Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Sow

I love this poem very much. And, lately, I've been thinking of it because it seems to me that America is quite a bit like the sow in Kinnell's poem. She needs to be reminded that she can "flower, from within, of self-blessing." She needs a St. Francis,or maybe a whole bunch of St. Francises, to remind her what it is about her that's beautiful. I know America has always been far from perfect. That's true, as far as I can tell, for every society on Earth. But there was much in America's "bud" that was lovely: the idea of the rule of law, the notion of self-governance, the fearlessness of her people as they faced the trip across the oceans, or the trip across the prairie, or the depression, or Hitler, or the need to change ideas about race. America's generosity to the rest of the world has, for a long time, been part of her loveliness. America's willingness to accept all immigrants and to become stronger because of diversity rather than weaker has always been a part of her loveliness.

But the Bush administration has made America forget her "long perfect loveliness." Now, we're given to believe that we're a nation terrified of a few terrorists, although the rest of the world manages to live with the threat of terrorism all the time. In fact, America lived with terrorism for 200 years, from the attacks on Native Americans, to the KKK, to Timothy McVeigh, and no one ever suggested we give up our rights, let Big Brother spy on us, allow the government to seize people and throw them in secret jails without charges or access to lawyers. I don't believe it.

We need a St. Francis, or maybe a St. Frances, to remind America "from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow."

Galway Kinnell - St. Francis And The Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Mad Ones

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars . . . . "

~Jack Kerouac

Last Best Chance

OK, I’m begging you. We have only today, Friday, January 27th, to convince the Democrats to filibuster Judge Alito. And, if any one ever needed filibustering, it’s this racist, sexist, Tory. He WILL overturn Roe v. Wade.

Luckily, someone else has made it very easy. Blogger Thersites gives you the names, phone numbers, etc. to call. Just go here. Don’t limit yourself to only calling your own Senators. Call the ones Thersites lists and tell them that if they can’t stand up for women, you won’t be donating any more time or money to the DNC or the DLC and that you’ll be telling the DNC and DLC which Senators are to blame.

I honestly believe that today is the very last possible chance we may have to save Roe v. Wade. And I don’t care if a filibuster results in the Republicans using the “nuclear option.” If we can never use the filibuster out of fear of the “nuclear option,” we’ve already lost it anyway. As I said above, if Alito isn’t worth being filibustered, no one is.

If my grandchild has to live in a post-Roe world, I at least want to be able to say that I tried, right up to the last minute, to hold the line. What are you doing during your lunch hour today that’s more important?

The Rude Pundint has a great list of reasons why the Democrats should filibuster Alito, as Prior Aelred reminded me. They include:

Then here's a brief list of reasons to filibuster Alito that have nothing to do with Savage Sammy:
- Because President Bush authorizes spying on Americans without a warrant.
- Because President Bush authorized torture by Americans and through renditioning.
- Because President Bush detains people without charge for an indefinite period.
- Because President Bush ignores whatever laws he wants, even if he signs them.
- Because President Bush lied about Iraq to get us into the war.
- Because the Army is stretched "to the breaking point."
- Because the reconstruction of Iraq is being fucked up, too.
- Because President Bush refuses to acknowledge what it's gonna take to help the people of the Gulf Coast.
- Because Ford is getting rid of 30,000 employees.
- Because Karl Rove still has a job.
- Because President Bush and the Republicans fail to fully fund the bullshit "No Child Left Behind" program.
- Because President Bush denies the existence of global warming.
- Because the Medicare prescription drug program is a clusterfuck that will end up in people dying because of its existence.
- Because President Bush denies any connection to Jack Abramoff.
- Because President Bush refuses to speak before any audience that doesn't adore him.
- Because Dick Cheney exists.
- Because Osama Bin Laden is either living free or died free.
- Because Donald Rumsfeld still has a job.
- Because the White House has stymied every investigation into its fuck-ups.
- Because President Bush calls spying "terrorist surveillance" and pollution "Clean Skies" and money to churches "Faith-Based Initiatives."
- Because Richard Scaife doesn't need another tax cut.
- Because there has to be a line in the sand, somewhere; otherwise, it's just one long desert until who-knows-when.

See, the thing about a filibuster is it says to the White House, the Republicans, the nation, that Democrats have some say left in the processes of government. The nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and the abandonment of Harriet Miers, were pure manna to the right wing base. At some point, Democrats have to give something to their base, something to keep the faithful from throwing up their hands in disgust, from shaking their heads and mumbling, "What pussies, what godforsaken pussies." And if not this, then what?

Rude Pundit is right. So please call.

Lines will be busy. Keep calling back. Really, I'm begging you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This Is How It's Done

Barbara Boxer has ovaries.

During the hearings, we all felt great compassion for Mrs. Alito when she became emotional in reaction to the tough questions her husband faced in the Judiciary Committee. Everyone in politics knows how hard it is for families when a loved one is asked tough questions. It is part of a difficult process, and whoever said politics is not for the faint of heart was right.

Emotions have run high during this process. That's understandable. But I wish the press have focused more on the tears of those who will be affected if Judge Alito becomes Justice Alito and his out-of-the mainstream views prevail.

I worry about the tears of a worker who, having failed to get a promotion because of discrimination, is denied the opportunity to pursue her claim in court.

I worry about the tears of a mentally ill woman who is forced by law to tell her husband that she wants to terminate her pregnancy and is afraid that he will leave her or stop supporting her.

I worry about the tears of a young girl who is strip searched in her own home by police who have no valid warrant.

I worry about the tears of a mentally retarded man, who has been brutally assaulted in his workplace, when his claim of workplace harassment is dismissed by the court simply because his lawyer failed to file a well written brief on his behalf.

These are real cases in which Judge Alito has spoken.

I Think Louise Slaughter and Barbara Boxer May Be the Only Ones Who Truly Get It -- Must Have Something to Do with Ovaries

OK, Atrios already linked to this, but I think it's so well-written and spot on that it bears repeating.

It sums up perfectly the frustration that we liberals feel with the Democrats. Why don't they GET it? How can they continue to send Donna Brazile (and if not send, at least not try to replace) out to go up against Ann Coulter? Why won't they call the media on their bullshit? Why didn't Barak Obama say to Russert: "Tim, that's an obnoxiously racist question for you to ask me. I'm not going to dignify it with a response"? Why don't the Democrats have their own version of the weekly Grover Norquist meetings to hand out poll-tested talking points? Didn't they see the John Stewart show where one Republican talking head after another repeated "most liberal Senator" something like a hundred times in one day? Why can't they figure out how to support popular positions such as reproductive choice or national health care? I mean, sure it's difficult to support an unpopular position, but Dems consistently fumble issues where the vast majority of Americans agree with them and have for years!

Daou identifies the problem perfectly, but he doesn't propose much of a solution. I don't know myself what the solution is. (Don't do it. Don't say the solution is for Soros to buy a network. I'll hex you into tomorrow morning. If that were the solution, it would have happened by now.) But as Woody Guthrie's Guitar has commented many times over at Atrios' place, as long as the Dems allow the media to keep these races close, they'll be close enough for Diebold to steal them. And I've about fucking had it with that.

I will say that a good start would be for Boxer, for example, to start holding the weekly meetings. I will say that no Democrat ought to apologize, the way that Durbin and Reid have, for making truthful statements. I will say that Dems need to learn how to interrupt and talk over other panelists. I will say that Dems need to question the premise of the questions and call the media on their bullshit all the damn time. The media will only change incrementally, but we've seen, with the pressure on Debbie Howell, that we can make them change. She'll at least phrase her Republican talking points more carefully next time.

So, I don't know what the solution is, but I'm sure that it's not continuing to do the same thing and hoping for a different result. That's what the Dems have been doing and that, by definition, is insanity.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In Order to Persuade You Would Need What You Lack: Reason and Right

Recently, there’s been a concerted effort by various “conservative” (read: fascist) groups to “go after” college professors who are “too liberal.” A lot of it has been below the surface of the tv news (can’t take valuable time away from talking about the missing white woman de jour), but it has received some blog coverage.

I think it’s terribly dangerous and deserves a lot more attention than it’s gotten. Movements like this are designed not so much to route out the one or two professors that they highlight, but to intimidate all professors, to get them to self-censor out of a desire to avoid trouble. And that’s not a good way to educate America’s young adults.

By the time a young person gets to college, they’re ready to have their cherished notions -- generally the notions they received from their parents -- challenged. And that’s as true of red diaper babies at Brown as it is of blue-blooded Muffy (funny how those colors now mean different things than they once did!) at Princeton or of the child of NASCAR fans who is attending community college. Being exposed to new ideas, new ways of living, and new people is one of the major benefits of college. Examining your unexamined premises, learning how to support your positions, becoming able to understand how and why others have adopted positions with which you don’t agree -- those are as important as any specific course of study that a college student takes. Gotcha goons reporting back to their fascist masters when a professor doesn’t toe their prescribed party line puts an end to this important aspect of education.

Which, even more than imposing their particular party line, is what fascists are really upset about when they begin these attacks on education. An educated populace, well versed in the ability to reason and argue, sophisticated enough to accept a diversity of opinions, and unwilling to simply accept the word of an authority because the authority “says so” is not the sort of populace that a fascist government can easily control.

I once was privileged to write about this at Eschaton, but I think it bears repeating. Fascists have always had to go after professors and educators. Roger Housden has a series of books (Ten Poems to Set You Free, Ten Poems to Open Your Heart, etc. ) that are fantastic, especially for people who never “got” poetry or had it ruined for them by an uninspired high school English teacher. Each book has, not surprisingly, ten very well-chosen poems and then a short discussion of what the poem is about. In Ten Poems to Set You Free, Housden includes an amazing poem: Throw Yourself Like Seed by Miguel de Unamuno:

Throw Yourself Like Seed

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live is the man in whom life
is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing
which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your
own field,
don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it
to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead
in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group
of clouds;
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

Here’s what Housden tells us about de Unamuno:

When the fascist General Milan-Astray stormed into the University of Salamanca to confront the elderly professor and poet-philosopher Miguel de Unamuno over his criticism of Franco and the fascist cause, Unamuno said to him:

At times, to be silent is to lie. You will win because
you have enough brute force. But you will not con-
vince. For to convince, you need to persuade. And
in order to persuade you would need what you lack:
reason and right.

The general shouted, “Death to intelligence! Long live death!” and drove the ailing poet out of the university at gunpoint. The poet suffered a heart attack and died within the week. It was 1936, soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Mieguel de Unamuno was right. The reason why the fascists must fight college professors with the intimidation that we see today and with the brute force that we’re likely to see before this is all over is that they cannot convince. For, in order to convince, you must persuade, and, in order to persuade, you need what fascists lack: reason and right. If their ideas were truly persuasive, if their ideas were truly better, the free market that this group of fascists fetishizes would surely ensure their gradual adoption by society in general and college professors as well. The blind poet Milton himself remarked that, ”And tho all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; whoever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” Their ideas -- that we live in a perpetual state of attack by dangerous brown people, that women and gays are inferior, that George Bush was picked by the xian god to lead the world, indeed, that the free market is the solution to all of our country’s problems -- suck. They are not based upon reason and they are not right.

At times, to be silent is to lie.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Gender Gap

Echidne of the Snakes is consistenly good on feminism. Go read her latest posts and her "ads".

Religious Vigil Against Torture

Don't know this group, but this was forwarded to me on a DC Pagan listserv that I belong to. It sounds like a good idea.


Tuesday, January 31st
(The night of the President's State of the Union Address)

5:00 6:30 P.M.
Massachusetts Avenue and 34th Streets --
across the street from the Vice President's House
(The Naval Observatory)

Sponsored by: River Road Unitarian Church Social Justice Council

This will be our third vigil at the Vice President's house against torture, and we hope we can double the number of people who attend. Please invite members of your religious community as well as friends and family. On December 21 and December 28 we had 50-60 people at the vigil, and the effect was significant. We would like to see 100 people come out for the night of the President's State of the Union Address.

As religious people, we feel it is critical that we speak out against this country's torture policy and practices. We need to let our government, our country, and the world know, that we oppose torture, whoever commits it & that the torture policy of this administration does not reflect the values of the American people. Vice President Cheney is the apparent leading voice with respect to torture in this administration, and we think it is appropriate to hold our vigil outside his home at the Naval Observatory.

We will be demonstrating quietly and peacefully with candles, flashlights, and signs on the sidewalk across from the Vice President's House. If you come by Metro, you will need to exit at Dupont Circle and transfer to an N2, N4 or N6 bus going up Massachusetts Avenue. Plenty of parking is available in the neighborhood, but we will also car pool from RRUC.

As before, when you arrive, please take your place next to the last person in line, on the sidewalk, facing the Vice President's House. We will create a line down Massachusetts Avenue as long as the number of people we have joining us.

This is a vigil, and we ask that there be no shouting or chanting. However, signs are important, and they need to be large in order for the drivers going by to see them.

For further information, please contact Linda Gustitus at 202-363-3928 or