Saturday, March 03, 2007

Things That Make Me Happy

Scanning The Wild Hunt, I find that Patricia Kennealy Morrison, a fabulous dame, has a blog.

This modern world.

Seen About Town

Congressional alllies John Murtha (D-PA) and Jim Moran (D-VA) lunching on the cream of mushroom soup with reporter Bob Woodruff at the Grill in the Ritz Carlton, Pentagon City. One thing Moran definitely gets, because he kept coming back to the topic, is the damage that a lack of treatment for vets w/ post-traumatic stress syndrome is doing to the vets' families. Both Congressmen were barely able to contain their rage over the entire Walter Reed debacle. They may, in fact, have used a few terms that would disqualify them from ever woking on John Edwards' campaign.


And it doesn't even occur to the reviewer that there's anything wrong with a man trying to control a woman's sexuality.

This is 2007, isn't it? I didn't fall asleep and wake up back in 1954, did I?

I guess that I did:

The crux of [this movie] comes down to a test of wills -- it's like breaking a mule, only the obstinate beast of burden is wearing soiled panties and a T-shirt so far off the shoulder it reveals her gaunt waistline.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Will We Rise To The Challenge?

WaPo on a recent report on the likely effects of global warming:

A first set of disasters waiting to happen involves stressed ecosystems. Human actions -- deforestation, overfarming, rapid urbanization -- have created special vulnerabilities to catastrophic natural events that are likely as the climate changes globally. In an interview, Schwartz cited the example of Haiti, which because of deforestation and loss of topsoil is "an ecosystem at the edge." A prolonged drought or a devastating hurricane could tip Haiti over that threshold -- and produce a refugee crisis of tens of thousands of boat people fleeing a devastated country.

Or take the problem of rising sea levels: Climate scientists are uncertain how fast the icecaps will melt and the seas will rise. But in Bangladesh, where millions of people live at or near sea level, even a small increase could produce a catastrophe. In a severe monsoon, 60 million to 100 million people could be forced to flee inundated areas, Schwartz warns, producing "the single greatest humanitarian crisis we have ever seen."

Lack of water may be as big a problem as flooding. Schwartz notes that more than 700 million people now live in arid or semi-arid areas. Climate change could tip this balance, too, producing severe water shortages and even "water wars." Tens of millions of people may become water migrants. The world's feeble political systems can't cope with existing migration patterns, let alone this human tide.

And finally, there is the problem of maintaining social order in a stressed world. You don't have to go to Baghdad to see how quickly the social fabric can be shredded; just look at New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The stresses come in part from rapid urbanization. Schwartz notes that in 1900, one in 20 people lived in cities; today it's about half, and the percentage is rising fast. Without strong and supple governments, this could become a world of vigilantes and militias, desperate to control scarce resources.

The big problems in life aren't the ones that hit you by surprise but the ones you can see coming. That's surely the case with climate change: We can measure it, we can imagine its catastrophic effects. But can we do anything to stop it? If we let ourselves visualize how bad it could get, as Schwartz does in this report, will we make changes that might reduce the disaster? That's the real stress test: It's coming at us. What are we doing about it?

My experience with reality indicates that you can't change what's coming. You can, often, however, decide whether it's going to come the easy way, or the hard way. Currently, we appear to be set on the hard way.

Don't Look! Don't Look! It's Dick Cheney And He'll Turn Us Into Rocks With Just One Glance!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

First of the Month Bazooms Blogging

Women, it's the first of the month. Time to do a breast self-examination (BSE). BSEs are easy and painless. Here's how to do a BSE. BSEs can detect cancer early, which is when it's most likely to be curable.

Men, are there women you'd miss if they died from breast cancer? How about letting your employees go home half an hour early on Friday so that they have time for a BSE? How about picking up dinner tonight so that your lover has time to do a BSE?

The Darkness Or Unfathomable Depth Of Pools Has Made Their Waters Sacred

“If you have ever come on a dense wood of ancient trees that have risen to an exceptional height, shutting out all sight of the sky with one thick screen of branches upon another, the loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the spot, your sense of wonderment at finding so deep and unbroken a gloom out of doors, will persuade you of the presence of a deity. Any cave in which the rocks have been eroded deep into the mountain resting on it, its hollowing out into a cavern of impressive extent not produced by the labours of men but the result of the processes of nature, will strike into your soul some kind of inkling of the divine. We venerate the source of important streams; places where a mighty river bursts suddenly from hiding are provided with altars; hot springs are objects of worship; the darkness or unfathomable depth of pools has made their waters sacred.”

Seneca - “Letters From a Stoic”, translated by Robin Campbell (London and New York: Penguin Classics, 1969, ISBN 0140442103)

Erik posted this over at Pagan Godspell. I can't believe that I've never seen it before, but it's lovely.

Start Governing From The Left

One of the biggest lies that their consultants tell the Democrats is that there's some ill-defined but absolutely extant group of "middle" voters to whom the Democrats must appeal in order to win elections. For some reason, the Republicans know better than to listen to twaddle like this, but both the media and the professional election gurus constantly warn the Democrats not to act "too liberal" for fear of alienating this crucial group of "middle-of-the-road" voters.

Today's WaPo has an interesting column, indicating as clearly as possible that what the consultants know just isn't so.

The Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) surveyed more than 24,000 Americans who voted in 2006. The Internet-based survey compiled by researchers at 30 universities produced a sample that almost perfectly matched the national House election results: 54 percent of the respondents reported voting for a Democrat, while 46 percent said they voted for a Republican. The demographic characteristics of the voters surveyed also closely matched those in the 2006 national exit poll. If anything, the CCES respondents claimed they were more "independent" than those in the exit poll.

The CCES survey asked about 14 national issues: the war in Iraq (the invasion and the troops), abortion (and partial birth abortion), stem cell research, global warming, health insurance, immigration, the minimum wage, liberalism and conservatism, same-sex marriage, privatizing Social Security, affirmative action, and capital gains taxes. Not surprisingly, some of the largest differences between Democrats and Republicans were over the Iraq war. Fully 85 percent of those who voted for Democratic House candidates felt that it had been a mistake to invade Iraq, compared with only 18 percent of voters who cast ballots for Republicans.

But the divisions between the parties weren't limited to Iraq. They extended to every issue in the survey. For example, 69 percent of Democratic voters chose the most strongly pro-choice position on the issue of abortion, compared with 20 percent of Republican voters; only 16 percent of Democratic voters supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 80 percent of Republican voters did; and 91 percent of Democratic voters favored governmental action to reduce global warming, compared with 27 percent of Republican voters.

When we combined voters' answers to the 14 issue questions to form a liberal-conservative scale (answers were divided into five equivalent categories based on overall liberalism vs. conservatism), 86 percent of Democratic voters were on the liberal side of the scale while 80 percent of Republican voters were on the conservative side. Only 10 percent of all voters were in the center. The visual representation of the nation's voters isn't a nicely shaped bell, with most voters in the moderate middle. It's a sharp V.

The evidence from this survey isn't surprising; nor are the findings new. For the past three decades, the major parties and the electorate have grown more divided -- in what they think, where they live and how they vote. It may be comforting to believe our problems could be solved if only those vile politicians in Washington would learn to get along. The source of the country's division, however, is nestled much closer to home.

Alan Abramowitz is a political science professor at Emory University. Bill Bishop is a journalist in Austin who is writing a book on political segregation.

The way for Democrats to win elections is to fire up their base and to explain, in clear, forceful language, why their policies are better for Americans than those of the Republicans. The way for Democrats to win elections is to govern from the left and let Americans see what that looks like. If that means that we spend two years with the Republican President vetoing everything from health care to college aid to environmental clean-up, so be it. His party can explain that to the voters in the fall of 2008. The way for Democrats to win elections is for them to quit listening to twaddle such as that peddled by the Unity08 weenies and to start to act like Democrats.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Go On March, Come In Like A Lion. You Know That I Love You For Being Liminal. For Being One Of The Crossroads Of The Year

March, by Mary Oliver

There isn’t anything in this world but mad love. Not in this world. No tame love, calm love, mild love, no so-so love. And, of course, no reasonable love. Also there are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But, who wants easier? We dream of love, we moon about, thinking of Romeo and Juliet, or Tristan, or the lost queen rushing away over the Irish sea, all doom and splendor. Today, on the beach, an old man was sitting in the sun. I called out to him, and he turned. His face was like an empty pot. I remember his tall, pale wife; she died long ago. I remember his daughter-in-law. When she died, hard, and too young, he wept in the streets. He picked up pieces of wood, and stones, and anything else that was there, and threw them at the sea. Oh, how he loved his wife. Oh, how he loved young Barbara. I stood in front of him, not expecting any answer yet not wanting to pass without some greeting. But his face had gone back to whatever he was dreaming. Something touched me, lightly, like a knife-blade. I felt I was bleeding, though just a little, a hint. Inside I flared hot, then cold. I thought of you. Whom I love, madly.

(March, by Mary Oliver, from White Pine, p.53)

Racist Prick

Dick Cheney has been traveling around the world on, I am not making this up, a plane christened The Spirit of Strom Thurmond. Racist motherfucker.

Would someone in the press please call him on this?

The Richest Country On Earth

We live in the richest country on Earth. We can afford to spend almost a billion dollars every two days on a war in Iraq. We can afford tax cuts for Americans already so rich that they will never, ever want for anything in their entire lives.

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.

Some poor children have no dental coverage at all. Others travel three hours to find a dentist willing to take Medicaid patients and accept the incumbent paperwork. And some, including Deamonte's brother, get in for a tooth cleaning but have trouble securing an oral surgeon to fix deeper problems.

In spite of efforts to change the system, fewer than one in three children in Maryland's Medicaid program received any dental service at all in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Thank goodness that complicated commie plot to give all Americans health care, you know, the one that commie Hillary Clinton tried to foist off on us, failed. Thank goodness we left healt care to the invisible hand of the market. The free market that always works efficiently to provide what is most valued. We apparently value war and tax cuts for the richest few a hell of a lot more than we valued Deamonte Driver.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm Just Saying

You know, a rational society would be far more worried by this than by Britney Spears' shaved head, Anna Nicole Smith's death, and whether or not Paula Abdul got drunk on the job. I'm just sayin.

Hat tip to Dough at Eschaton.


by Wendell Berry

I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.
Though I am silent
there is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.

From Collected Poems, 1957-1982. North Point Press, New York (1985). This poem first appeared in A Part (1980)

Picture found here.

Indifference To The Feelings Of Natural Objects

In popular pre-Christinan Greek religion, divinity was inherent in all natural phenomena including those that man [sic] had tamed and domesticated. Divinity was present in springs, and rivers, and the sea; in trees, both the wild oak and the cultivated olive-tree; in corn and vines; in mountains; in earthquakes and lightening and thunder. The godhead was diffused throughout the phenomena. It was plural, not singular; a pantheon, not a unique almighty super-human person. When the Graeco-Roman World was converted to Christianity, the divinity was drained out of nature and was concentrated in one unique transcendent [god. "Pan is dead." "The oracles are dumb." "Bronsgrove is no longer a wood that is sacrosanct because it is animated by the god Bron . . . ."

~Toynbee, quoted in Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler

Christianity in absolute contrast to ancient paganism . . . not only established a dualism [heh] of man [sic] and nature but also insisted that it is [g]od's will that man [sic] exploit nature for his [sic] proper ends . . . . In antiquity every tree, every spring, stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit . . . . By destroying pagan animism, [c]hristianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feeling of natural objects.

~Lynn White The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis quoted in Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler.

Good Idea

From today's EEI newsletter:

European Manufacturers to Stop Sale of Incandescent Bulbs

Theo van Deursen, CEO of the lighting unit at Royal Philips Electronics, said Europe's light bulb manufacturers are near an agreement on ending the sale of incandescent bulbs to consumers, the Associated Press reported.

Van Deursen said the announcement could be made by the end of the week. He added that manufacturers "believe there are better technologies going forward" for lighting solutions, including the eventual market dominance of LEDs. Van Deursen also criticized GE's plan to roll out a new generation of incandescent bulbs by 2010 as insufficient.

Van Deursen said: "I don't think we should wait until 2010, because there are alternatives available now."
Associated Press via Dow Jones Newswires , Feb. 26.

This is a good idea because: Standard light bulbs waste 90 per cent of their electricity on heat. New compact fluorescent "spiral" bulbs are 75 per cent more efficient and fit in standard sockets. Check for the brightest light (measured in "lumens") with the lowest energy consumption (measured in "watts").

Hello? American manufacturers?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Condi Rice Gets A History Lesson From Keith Olberman

From Crooks & Liars

Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the remarks yesterday by Secretary of State Rice.

We already know about her suggestion that the President could just ignore whatever Congressional Democrats do about Iraq.

Just ignore Congress.

We know how that game always turns out. Ask President Nixon. Ask President Andrew Johnson.

Or ask Vice President Cheney, who utterly contradicted Secretary Rice today, when he warned Mr. Musharraf of Pakistan about what those mean Congressional Democrats could do to his foreign aid.

All of this, par for the course.

But about what the Secretary said regarding the prospect of Congress, revising or repealing the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq:

Here we go again!

From springs spent trying to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11, to summers of cynically manipulated intelligence through autumns of false patriotism, to winters of war, we have had more than four years of every cheap trick and every degree of calculated cynicism from this Administration, filled with three-card monte players.

But the longer Dr. Rice and these other pickpockets of a nation's goodness have walked among us, waving flags and slandering opponents and making true enemies — foreign and domestic — all hat and no cattle all the while, the overriding truth of their occupancy of our highest offices of state, has only gradually become clear.

As they asked in that Avis Commercial: "Ever get the feeling some people just stopped trying?"

Secretary Rumsfeld thought he could equate those who doubted him, with Nazi appeasers, without reminding anybody that the actual, historical Nazi appeasers in this country in the 1930's, were the Republicans.

Vice President Cheney thought he could talk as if he and he alone knew the 'truth' about Iraq and 9/11, without anyone ever noticing that even the rest of the Administration officially disagreed with him.

But Secretary of State Rice may have now taken the cake.

On the Sunday Morning Interview Show of Broken-Record on Fox, Dr. Rice spoke a paragraph, which if it had been included in a remedial history paper at the weakest high school in the nation, would've gotten the writer an "F" - maybe an expulsion.

If Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization, she said, out loud, with an adult present, "…It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

The Secretary's resume reads that she has a Masters' Degree and a Ph.D in Political Science. The interviewer should have demanded to see them, on the spot.

Dr. Rice spoke 42 words.

She may have made more mistakes in them, than did the President in his State of the Union Address in 2003.

There is, obviously, no mistaking Saddam Hussein for a human being.

But nor is there any mistaking him for Adolf Hitler.

Invoking the German dictator who subjugated Europe; who tried to exterminate the Jews; who sought to overtake the world — is not just in the poorest of taste but in its hyperbole, it insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but those in this country who fought it. And defeated it.

Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler.

And George W. Bush is not Franklin D. Roosevelt — nor Dwight D. Eisenhower.

He isn't even George H.W. Bush, who fought in that war.

However, even through the clouds of deliberately-spread fear, and even under the weight of a thousand exaggerations of the five years past, one can just barely make out how a battle against international terrorism in 2007 could be compared — by some — to the Second World War.

The analogy is weak, and it instantly begs the question of why those of "The Greatest Generation" focused on Hitler and Hirohito but our leaders seem to have ignored their vague parallels of today to instead concentrate on the Mussolinis of modern terrorism.

But in some, small, "you didn't fail, Junior, but you may need to go to summer school" kind of way, you can just make out that comparison.

But Secretary Rice, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was akin to overthrowing Adolf Hitler?

Are you kidding?

Did you want to provoke the world's laughter?

And, please, Madame Secretary, if you are going to make that most implausible, subjective, dubious, ridiculous comparison…

If you want to be as far off the mark about the Second World War as, say, the pathetic Holocaust-denier from Iran, Ahmadinejad…

At least get the easily verifiable facts right — the facts whose home through history lie in your own department.

"The resolution that allowed the United States to" overthrow Hitler?

On the 11th of December, 1941, at 8 o'clock in the morning, two of Hitler's diplomats walked up to the State Department — your office, Secretary Rice — and ninety minutes later they were handing a declaration of war to the Chief of the Department's European Division. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier and the Germans simply piled on.

Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, didn't spend a year making up phony evidence and mistaking German balloon-inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs.

They didn't pretend the world was ending because a tin-pot tyrant couldn't hand over the chemical weapons, it turned out he'd destroyed a decade earlier.

The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said "we're at war."

It was in all the papers!

And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops, and the Russians, were in Berlin. And we stayed, as an occupying force, well in the 1950's.

As an occupying force, Madam Secretary!

If you want to compare what we did to Hitler and in Germany, to what we did to Saddam and in Iraq, I'm afraid you're going to have to buy the whole analogy.

We were an occupying force in Germany, Dr. Rice, and by your logic, we're now an occupying force in Iraq.

And if that's the way you see it, you damn well better come out and tell the American people so. (Save your breath telling it to the Iraqis — most of them already buy that part of the comparison).

"It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown." We already have a subjectively false comparison between Hitler and Saddam.

We already have a historically false comparison between Germany and Iraq.

We already have blissful ignorance by our Secretary of State about how this country got into the war against Hitler.

But then there's this part about changing "the resolution" about Iraq, that it would be as ridiculous in the Secretary's eyes, as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to "deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do!

We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown!

It was called the Marshall Plan.


General George Catlett Marshall!

Secretary of State!

The job you have now!


Twelve billion, 400 thousand dollars to stabilize all of Europe economically — to keep the next enemies of freedom, the Russians, out, and democracy, in!

And how do you suppose that happened? The President of the United States went back to Congress, and asked it for a new authorization, and for the money.

And do you have any idea, Madame Secretary, who opposed him when he did that?

The Republicans!

'We've spent enough money in Europe,' said Senator Taft of Ohio.

'We've spent enough of our resources,' said former President Hoover.

It's time to pull out of there!

As they stand up, we'll stand down!

This administration has long thought otherwise, but you can't cherry-pick life — whether life in 2007, or life in the history page marked 1945.

You can't keep the facts that fit your prejudices, and throw out the ones that destroy your theories.

And if you're going to try to do that; if you still want to fool some people into thinking that Saddam was Hitler, and once we gave FDR that blank check in Germany he was no longer subject to the laws of Congress or gravity or physics, at least, stop humiliating us.

Get your facts straight.

Use….. the Google!

You've been on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Rice.

That network has got another show premiering tomorrow night.

You could go on that one, too.

It might be a better fit.

It's called "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"


E.J. Dionne, Jr. gets it exactly right in this morning's WaPo

Back in 2002 and early 2003, [the Bush junta] browbeat a reluctant country into this war by making assertions about an Iraqi nuclear program that proved to be groundless and by inventing ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda that didn't exist.

Then, once our troops were committed, anyone who had second thoughts could be trashed and driven back as a pro-terrorist weakling. The quagmire would be self-perpetuating: Once you checked in, you could never leave.

The evidence presented at the Libby trial has demonstrated how worried Cheney was that this scheme could unravel. Thanks to Patrick Fitzgerald, the painstaking prosecutor, we know that Cheney was beside himself over former ambassador Joseph Wilson's July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed article undercutting the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein had sought nuclear materials in Niger.

Whatever the jury decides, Fitzgerald has amply demonstrated that Cheney directed Libby to destroy Wilson's credibility, partly by leaking that his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA operative who had suggested Wilson was well qualified to investigate the claims in Niger. For Libby, Fitzgerald said in closing his case, Valerie Wilson "wasn't a person. She was an argument, a fact to use against Joe Wilson.''

Libby-Cheney apologists have argued over and over that Cheney had a right to be angry because Wilson said that Cheney had sent him to Niger. But Wilson said no such thing. In his New York Times piece, Wilson wrote only that he had been "informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report.'' That was true.

The attack apparatus has now turned on Fitzgerald, whose record is that of a thoroughly nonpartisan prosecutor. Fitzgerald's perjury rap against Libby, Cheney allies say, is a cheap attempt to criminalize politics.

Really? Here's what Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) had to say about perjury: "Lying under oath is an ancient crime of great weight because it shields other offenses, because it blocks the light of truth in human affairs. It is a dagger in the heart of our legal system, and indeed in our democracy. It cannot, it should not, it must not be tolerated.''

Ros-Lehtinen made that statement not about Libby, but to justify the impeachment of Bill Clinton back in 1998. I have no idea where she stands on the Plame-Wilson case. But it's certainly amusing that so many who were eager to throw Clinton out of office for perjury and obstruction of justice when he lied about sex are now livid at Fitzgerald for bringing comparable charges in a controversy over the rationale for war. Do they think sex is more important than war?

One simply wishes, as Bush's finger hovers momentarily over the red button marked "Nuke Iran," that our Congress would take to heart some advice that Bush gave the country years ago: "There's an old saying . . . 'Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. [Pause.] Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.'" Bush's shadow physically wouldn't allow him to say the words, "Shame on me." If we allow him to attack Iran, after all that we've been through on Iraq, well, shame on him, yes, but, also, shame on us.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

Heart's Memory of Sun

Heart's memory of sun grows fainter,
sallow is the grass;
a few flakes toss in the wind
scarcely, scarcely.

The narrow canals no longer flow,
they are frozen over.
Nothing will ever happen here,
oh, never!

In the bleak sky the willow spreads
its bare-boned fan.
Maybe I'm better off as I am,
not as your wife.

Heart's memory of sun grows fainter.
What now? Darkness?
Perhaps? This very night unfolds
the winter.

~Kiev, 1911

Art found here.