Friday, March 03, 2006

The Air Medal, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart -- But No Pentacle

Sergeant's Space Left Blank --
Fallen Guardsman's Wiccan Faith Unrecognized
by Sean Whaley
© 2006 Las Vegas Review-Journal

Fernley, Nevada -- Thursday, March 2, 2006 -- Nevada National Guard Sgt.
Patrick Stewart gave his life for his country when the Chinook helicopter he was
in was shot down in Afghanistan in September.

But those wishing to honor Stewart, who should have his name on the memorial
wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, 34 miles
east of Reno, would have a difficult time doing so.

The space reserved for Stewart, right next to Chief Warrant Officer John
Flynn, his comrade from Sparks who also died in the attack as part of Operation
Enduring Freedom, is vacant.

Stewart was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by
the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in its cemeteries.

Stewart's widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family's religion --
and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward
-- is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart's laque is installed.

"It's completely blank," Roberta Stewart said, pointing to her husband's
place on the memorial.

She said she had no idea [that] the pentacle could not be used on her husband's
memorial plaque until she had to deal with the agency after the death of her

"It's discrimination," she said. "They are discriminating against our

"I had no idea that they would decline our veterans this right that they go
to fight for," she said. "What religion we are doesn't matter. It's like
denying who my husband is."

Patrick Stewart's dog tags, which Roberta Stewart wears around her neck,
carry the word Wiccan on them to identify his religious beliefs. But she said
he was never told the Wiccan religion was not officially recognized during his
13 years of military service in different capacities.

"By they way, if you die for your country, your religion won't be
recognized, that would be nice to know," Roberta Stewart said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its National Cemetery
Administration prohibit graphics on government-furnished headstones or markers other
than those they have approved as "emblems of belief." More than 30 such
emblems are allowed on gravestones and makers in veterans cemeteries, from the
Christian cross to the Buddhist wheel of righteousness. A symbol exists for
atheists too.

Roberta Stewart said she has decided to make the issue a public one because
many Wiccans serve in the armed forces who might want the symbol included on
a headstone or memorial marker.

Some Wiccans are private about their religion because of the concern their
practices and beliefs might be misunderstood, she said. But Roberta Stewart
said she and her husband were strong enough to let their beliefs be known in
the community.

Patrick Stewart's religious preferences were made clear at his memorial
service, which was held at Rancho San Rafael Park in an oak grove. Some of those
speaking at the service talked of Stewart's beliefs and how, while they held
different views, respected him for his values. Stewart was cremated, and
his ashes have been scattered.

Roberta Stewart said those beliefs state that Wiccans must do no harm, give
to the community and worship the Earth.

"I can't see anything bad in it myself," she said.

Community support for Patrick Stewart in Fernley, where the couple bought a
home together a year ago, is strong, she said. Stewart's military colleagues
are circulating a petition in Afghanistan that supports his right to use the
symbol, she said.

She said she wants the memorial plaque at the veterans cemetery because "my
husband needs to be remembered somewhere besides in my heart."

While Roberta Stewart is frustrated by the situation, a chance exists that
her husband's memorial plaque might be in place soon, with the symbol of his

An application seeking recognition of the Wiccan religion, and the use of
the pentacle as an emblem of belief on memorials in veterans cemeteries, is
working its way through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Reverend Selene Fox, senior minister of a Wiccan group called Circle
Sanctuary, said the group filed the application for the use of the emblem with
the Department of Veterans Affairs in January by using a new administrative
process. The group filed the application with the widow of a Korean War
veteran who wanted the symbol for her husband's memorial, she said.

Efforts have been under way for a decade to win the recognition, Fox said.

Speaking by telephone from Wisconsin, Fox said the application has passed
through one level of review.

"I truly hope the approval process will come to a quick and successful
conclusion very soon," she said. "It saddens me that there is, from my
understanding from Roberta, a hole in her husband's memorial where the plaque is to go with the pentacle on it."

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs could not be reached for
comment on whether the application will be successful.

Fox said her group has worked to follow every detail of the application
process. The 24-page application that was submitted included information
showing that the Wiccan religion complied with every requirement the agency has
before it would consider the approval of a new emblem of belief, she said.

Roberta Stewart said she is checking with the veterans agency on a regular
basis to find out the status of the application.

The couple's daughter, age 12, wrote a letter asking for approval for the
symbol's use.

"Why won't you put my dad's religion sign on a plaque," Alexandria
Maxwell-Stewart wrote to R. James Nicholson, secretary of veterans affairs, on
February 27. "He respected you and your rules and went and fought for our country
and died for our country and this is how you treat him and his family."

Patrick Stewart, 34, and four other National Guard members died Sept. 25
when their Chinook helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade while
returning to their base for refueling. They had finished dropping off troops.

He was a Nevada native, born in Reno on October 21, 1970. He attended
Washoe County schools, graduating from Wooster High School in 1989.

He enlisted in the Army after graduation, serving in Desert Storm and in
Korea, and completed active duty in 1996. He moved to Ohio, where he and his
brother owned a construction company.

He returned to Nevada in 2001, where he met his future wife, Roberta, and
her daughter, Ali. He is survived also by his son, Raymond Stewart of Spring,

Patrick Stewart enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard and went to
Afghanistan with Task Force Storm in early 2005.

He was posthumously awarded the Air Medal, the Bronze Star, the Purple
Heart, the Nevada Distinguished Service Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Roberta Stewart said she remains optimistic that the Department of Veterans
Affairs will recognize the Wiccan symbol for use in its cemeteries.

"I am going to have faith in my government to do what's right and give us
the freedoms that our soldiers have earned for us," she said. "But should they
deny it, I will be ready to stand firm on my beliefs."

She said she has held off on contacting members of the Nevada congressional
delegation about the issue to give the veterans agency time to act on its own.

"I would like to lay my husband to rest," she said. "Me and the children
would like to move on. It's been very traumatic for us. I won't let my
husband be blank on a wall for too long."

Nature Focus of Religion

Wiccans, also known as neopagans, are a loosely confederated group of
religious practitioners who also are referred to as nature religious practitioners.
Their beliefs date to before Christianity and focus on the natural world.
Many of their observances fall around specific times of the year, such as the
summer and winter solstice.

The different groups have nothing to do with Satanism or any of the cliche
images involving witches seen in some Hollywood horror movies.
Breac à linne, slat à coille is fiadh à fìreach --
mèirle às nach do ghabh gàidheal riamh nàire.

A fish from the river, a staff from the wood, and a deer from the mountain
-- thefts no Gael was ever ashamed of.

Taking It to the Streets - Part the First

Iraqi Women Make Rare Trip to the DC to Share Their Stories And Call For an
End to Violence and Occupation (description and brief BIOS below).

DC area Folks! Come out en force to welcome these courageous women. Spread

Tuesday 7 March 7-9 PM
Gold Star Moms Cindy Sheehan and Elaine Johnson
Eman Khamas, Nadje Al-Ali, Faiza Al-Araji
Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright and others?
Musical Guests: In Process, Holly Near and Emma?s Revolution
Foundry United Methodist Church
1500 16th Street NW DC (16th & P) - Dupont Circle Metro
Suggested donation $10.00 to help support the Tour
(no one turned away)

Other DC events include:
for more info:

Wednesday 8 March NOON
March/Rally to Deliver global call for Peace
with 50,000 signatures
(sign and forward the call at
Start at Iraqi Embassy
and finish at the White House
NOON:1801 P streets, NW-Dupont Circle Metro

Thursday 9 March 11 AM
Iraqi Women's Briefing and Q&A
for Congress, Staff and the People
Sponsored by Out of Iraq Caucus (Room TBD)

Six Iraqi women will converge in Washington, DC to begin a speaking tour to
educate Americans about the reality in Iraq and meet with UN and US
officials to call for a peace plan to end the escalating spiral of violence.
The delegation is a diverse group, including Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish women -
some secular, some religious. All have paid a very high price for the war
and occupation of their country, and want to tell their stories to the
American people. Unfortunately, two Iraqi women whose families were killed
by US troops were denied visas to enter the US as part of the delegation.

These women are not politicians, but ordinary Iraqis who are desperate to
see an end to the violence and are taking great personal risk to come to the
US. It?s a rare opportunity to hear from Iraqis themselves, and we hope that
you will help ensure they are heard.

The delegation is promoting a Women?s Call for Peace, signed by over 50,000
women from around the world. The Call for Peace requests the withdrawal of
all foreign troops and foreign fighters from Iraq, negotiations to
reincorporate disenfranchised Iraqis, full representation of women in the
peacemaking process, and a commitment to women's equality in the post-war
Iraq. This Call is part of a Women Say No to War campaign
( ) designed
to bring women together across borders to demand an end to the bloodshed in

Information about the events and
actions in DC are available at:

Thursday, March 02, 2006

If You Live in Or Near DC and You're Not Going to One of These Farmers' Markets, What's Wrong with You??

FRESHFARM Markets E-News
for March 5, 2006

The Dupont Winter Market is Open!
Sundays, 10 am to 1 pm, PNC Bank parking lot.

The Pasture
~ Robert Frost

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha'n't be gone long.--You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long--You come too.

We are counting down the days until spring -- just 17 more to go! This Sunday, NEXT STEP PRODUCE returns to at market. Heinz will have lots of organic produce at market including baby fennel, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tender salad greens, kale and arugula. Stock up and share with your neighbors! Oyster lovers have 3 more weeks of fresh oysters from Buster's Seafood -- so let the good times roll!

~ Dupont Winter Market ~
~ January 1 through March 26, 2006. ~

Market Hours: 10 am to 1 pm

~ Our Winter Market Farmers are ~
Atwaters ~ Black Rock Orchard ~ Blue Highland Dairy ~ Blue Ridge Dairy ~ Bonaparte Breads ~ Buster’s Seafood ~ Cedarbrook Farm ~ Cibola ~ Eco-Friendly Foods ~ Endless Summer Harvest ~ Farmhouse Flowers & Plants ~ FireFly ~ Gardeners’ Gourmet ~ Highfield Dairy ~ Keswick Creamery ~ Mushroom Stand ~ Next Step Produce (This Sunday) ~ Smith Meadows Farm ~ Solitude ~ Sunnyside Organic ~ Toigo Orchards ~ Twin Springs Fruit Farm

What's at Market?

Atwaters has breads, cookies, granola and soups!
Black Rock Orchard has apples, pears, cider, fruit rollups and apple butter.
Blue Highland Dairy has fresh milk (including chocolate), butter and cheeses.

Blue Ridge Dairy has feta, mozzarella (smoked and fresh), mascarpone, cow's milk yogurt (plain and honey) and creme fraiche.

Bonaparte has French pastries, croissants, quiche and breads.
Buster's has oysters and fresh fish.
Cedarbrook ~ Back at market on March 12.

Cibola has pasture-raised meats (buffalo, pork, chicken, turkey, jerky) and eggs.
Eco-Friendly has pasture-raised meats (chicken, rabbit sausage, lard, lamb) and eggs.

Endless Summer Harvest has hydroponic-grown greens and herbs.
Farmhouse has cut flowers (tulips, lilies), amaryllis and paperwhites.
Firefly has goat's milk cheeses, bath salts and soaps.

Gardeners' Gourmet has white potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, spinach, cabbage, mesclun, squash and parsley.

Highfield Dairy has goat's milk cheeses (fresh chevre, feta, gouda), yogurt (cow and goat' milk), breakfast and goat cheese tarts, ice cream, sorbet, eggs and quiches.

Keswick Creamery ~ Feta, cheddar and ricotta from cows raised on pasture, also eggs and pork.

Mushroom Stand has fresh fungi including white, crimini, oyster, shiitake, woodears, maitake, portabello and home-made mushroom chili.

Next Step Produce ~ THIS SUNDAY ONLY! Stock up on fennel, sweet potatoes, tender salad greens and more! All organically grown.

Smith Meadows Farm has fresh pastas (fettucine, linguine, ravioli) and pasta sauces.
Solitude will have wool and lovely gift kits.

Sunnyside Organic has beef, turnips, radishes, green onions, spinach, Swiss chard, salad greens, arugula, beets, cider, apple butter and sauce, eggs and Asian pears.

Toigo Orchards has apples, canned peaches, honey, mustard, pasta sauce, applesauce and apple butter, and tomato salsas.
Twin Springs has apples, pears, potatoes, squash, apple butter and salsa.

** Cheese Maker Wanted **
Blue Ridge Dairy is looking for a cheese maker apprentice from mid-April through mid-September. Person would have to lift 60 pound pails routinely. Work is at the cheese plant in Leesburg, VA. The apprentice would work 30-50 hours per week. Salary is very competitive for the right person. If interested, contact Paul Stephan at 703.727.4928 or via email at

** Mark Your Calendars **
Monday, November 6, 2006 will be our FARMLAND FEAST.
The Ritz-Carlton has invited us back to celebrate our 5th annual FEAST.
Please mark your calendar for this spectacular celebration of local foods!

Be well! See you at market!

Bernadine Prince
P.O. Box 15691
Washington, DC 20003

New Orleans Ninth Ward

Scout Prime has a report on New Orleans that you really need to read. Fuck George Bush and Brownie and all the rest of them. They knew, they did nothing, they fucked up, and then they lied.

Why I Care About Biofuels (And Other Renewables)

Financial Planning Magazine reports that: "Higher Fuel Prices May Cause Shift to Renewable Power

The prospect of steadily rising prices for fossil fuels is prompting projections of a booming market for renewable power in coming years, Financial Planning magazine reported.

Research firm Clean Edge estimated that wind power will have a $48-billion market in 2014 and in the same year solar power will have a $39-billion market, up from a $16-billion market for all renewables in 2004.

The growth prospects are aided by falling costs for generation from renewables, with the American Solar Energy Society estimating the average price of solar power at $0.20 per kilowatt-hour, a decrease from $0.95 per kilowatt-hour in the 1980s. Ron Pernick of Clean Edge was quoted as saying: "The technology has been developing for 30 years. Some companies are offering more energy efficiency at a lower cost. You see that with solar energy, for example."

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, cleaning up the environment will provide a huge BOOST to the American economy, rather than the drag often predicted with those who have an interest coughoilcough in the status quo. Developing, building, installing, and managing renewable sources of energy will require investment, pay dividends, create jobs, and allow companies to operate more efficiently. It will have difficult-to-quantify positive impacts on health care costs and on quality-of-life in general.

Note the quotation above: "The technology has been developing for 30 years," so costs are falling. Imagine if we'd been SERIOUSLY developing renewable technology for thirty years. I heard a report yesterday on how few American students are studying math, science, and engineering. We need another national project, similar to Kennedy's push to catch up with the Russians in space, that will get American students excited about math, science, and engineering. The push to clean up the environment could do that. As with the space program, we're likely to see unexpected innovations. Now's the time.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Thriving in Difficult Times - Part the Second

It's the first of the month. Women, I'm begging you. Either do a breast self-exam today or, if you prefer to do it during a certain segment of your cycle, put a note to yourself into your calendar RIGHT NOW.

Buy a bottle of calcium supplement and keep it by your computer so you'll remember to take it.

See how easy it is?

Has the Government Been Spying on You? Find Out

This is neat. People for the American Way (PFAW) has made it incredibly easy to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out if the government has been spying on you.

"Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), anyone has the right to request information from the government. Last strengthened by Congress in response to the Watergate scandal, FOIA gives citizens a way to demand transparency from the Administration -- and take the government to court if necessary.

Many Americans -- especially those with family and friends abroad -- are wondering whether government agents have been listening to their phone conversations or reading their email. If you're worried this has happened to you, you can use this site to help you find out.

We can't guarantee that the Bush administration will disclose all this information in compliance with the law, but we can help you through the process. By filing a FOIA request, you will send a strong signal that American citizens believe in the rule of law and aren't afraid to stand up to the President when he violates the Constitution!"

It occurs to me that an avalanche of FOIA requests might be a good way to let the government know that Americans do not appreciate being spied on.

Thriving in Difficult Times

Go on, take someone you love out to eat. If you go to one of the linked restaurants on March 9th, "25-100% of your bill will support men, women and children facing life-challenging illnesses.

Participating restaurants will donate a portion of the day's proceeds to Food & Friends, the only organization in the Washington metropolitan region providing specialized meals and nutrition services to men, women and children facing HIV/AIDS, breast and lung cancers and the many other illnesses that grip our community."

Georgia Brown's had great Southern food, Firefly is one of my favorite lunch spots, Aquarelle is nice, and I've been wanting to try Corduroy and Blacksalt.

You have to eat anyway, you know.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Scout's in New Orleans and I Helped!

Scout Prime is blogging live from New Orleans. You go read what she says right now. Scout! Go have tea at the Ritz. And tell Janeen Garafalago to shut up and let you talk!

It's OK to Threaten Women in Abortion Clinics as Long as You're Not Trying to Steal Their Purses

In Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 04-805 together with No. 04-1352, the Court held that the Hobbs Act only forbids acts or threats of physical violence in furtherance of a plan to engage in robbery or extortion. In Scheidler, the National Organization for Women brought claims under the Hobbs Act and RICO against organizations opposed to legal abortion, arguing that the organizations’ activities amounted to extortionate acts creating a pattern of racketeering activity. The Court, however, dismissed these arguments, stating that the text and legislative history of the Hobbs Act clearly requires actions in furtherance of a plan to engage in robbery or extortion. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court in which all other Members joined, except Justice Alito, who took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

This is how women's rights are destroyed. One chip at a time.

Action Item from Planned Parenthood -- Do This Now!

Urge Wal-Mart to stock EC!

Wal-Mart operates 3,837 pharmacies in the United States, and until recently, refused to stock Emergency Contraception for undisclosed "business reasons." This could all change with a recent court victory requiring Wal-Mart to stock EC in all 44 of its Massachusetts pharmacies. As a result of the lawsuit and ruling, Wal-Mart has publicly stated that it may consider stocking EC in ALL of its U.S. stores.

TAKE ACTION: Call Wal-Mart at 479-273-4000

Tell Wal-Mart to stock and dispense EC at all of its stores, nationwide!

If there is a Wal-Mart in your community, make sure you give the receptionist your name and hometown. You can also use these talking points:

Women should never have to worry about whether their valid prescriptions will be filled at any Wal-Mart store.
Prevention is the key to avoiding unintended pregnancy, and access to contraception, including emergency contraception, is sound public health policy.
The sooner emergency contraception is administered, the better it works, making timely access critically important.

Composters, Quakers, Vegans -- Why Do They Hate America???

An interesting short article in Sierra by Dashka Slater, who reports that in November, the FBI "agreed to pay $100,000 [your tax dollars at work!] and issue a letter of regret to 27-year-old Josh Connole, who was mistakenly arrested at gunpoint two years ago and held for four days on suspicion of setting fire to four Southern California Hummer dealerships, spray-painting slogans like 'SUV=Terrorism' . . . ."

Slater explains that, "The 'evidence' that led the FBI to finger the wrong man reads like the resume of many a lanky, goateed vegetarian. At the time of his arrest, [the] solar-panel installer was living at an ecological co-op called Regan V that engages in such subversive activities as composting, graywater reclaiming, and solar electricity generating. Tipped off by a neighbor about 'suspicious' activities, government gumshoes put the house, and its members' online activities, under surveillance and sniffed out other incriminating evidence: use of electric vehicles, opposition to whaling, and criticism of fossil-fuel reliance.

Alarmed to discover that he was being followed by shadowy figures in unmarked cars, Connole called 911 and was promptly arrested. Fifty [yes, that's correct, FIFTY, as in 50!] FBI agents then descended on Regan V to ransack it and make off with residents' computers.

Connole's arrest provoked the real arsonist, William Cottrell, to write a letter to the Los Angeles Times claiming responsibility for the vandalism."

Now, you know, I wish I had a dollar for every time I've read an apologist for Bush's domestic spying claim that, "If you are not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to fear," from having the government snoop into your business. Well Josh Connole wasn't doing anything wrong. But he had his life disrupted, his computer (and those of his housemates -- also people who'd done nothing wrong) seized, and spent 4 days in jail. The article in Sierra doesn't say, but I'm guessing he shelled out money he didn't have for a lawyer and went through a bit of emotional turmoil as well.

Now, it appears that, in this case, the FBI got a warrant, etc. So if this kind of this can happen when the government must get a warrant, and when they throw you into jail rather than GITMO, you can just imagine what can happen without the protection of a warrant or the other civil rights that disappear when you get thrown into GITMO. So the domestic spying apologists need to start qualifying what they say; it should go something like, "If you are not doing anything wrong, and you don't live near a suspicious neighbor, and the FBI is staffed by geniuses who never make a mistake, and you can afford to have your computer seized and spend four days in jail, then you have nothing to fear." Or, they should just shut the fuck up and spend about six seconds realizing that the REASON we have restrictions on what the government can do is the fact that our founding fathers realized that even innocent people sometimes wind up accused of things they didn't do.

And, WTF? FIFTY FBI agents? We can't catch Osama bin Laden or the person who mailed anthrax to US Senators, but we've got FIFTY FBI agents to run around and try to arrest some slob who burned a Hummer dealership?????

Monday, February 27, 2006

Knock Down the Gates on the Gated Communities or We Are All So Screwed

Interesting article in this month’s Sierrra, the magazine of the Sierra Club. Carl Pope, the executive director or the Sierra Club, writes in “Fuel Folly” that, “We’re better off without cheap gas.” Pope references Jared Diamond’s recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, noting that societal collapses often “spring from outdated notions of past abundance.” He suggests that “Greenland once had enough grass to support cattle, so Viking settlers stubbornly stuck with pasturage even when the Little Ice Age drastically cooled the climate.” Pope then argues that, “Our own folly is cheap fuel,” suggesting that American society is based upon unending supplies of cheap fuel and that, unless we realize that we no longer live in a world of cheap fuel, we’re headed for collapse. Thus, “our governing folly paralyzes us, and we continue to focus on price instead of waste and inefficiency. Last year, Congress threw billions of dollars in new subsidies at the oil industry, but gas still rose to $3 a gallon. Airlines went bankrupt. Homeowners chose between paying for heat and buying food.” His argument reminds me of the old axiom that, whoever first discovered water, we know it wasn't the fish. It also got me thinking about the Japanese, who seem to have incorporated the idea of being resource-poor into their national psyche to the same extent that Americans have incorporated the notion of unending abundance into ours. Which may explain why conserving energy is now a mania in Japan, while Americans continue to act as if our only problem is building more roads for all of our Hummers.

Pope’s article has also got me thinking more seriously about Diamond’s work. You can like Diamond -- he won a Pulitzer -- or you can dislike him. But he’s asking interesting questions. The one I love is: “What was the Easter Islander who chopped down the island’s last tree saying as he chopped it down? Was he saying, ‘What about our jobs? Do we care more for trees than for our jobs?’ Or maybe he was saying, ‘What about my private property rights? Get the big government chiefs off my back.’ Or maybe he was saying, ‘You’re predicting environmental disaster, but your environmental models are untested, we need more research before we can take action.’ Or perhaps he was saying, ‘Don’t’ worry, technology [or more statues?] will solve all our problems.’”

What I find most important about Diamond’s work is that it shows that societies don’t always pull back from the brink. Another of America’s “governing follies” may be our optimism, our notion that somehow we’ll find a way and things will work out, that we can keep on using more than our share of the Earth's resources and it will go on being ok. Sometimes, people don’t change, even in the face of evidence that they need to change and sometimes, they pay the ultimate price for it. The difference between societal collapses of the past and the environmental crisis that faces our society today is that, this time, the collapse threatens to be planet-wide. We’re all living on Easter Island now.

Diamond has a checklist of five factors that play a role in societal collapse. The first four certainly apply to us, and, I’m afraid the fifth one may, as well. It’s perhaps ironic that Diamond chooses my ancestors, the Vikings, as an example of a culture where all five factors were evident.

Check out Diamond’s factors:

1. Environmental damage, inadvertent damage to the environment through means such as deforestation, soil erosion, salinisation, over-hunting, etc.
2. Climate change, such as cooling or increased aridity.
3. The society’s relations with hostile neighbors.
4. The society’s relations with friendly neighbors and whether or not those friendly neighbors run into problems of their own (e.g., we depend upon Middle Eastern countries for oil imports; those countries are politically unstable, dependent upon a dwindling resource, are situated in an environmentally less-than-friendly location, etc.)
5. The society’s cultural response. Why do the people in the society fail to perceive or to solve the problems that would eventually cause collapse? Why are some societies able to perceive and recognize their problems while others don’t?

Discussing the fifth factor, Diamond says: ”Finally, why would people perceive problems but still not solve their own problems? A theme that emerges from Norse Greenland as well as from other places, is insulation of the decision-making elite from the consequences of their actions. That is to say, in societies where the elites do not suffer from the consequences of their decisions, but can insulate themselves, the elite are more likely to pursue their short-term interests, even though that may be bad for the long-term interests of the society, including the children of the elite themselves.” Diamond contrasts Norse Greenland (where the chiefs and bishops were isolated from the consequences of their continued insistence upon raising cattle and focusing on the trade of walrus ivory in order to build big churches even though the climate of Greenland favored sheep over beef and the walrus ivory trade became less and less profitable due to both the Little Ice Age and the re-opening of the Mediterranean which allowed Europeans access to more-desirable elephant ivory), with Holland. Holland, Diamond says, has the highest environmental awareness of any “modern counties.” He attributes this to the fact that all Dutch, rich and poor alike, depend upon the dykes.

You know, we could be screwed.

The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowing In the Wind. The Answer Is Blowing In the Wind.

Interesting article in today’s Milwaukee Journal. Discussing Bush’s visit to Wisconsin last week, the MJ notes that: ”During his talk at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, President Bush reiterated his State of the Union pronouncement that America is addicted to oil, and that alternatives need to be pursued to help make America less vulnerable to spikes in the prices of oil and natural gas.

That's the same rationale Gov. Jim Doyle and lawmakers in Madison are using as they promote the bill that would prompt the state to increase its reliance on wind turbines and other renewable sources.

If the state measure becomes law, energy experts expect an infusion of investment in new wind power projects in Wisconsin.”

We’ve heard for too long from those with a vested interest in the status quo that protecting our environment will somehow harm the American economy. That’s bullshit. Note the magic words above: An Infusion of Investment. Building new wind power plants will also create J-O-B-S, jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Wind power’s not perfect. It kills birds, for one thing. And, it can be erratic (some days are windier than others), and it can’t be stored, so you still need other sources of power to back it up. Some people object to the aesthetics, but no power plant -- coal, gas, nuclear, or wind -- ever won a lot of architectural awards. However, wind doesn’t pollute and it doesn’t create toxic waste materials that have to be stored for more generations than we can begin to imagine. No cartel can seize control of it and hold us up over it either.

And yet, Dick Cheney is still alive. Go figure.

Octavia Butler, probably THE best SciFi writer ever, has died. May the Goddess guard her. May she find her way to the Summerlands. May her friends and family know peace.