Friday, January 20, 2006

A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned into the bondage of its wings

Thriving. It is, as I’ve noted before, even more important during times such as ours -- difficult times, to say the least -- to feed the soul.

Last night, I saw the National Ballet of Canada do Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center. It was, in a word, unforgettable. Beautifully and richly costumed and gorgeously and creatively set, this Swan Lake emphasized the male dancers as much as the ballerinas. In the fourth and final scene, the flock of swans were all dressed in black, echoing the black always worn by Odile in the third scene. They were gorgeous and made a perfect contrast to the flock of white swans that attends the lovers’ meeting in the second scene.

The dancers were excellent, really as good as I’ve seen in several seasons of ballet.

Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, wrote about Swans and, I think, about thriving, as well:

The Swan
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

What will you do this weekend to feed your soul? How will you thrive in these difficult times? Have you figured out what beauty is for and, if so, how has it changed your life?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


James Lovelock certainly wasn’t the first human to figure out that the Earth is alive or to identify her as a Mother -- most pre-xian religions in Europe, parts of Africa, and the Near and Middle East did so long ago -- but his Gaia Theory certainly popularized the notion in the latter half of the Twentieth Century C.E. And he caused many of us to wonder, if the Earth is a living organism, what role do humans play? Are we similar to the brain, the nervous system, the heart, or the eyes, or are we a germ, beneficial in small colonies, but likely to kill the host organism if not reigned in?

In today’s Independent, Lovelock states that “Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. Each nation must find the best use of its resources to sustain civilization for as long as they [sic] can.” He notes that “climate centers around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth’s physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years.” He explains that Earth has suffered from similar conditions before, but that her recovery can only be measured in tens and tens of thousands of years. One function of fevers, I’ve always understood, is to raise the temperature high enough to kill off many of the germs and bring them back to a stable (i.e., tolerable to the organism) population level.

How sick does Lovelock think Earth is? He says that as this century progresses and temperatures rise, “Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve [to help regulate Earth’s temperature]; this adds to the 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface we have depleted to feed ourselves. He notes that current air pollution in the Northern Hemisphere actually cools the earth by reflecting sunlight back into space but (pace, wingnuts! don’t embarrass yourselves the way Ronnie Raygun did! keep reading!) this “global dimming” could “disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool’s climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."

Well, it’s interesting to think that the Eskimo and Laplanders will be the ones to survive this fever. Ursula LeGuin could write a fascinating novel about what that civilization would look like. But ecological stresses often lead to population movements that displace the original inhabitants. Somehow, I’m afraid that the rich and powerful (at that point, likely the Chinese) will claim those tolerable climates for themselves.

But Lovelock has more to say about what Earth’s fever means for civilization: First, we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realize how little time is left to act; and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilization for as long as they can. Civilization is energy-intensive and we cannot turn it off without crashing, so we need the security of a powered decent. I don’t know about you, but I have a grandchild about to be born whose life expectancy covers a large part of this century. The idea that this child will be involved, not in colonizing Mars or conquering cancer or writing transcendent poetry, but in conducting triage in order to “sustain civilization for as long as” possible so as to ensure a softer crash -- well, shit. Shit. Fuck. Damn. Who’s Hummer was worth that?

Lovelock still can’t completely answer the question that his theory originally caused us to ask: What role do humans play in Earth? Or, he answers the question in a way that creates even more questions: Perhaps the saddest thing is that Gaia will lose as much or more than we do. Not only will wildlife and whole ecosystems go extinct, but in human civilization the planet has a precious resource. We are not merely a disease; we are, through our intelligence and communication, the nervous system of the planet. Through us, Gaia has seen herself from space, and begins to know her place in the universe. Then, he concludes with a sentence scarily reminiscent of some of Al Gore’s themes from his speech this week: "So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords."

I fully expect many to ignore Lovelock as an alarmist. I wont. I take what he says very seriously. So along with “fear” and “thriving” -- my understanding of both of which concepts are enriched by Lovelock’s article -- I’m going to spend some time over the next year or so thinking about what this means. What does it mean for me -- as a grandmother, as a witch, as a lawyer -- to do my part to sustain civilization for as long as possible in order to try and win a softer crash? A softer crash for some baby. Some baby who will have straight black hair or Nordic blonde hair, who will grow up to speak Mandarin or Aleutian, who will wear shorts at the North Pole. Some baby who will learn about our time not as the time when people reached for the stars, but as the time when people had their last best chance to save civilization and chose to drive Hummers instead.

I guess I’ll start by reading Lovelock’s new book, The Revenge of Gaia.

How will you start?

PS Thank you to SITTENPRETTY for directing me to this article. I took the liberty of Americanizing a few of Dr. Lovelock's spellings.

Hey! Maybe There Was a Reason They Regulated this Stuff Back in 1935! Ya Think?

Well, the Billings Gazette at least bothered to report what many of us have suspected for some time. Electric utility deregulation, or "restructuring," has not reduced rates for industrial consumers - the group it was most expected to help - and in some cases created costs that raised prices, three experts have concluded.

"There is no evidence that the price or rate of change of the price (for industrial consumers) has been any different whether in restructured states or not," said Jay Apt, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Look, electricity isn't like other commodities.

When the price of hog bellies goes too high, you can quit buying hog bellies. If a drought in South America makes the price of coffee go through the roof, you can drink tea or use up the coffee that you bought on sale last month and put in your freezer. Electricity is an essential service. We have to have it. The price is inelastic, particularly in the short (e.g., several year) time frame. And, it can't be stored (Note to electricity geeks, I know about water behind the dam. It's irrelevant to my point. Bite me.) So it makes ZERO sense to deregulate it. ZERO. None. Nada.

We've know for some time that retail customers, Jane and Jennifer Homeowner, don't benefit from deregulation and, see, e.g., California, are often hurt by it. The big push for electricity deregulation has always come from power marketers such as Enron and from large industrial consumers who imagined they'd be able to get a better deal from the Enrons of the world. (OK, and, in the case of California, from Thatcher devotee William Fessler.) As this study shows, industrial customers hbenefitednefitted from deregulation, either.

That's not very surprising for a number of reasons. First, deregulation itself has had huge costs. Setting up and running ISOs and RTOs that duplicate what the public utilities used to do has been phenomenally expensive. Second, public utilities are the providers of last resort who must have enough generation on hand that they can step in and supply those industrial customers the very morning that Enron or Calpine declares bankruptcy, abrogates its contracts (which is generally the point of a power marketer going bankrupt), and quits supplying power. Someone has to pay for that backup generation. So, no savings. Finally, experts, such as Harvard's Paul Joskow believe that we would have to invest massive amounts of money in new transmission lines, which no one wants in their back yard, and which are hardly profit centers for their owners, in order to "make" deregulation work. That's so because in many cases, public utilities used to substitute generation for transmission when that made economic or ecological sense. The system just wasn't built to work under the deregulated market, as the East Coast blackout from several years ago made all too evident.

But I don't expect Dick Energy Policy Committee Cheney's administration to admit any time soon what even the Billings Gazette now knows.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Commander. Visit Our Displeasure Upon This Town

Monday's a federal holiday, but I suggest we arrange for our displeasure to be visited upon the Honorable Senator from the great State named for the Amazon Califia first thing on Tuesday morningL

Phone or Fax

If you wish to phone or fax the Washington, D.C. office:

Phone: (202) 224-3841
Fax: (202) 228-3954
TTY/TDD: (202) 224-2501

Write a letter

Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

I've fucking had it with Vichy Dems. I have a daughter in law and maybe a grand daughter on the way and I want them to own their own fucking uteruses, you Feinstein bitch.

I Was Not Angry Since I Came to Bedlam

As always Athenae says it best. Listen to me Dems, and listen to me very closely. You.Either.Support.Women.or.You.Don't. If you want any more of my money, and I think you do, and any more of my volunteer time, and I think you do, do not lay down and enjoy this rape.

For the love of the Goddess, Diane, if you won't fillibuster Alito who WILL you fillibuster?

I am so fucking sick and tired of Dems who "keep their powder dry" for the next battle and then, when the next battle comes along, save it for the NEXT battle. Kali's Dugs! The Republicans will call you obstructionist no matter what you do; does the name Tom Daschle mean anything to you??

The Dems better fillibuster this evil creep and they better do in on a party line and they better make the Republicans go nuclear and they better vote against him on a party line. Persephone in a poppy field!!!

PS And go download NTodd's podcast to your iPod or listen to it on your hard drive. His rant at the end is worth it.

Feast of the Red Dragon

OK, I’m going to pimp this now and then several more times between now and mid-February. If you live in or anywhere near DC you have GOT to experience this!

DC Radical Faeries
The Feast of the Red Dragon

All Hail the Red Dragon!
All Hail the Life Giving Blood!

What: The Feast of the Red Dragon
When: Saturday, February 11th 2pm – 5pm
Where: Universalist National Memorial Church, 16th ST and S St NW, Washington, DC Dress Code: Anything as long as it’s RED
Cost: $10 Suggested donation, but no one turned away for lack of funds; and cash or check for whatever you buy at auction.

The DC Radical Faeries are a fantastic group of Pagans and their Feast of the Red Dragon has become an amazing annual fundraiser.

Proceeds from this year’s event will go to support Grandma’s House. Grandma's House operates five homes in Northwest DC which care for HIV infected infants and children. The children range in age from newborns to 10 years, and require 24-hour attention.

If you’ve never been to a Pagan event, the Feast of the Red Dragon is an excellent place to start. Everyone is very friendly and there are so many different people from so many different Pagan traditions that no one can feel “out of place” or “silly for not knowing what to do.” Here’s the agenda for this year’s Feast:

**What Happens at the Red Dragon Feast?**

Our local practice of the Red Dragon Feast is to…
gather near Valentines Day wearing red outfits
drum and dance with the Red Dragon
feast on red foods
offer raucous toasts of red drink
honor all who have died of blood borne disease
host a raffle and auction to raise funds for charity
call for strength for healers
call for comfort and healing for all who suffer

They usually manage to attract some fantastic priests and priestesses, as well, who are excellent at raising and directing energy in large public groups. In previous years, one of my teachers, Katrina Messenger, has led the ritual and she may be on tap to do so again.

Fun, feasting, and a chance to help out a great charity. As the RadFey say, “Go ahead. Be fabulous!”

Words of One Syllable or Less

Well, the Goddess knows I don't say this very often, but the NYT is spot on.

In an editorial in this morning's paper the NYT explains what any moron ought to be able to see: America cannot win President Bush's much-vaunted war on terrorism as long as it is sending billions of dollars abroad for oil purchases every day. It cannot establish democracy in the Middle East because governments rich in oil revenue do not want democracy. And it will never have the geopolitical leverage it needs as long as it is dependent on unstable foreign sources for fuel.
You'd think that would be obvious, but apparently not to the neo-cons.

Something else obvious that the NYT points out: Iran is the second largest oil producer in OPEC after Saudi Arabia. Iran has recently inked energy deals with China and India -- two huge consumer countries that already have nuclear weapons. Someone better pull George Bush's head out of his ass and explain this to him in words of one syllable or less. An attack on Iran -- by the U.S. or Israel, which is widely perceived in the Middle East to act on America's orders -- would be not only an invitation to WWIII, but also would deprive America of the fuel it would need to fight said WWIII. It's just stupid enough for him to do it.

The Times suggests that becoming less dependent on foreign sources should be among the West's - and most especially America's - most urgent priorities. But not in the way that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney seem to prefer, which is to try to drill our way out of dependency - an utterly impossible task for a country that uses one-fourth of the world's oil while possessing only 3 percent of its reserves, and whose once-abundant supplies of natural gas are now severely stressed. A much better answer would be a national commitment to more efficient vehicles and to the rapid deployment of new energy sources like biofuels. Gee. I remember a Democratic President who tried to get us to do that thirty years ago. Ronald Reagan played footsie with the Iranians in order to defeat and humiliate President Carter and then dropped any pretense of caring about energy independence.

Imagine where we'd be if we'd spent the last thirty years really focused on energy independence. Think what it would mean for our foreign policy, our economy, our environment. Goddess, if even the NYT can figure it out, you'd think maybe one or two of the frappin geniuses surrounding the boy king could break this down into sound bites he could comprehend.

We need a Manhattan Project to develop safe, renewable sources of energy. And we need it now. We could easily spend a trillion dollars or so on this if we'd quit flushing money down the Bremmer-hole in Iraq and if we'd raise taxes on (1) the richest two percent of Americans and (2) consumption of all forms of fossil fuel. A Democrat with some passion could make this a winning presidential campaign. Or, we could play Scarlett and think about it another day.

Me, I'm thinking of taking Mandarin lessons.