the world. They must watch old cowboy movies 24 hours a day.

But when it comes to actually being tough and strong, they leave a lot to be desired.

We need to be building alliances -- instead of alienation -- around the world. And we need to be reaching out in an effective way to fight HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria.

I have legislation that calls for the United States to help put children in school around the world.

It is not only the right thing to do particularly because so many girls are left out of school, but it would help provide an alternative to the madrasahs that teach hate.

You know, if you're a poor villager somewhere, and somebody comes to you and says, "Would you like your son to have an education?" You're going to jump at the chance, because there's no school in your area.

I've been in so many of these countries. Sometimes they build a concrete building with maybe a chalkboard and a few chairs and that's the school. There's no place for students to go after the sixth grade, or maybe there's a place down the road that the boys can go, but nobody will let their girls travel alone.

And so when someone comes and says to that village family, "Would you like your son to have an education?" Well, the answer is most likely going to be, "Of course. We dream of it." So off they go to these madrasahs, where they don't learn; they are given a view of the world. They memorize the Koran in a language that is often not their own.

And that's what passes for their education.

And they are taught to fear the modern world. They are taught to hate freedom and our values.

So why doesn't the United States go on record and say, "We're going to help send children to school so that they can be part of the new world we want to build together, that they won't be taken advantage of, they won't be turned into jihadists or terrorists"?

Many of us have said -- and I know many of you in this room have said that we want to support our troops. And we should. These young men and women are among the very best we have to offer.

And we need to keep faith with them and make sure they have the body armor, the vehicles and the other equipment, materials and training they need.

And now that there is a new Iraqi government, something that many of us have been waiting for and pushing for, then this Iraqi government needs to be told they have to take responsibility for their own security and stability that there must be a plan that will begin to bring our troops home because they have to take the priority of making sure that they have a unified government that stands up to the militias, stands up to the death squads. That is not the job of the American military.

Our job is to do everything we can to help this government succeed. And it will be difficult and dangerous. But I am hopeful that the administration -- which doesn't listen to any of us, anyway -- will finally realize that the policies it has pursued from the very beginning, when they rushed to war, when they refused to let the U.N. inspectors conduct and complete their mission, when they committed strategic blunder after blunder, has undermined America's leadership in the world and has put at risk the long-term war against terrorism.

Since 2003, the United Nations has been on record as saying, "We must try to help Iraq succeed as an independent, democratic government able to take care of its own security and run its own affairs."

That is why Zarqawi targeted the U.N. mission. Because the U.N. understood that once we were in this situation that was a determined decision by the decider about what he was going to do we had to work our way out of it.

And that is what I and the majority of senators on both sides have gone on record for. We voted in a bipartisan way to make it clear that this was a year of transition.

But I have to just say it: I do not think it is a smart strategy either for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government, nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interest of our troops or our country.

It is also important that we recognize the real dangers we face. And sometimes this is a difficult conversation.

In part, because this administration has made our world more dangerous than it should have been.

We were united as a nation after 9/11. We had a commitment that we were going to go after the people who had attacked our country. And this administration didn't follow through.

And now we have problems in Afghanistan, we have problems in Iran, we have problems in North Korea, we have a really competitive challenge from China.

We need steady, smart leadership. And the only way we can begin to get that is to elect a Democratic Congress that can hold this administration accountable and ask the hard questions and chart the new course that we need.

And the second most important thing to do is to have a new energy policy so that we are not dependent upon regimes that are going to undermine our security, our economy and our environment.

So there is a lot of work to be done. And I have been inspired and energized by the activism and the commitment to a new progressive agenda. It is what I have worked for and cared about my entire adult life.

But if we're going to win in November, then we have to be smarter, tougher and better prepared than our opponents, because one thing they do know how to do is win.

And we have to reach out to people who may not yet agree with us. And we have to talk about the range of issues that are on their minds that they talk about around the kitchen tables.

We have to ask them if they're satisfied with a government that is undermining personal privacies, civil liberties, civil rights, our constitutional democracy, because I don't think most Americans are.

I've increasingly had Republicans come to me and say that they've had enough. And I said, "Well, why? What's happened?" And they say, "I didn't sign up for all of this." "What do you mean by 'this'?"

For some, it's the deficit and the reckless fiscal policies. For some it was the unbelievably shameless exploitation of Terri Schiavo and her family in a moment of great tragedy.

For some it was the assault on Social Security. For some it is the Iraq war and our failure to protect our homeland with the incompetent policies and misplaced priorities of this administration.

For nearly everyone it was Katrina. How could we let that happen?

Well, the best way we can prevent it from ever happening again is to stand up, stand up for progressive values and progressive politics, but stand up for winning elections, because we can yell at the TV set. Now that I have TiVo, I yell at it again.

But we've got to win elections, or it won't matter.

So let's make sure our elections are of integrity. Let's make sure we count every vote. And let's take back the Congress in November and begin our return to take back our country.

Thank you and God bless you.

Peace Takes Courage -- From the Kosvention

YEARLYKOS Con :Ep. 2: Peace Takes Courage

Pretty damn good for a 15-year old.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How Would It Help You to Thrive If Your Teachers Were Subversives?

Principles of Teaching as a Subversive Activity (Postman & Weingartner)

1. The teacher rarely tells students what s/he thinks.

2. Generally, s/he does not accept a single statement as an answer to a question.

3. S/He encourages student-student interaction as opposed to student-teacher interaction, generally avoids acting as a mediator or judging the quality of ideas expressed.

4. S/He rarely summarizes the positions taken by students on the learnings that occur. S/He recognizes that the act of summary or "closure" tends to have the effect of ending further thought.

5. Generally, each of her/his lessons pose a problem for students.

6. Her/His lessons develop from the responses of students and not from a previously determined "logical" structure. (Postman & Weingartner, 1969, p. 33-36)


Well, this is pretty cool. BBC has an article about some of the earliest spiders -- or at least web spinners -- ever discovered.

BBC reports that, "The evolutionary success of this design can be seen in the high diversity of true orb weavers, which currently number 2,847 living species.

This astonishing diversity also owes much to the way in which the basic design can be easily modified.

'One modification to the web is quite fantastic,' Dr Penney told the BBC News website.

'Picture a normal, spiral orb web and picture running down from it a ladder-type structure which is also made from sticky silk. This has evolved to trap moths, which have scales that rub off.

'When a moth flies into a normal orb web, it's the scales that stick and the moth tumbles out of it. But with the ladder structure, the moth tumbles down until all the scales come off and eventually it gets caught.'"

Spider Woman is an important Goddess to Native Americans.

A Moral Code Without a Devil or an Enemy

Rob Brezsny's Guidelines for Creating a Moral Code:

1. A moral code becomes immoral unless it can thrive w/o a devil and an enemy.

2. A moral code grows ugly unless it prescribes good natured rebellion against automaton-like behavior offered in its support.

3. A moral code becomes murderous unless it's built on a love for the fact that EVERYTHING CHANGES ALL THE TIME, and unless it perpetually adjusts its reasons for being true.

4. A moral code will corrupt its users unless it ensures that their primary motivation for being good is that it's fun.

5. A moral code deadens the soul of everyone it touches unless it has a built-in sense of humor.

from Pronoia, the Antidote to Paranoia by Rob Brezsny.


In order to truly thrive, you must have a moral code and live by that code. I'm wondering how the Wiccan rede: "An' it harm none, do as thou wilt," measures up to Brezsny's guidelines. How about Crowley's: "Do what thou willt shall be the whole of the law"?

Cindy Sheehan Simply Rocks. She Simply Rocks.

Via Michael Moore's blog, comes a kick-ass article entitled Cure the Disease by Cindy Sheehan. She's got so many good things to say. Here's just a taste:

"One of the deep seated diseases in the USA is the false sense of patriotism that we are infected with from the time we are toddlers that allows our leaders to mislead us into war after war. Between the first and second world wars, Marine Major General Smedley Butler wrote the seminal work: War is a Racket. Up until that time, he was the most highly decorated Marine in history. He wrote in the first two paragraphs of his booklet:

'War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.'

These occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing but sickly rackets with the war machine getting wealthy off of our children's flesh and blood and off of the ruination of two countries and the deaths of many, many civilians. One wa[y] to cure the disease of losing our children in war that infects the mere citizens of America while the war profiteers bank accounts are glowing with health is to quit giving the military industrial complex our children like fatted calves to be sacrificed for their own bottom lines. We must know deep in our hearts and teach our children that our military only exists to keep the world safe for our corporations and that our military should only be used, as Gen. Butler said, to defend our country."

You should go read her whole article.

The White House Even Lies to Priests and Ministers

WaPo reports that, "Twenty-seven religious leaders, including megachurch pastor Rick Warren, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, have signed a statement urging the United States to 'abolish torture now -- without exceptions.'

The statement, being published in newspaper advertisements starting today, is the opening salvo of a new organization called the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which has formed in response to allegations of human rights abuse at U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Further, the "signers come from a broad range of denominations and include notable religious conservatives, such as the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; and the Rev. William J. Byron, former president of Catholic University."

The White House's reaction is to simply tell lies: "Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino said the administration has 'the utmost respect for all these religious leaders.' But, she said, 'I'll simply repeat what the president has said many times, which is that this government does not torture, and we adhere to the international conventions against torture. That is our policy, and it will remain our policy.'"

It's rare that I give cudos to folks such as McCarrick, (who appears to be equivocating a bit in any event) but in this case, they're spot on. Torture is wrong and the United States should not be engaged in torture. And we are torturing people in secret and not-so-secret detention centers all over the world. No one believes the White House's lies.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Uppity Women

The Revealer has some interesting examples of the various ways in which the press report -- or don't report -- on the violent response of Iran's police to recent protests for women's rights.

I Want to Be Loved Like This or I Want to Go on Living Alone

The Country Of Marriage


I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep.


This comes after silence. Was it something I said
that bound me to you, some mere promise
or, worse, the fear of loneliness and death?
A man lost in the woods in the dark, I stood
still and said nothing. And then there rose in me,
like the earth's empowering brew rising
in root and branch, the words of a dream of you
I did not know I had dreamed. I was a wanderer
who feels the solace of his native land
under his feet again and moving in his blood.
I went on, blind and faithful. Where I stepped
my track was there to steady me. It was no abyss
that lay before me, but only the level ground.


Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.


How many times have I come to you out of my head
with joy, if ever a man was,
for to approach you I have given up the light
and all directions. I come to you
lost, wholly trusting as a man who goes
into the forest unarmed. It is as though I descend
slowly earthward out of the air. I rest in peace
in you, when I arrive at last.


Our bond is no little economy based on the exchange
of my love and work for yours, so much for so much
of an expendable fund. We don't know what its limits are--
that puts us in the dark. We are more together
than we know, how else could we keep on discovering
we are more together than we thought?
You are the known way leading always to the unknown,
and you are the known place to which the unknown is always
leading me back. More blessed in you than I know,
I possess nothing worthy to give you, nothing
not belittled by my saying that I possess it.
Even an hour of love is a moral predicament, a blessing
a man may be hard up to be worthy of. He can only
accept it, as a plant accepts from all the bounty of the light
enough to live, and then accepts the dark,
passing unencumbered back to the earth, as I
have fallen tine and again from the great strength
of my desire, helpless, into your arms.


What I am learning to give you is my death
to set you free of me, and me from myself
into the dark and the new light. Like the water
of a deep stream, love is always too much. We
did not make it. Though we drink till we burst
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill, and sleep, while it
flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning
to its rich waters thirsty. We enter,
willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.


I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark,
containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning.
I give you the life I have let live for the love of you:
a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road,
the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life
that we have planted in the ground, as I
have planted mine in you. I give you my love for all
beautiful and honest women that you gather to yourself
again and again, and satisfy--and this poem,
no more mine than any man's who has loved a woman.

~ Wendell Berry

Go Achim Steiner

The BEEB has some encouraging news about someone who "get it."

UNEP, the United Nations agency devoted to development of "South" or poor countries as well as to an improved environment has a new director who understands that improving the environment can be very good for the economy of poor countries. He takes the helm at a time of controversy concerning UNEP's role. As BBC reports, "The defining environmental issues of our day are international, and Unep is the one organisation with the potential to develop global, equitable regulation - provided that the national governments which are now debating the UN's future shape give it the tools to do its job."

The article asks why some countries (coughUSAcough) have been unwilling to cede power over "environmental affairs to Unep or any other international agency" when they've been willing to cede far more power over "economic and business affairs to the World Trade Organisation." Well, we know the answer to that. Corporatists thought they could get a good, or at least a consistent (and therefore cheaper to implement), deal from the WTO. They believe that they can get better deals on environmental issues from their local governments. Pollution doesn't stay in one place and a dirty factory on the border of Country A tends to pollute the air in Country B to its West. Country A externalizes it's environmental effects to Country B, which has little power to do anything about it.

BBC reports that "Achim Steiner, the man about to take control of the world's most powerful environment agency, is not one of them, despite his rural origins.

'I basically grew up on a farm, my father was a farmer, so I grew up with nature as part of my everyday experience,' he says.

'But what I became interested in was development and poverty - the realisation that for the poorest of the poor, stopping environmental degradation and having the ability to manage it properly is the easiest way for them to work their way out of poverty.'

The intimate, destructive relationship between environmental degradation and poverty is at the heart of what the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) is about."

May the Goddess guard him. I hope he has a chance to do both of his jobs -- bring about an end to poverty and help improve the environment. Rational family planning policies -- including education for girls and free access to safe, effective birth control -- would be an excellent place for him to start on both fronts.

More Monday Blog Blogging.

Freeway Blogger has some fantastic new bumper stickers for the New American Century. Go check them out.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Monday Blog Blogging

I love to check out Calendula and Concrete. She writes so refreshingly about gardening.

Monday Quote Blogging

"A community economy is not an economy in which well-placed persons can make a 'killing'. It is an economy whose aim is generosity and a well-distributed and safeguarded abundance." -- Wendell Berry

A well-distributed and safeguarded abundance. That sounds like a very worthwhile goal.

Pity the Poor, Persecuted, Powerless xians -- Who Need Tax Dollars to Survive!

From The Revealer comes this fascinating account of Chuck Colson's determination to continue to suck at the government teat while shoving his Abrahamic religion down the throats of a, literally, captive audience. Ah, those poor, persecuted, powerless xians!

Look, I don't care if they are using tax dollars for some potentially nice purpose. These "faith-based initiatives" take tax dollars and use them to subsidize government-preferred religions. Money, as everyone knows, is fungible. Every dollar that the religious groups don't have to raise for their "good works," (which, in Colson's case, essentially amounts to prostelityzing, but let's put that to one side because it would be true even if the good work were say, running a soup kitchen in the church basement), is a dollar that they can use to pay their director or lease him a nicer car or whatever. Which means that now that Bush has gotten the ministers addicted to these tax dollars, they will do whatever it takes to turn the flock out to vote for the candidate most likely to keep them in their Cadillacs.

Has Chuck Colson ever done an honest day's work in his entire life?


"Nicole Greenfield: Former Nixon 'hatchet man' and current Bush ally, Chuck Colson, is in the news again after an Iowa judge ruled that his InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a state-funded evangelical Christian prison program, violated the separation of church and state. The controversy began over three years ago when the relatively small non-profit organization, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed a lawsuit against Colson's multi-million dollar, international non-profit for using taxpayer's money to fund a religious program. AU's victory over InnerChange--or InnerChange's defeat by AU--is a true David and Goliath story.

Although Colson himself doesn’t officially respond, the president of the larger Prison Fellowship ministry organization that created InnerChange, Mark Earley, reacts in a BreakPoint commentary. Earley not only sees 'religious freedom' at risk, but believes the decision jeopardizes the fate—both immediate and ultimate—of prisoners as well. He applies the persecuted church rhetoric laced throughout evangelical narrative, but here it's flipped--tpersecutortor isn't the large and powerful state, but rather a small non-profit group.

Explaining their decision to appeal, Earley does all but declare: this means war. And the next battle is not one that he and Colson are willing to lose. Lucky for them, theyÂ’ve got Alito, Roberts, and Bush in their arsenal. But despite the overwhelming combined power of these men, Colson and Earley are sure to employ the persecution narrative once again, only this time presenting themselves as poor, weak, and caring Christian Davids against a unjust, all-powerful, and anti-Christian Goliath of a state."

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."

~Lewis Carroll

Several of the prisoners being illegally held at Gitmo hanged themselves. There have been numerous suicide attempts, but these prisoners were the first to succeed. The U.S. response? BBC reports that, "the camp commander, Rear Adm Harris said he did not believe the men had killed themselves out of despair.

'They are smart. They are creative, they are committed,' he said.

'They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.'"

That's right. We imprisoned them illegally and were holding them indefinitely and they hung themselves as "an act of asymmetrical [whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean in this context -- most of us could figure out who would be David and who would be Goliath in this pairing] warfare . . . against us."

The Bush junta, as we all know, is fond of creating their own reality. Black is white, up is down, freedom is slavery, war is peace and, now, suicide is asymmetrical warfare against the U.S.

I'll also note that the notion that our enemy has "no regard for human life, either ours or their own," is a racist notion that gets dredged up every time we're at war. My dad heard it about the Japanese when he was fighting in the Pacific in WWII. I heard it about the Vietnamese when we went to war against Viet Nam. I think the European settlers said it about the Native Americans when the Europeans were invading America. It's an old lie, and an ugly lie.

For the love of God, would if fucking kill us to admit that Gitmo was a huge disaster, to express remorse and sorrow for the despair that led these men to kill themselves, and start trying to act like civilized members of the Globe?

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

Here's another of Akhmatova's poems that I like. It's a translation by D.M.Thomas that I've tweaked a bit.


In the young century's cool nursery,
In its checkered silence, I was born.
I didn't care for the voices of men,
But the wind's voice -- now that I understood.
The burdocks and the nettles fed my soul,
But I loved the silver willow best of all.
And, grateful for my love, it lived
All its life with me, and with its weeping
Branches fanned my insomnia with dreams. But
--Surprisingly enough!--I have outlived
It. Now, a stump's out there. Under these skies,
Under these skies of ours, are other
Willows, and their alien voices rise.
And I am silent . . . As though I'd lost a brother.