Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why Poetry Is Important


By Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
wolf under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse
that feels a flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against "business documents and

school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make
a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
"literalists of
the imagination"--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

My Friend

My friend
they don't care
if you're an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake
They will try to exploit you
absorb you confine you
disconnect you isolate you
or kill you.
(Coagulations 68)

by Jayne Cortez

Long Live the Revolution

Emily Dickinson - Revolution is the Pod

Revolution is the Pod
Systems rattle from
When the Winds of Will are stirred
Excellent is Bloom

But except its Russet Base
Every Summer be
The Entomber of itself,
So of Liberty --

Left inactive on the Stalk
All its Purple fled
Revolution shakes it for
Test if it be dead.

Being Thought a Witch Can Be Dangerous

BBC reports that being considered a witch will still get you killed in the 21st Century.

I Expect Shrines at the Crossroads to Follow Directly

Via Witchvox: Good news. Greeks can now worship Greek deities. The Patriarch can bite me.

A Modest Suggestion for a Democratic Congress

Of course, it will never happen in a Republican Congress, or while Joe MBNA Biden draws breath, but I'd love to see a requirement that price tags show not only the purported price of whatever you're buying (be it a DVD, a new sweater, groceries, or a movie ticket), but also the actual price if you buy it with a credit card and then pay only the minimum amount on your card. In other words, two prices: cash and credit. Yeah, different credit cards have different interest rates, but I think a simple average would probably work well enough for my purposes.

My point, of course, is that most people don't understand that they'll pay many multiples of the purported price if they buy something with a credit card. Using credit to buy something that's "on sale" can be a terrible bargain. Yes, there are calculators on the web that will allow you to figure out the actual price of an item bought on credit. But you don't have access to them when you're standing in the store considering a new pair of running shoes or the latest offering from, say, Apple.

Just as, over extreme industry resistance, we've gotten food companies to label their products so consumers can know what's in the food they eat and drug companies to label their products so consumers can know what the side effects are of the drug they're considering buying, we need to make credit card companies label their product (debt) so consumers understand how much debt they're agreeing to buy along with their movie ticket or book or Home Depot purchase.

If the Democrats thought that they had to go along with the recent draconian revisions to the bankruptcy laws (they didn't, but that's another story), they could at least have insisted upon measures such as the one that I'm proposing in order to help consumers. It's not that I'm anti-credit card. I use one for convenience and to acquire airline miles, but I pay it off in full at the end of the month. I'm not even anti-debt. I have a mortgage and I took out some student loans (long since paid off) to go to law school. In both cases, even with the interest payments, those were good investments that I wouldn't have been able to make without borrowing. I simply think that more Americans would live within their means, and be better off for it in the long run, if they understood the true price of buying on credit.

Friday, March 24, 2006

More Ways to Tell If You're a Fundamentalist

I blogged earlier this week about how to tell if you're a fundamentalist.

Jimmy Carter has a pretty good list in his new book, Our Endangered Values, America's Moral Crisis, as well:

"1. [F]undamentalist movements are led by authoritarian males who consider themselves to be superior to others and, within religious groups, have an overwhelming commitment to subjugate women and to dominate their fellow believers.

2. Although fundamentalists usually believe that the past is better than the present, they retain certain self-beneficial aspects of both their historic religious beliefs and of the modern world.

3. Fundamentalists draw clear distinctions between themselves, as true believers, and others, convinced that they are right and that anyone who contradicts them is ignorant and possibly evil.

4. Fundamentalists are militant in fighting against any challenge to their beliefs. They are often angry and sometimes resort to verbal or even physical abuse against those who interfere with the implementation of their agenda.

5. Fundamentalists tend to make their self-definition increasingly narrow and restricted, to isolate themselves, to demagogue emotional issues, and to view change, cooperation, negotiation, and other efforts to resolve differences as signs of weakness."

Spoiler Alert -- Don't Read If You're Going to See V for Vendetta

Ok, I'm going to get flamed for this, but here goes.

Saw V for Vendetta on Monday and thoroughly enjoyed it. I find it really amusing, in an oh-you're-revealing-so-much-more-than-you-realize kind of way that America's right wing, which purports to be all about "freedom" and "democracy", knew instinctively that the movie was aimed at them. I've chuckled at their horror at the notion that a fictional character could be heroic BECAUSE he blew up a building. I don't remember hearing any of them disavow Howard Roark.

But over the past few days, something has started to bother me. Let me say first that I never read the book, so it's possible that the issue that's been tugging at my mind is explained more thoroughly in the book. All I have to go on is what happened in the movie. SPOILER ALERT: I'M ABOUT TO REVEAL MATERIAL FROM THE MOVIE.

In the movie, V saves Evey from rape -- pretty classic hero stuff. He then sweeps her off to a rooftop because he wants someone to witness what he's about to do: blow up a building. It's a normal human reaction, although it certainly places Evey in danger every bit as great as she was in even a few minutes ago when he saved her. The next day, she saves him and then he saves her, bringing her to his hideout. He tells her that she'll have to stay there for a year, until his plan to blow up Parliament has reached fruition. Evey manages to escape, only to get arrested by the fascist police force. V somehow rescues her, but she doesn't know that. She doesn't know it because she's in a jail where she's routinely physically and emotionally tortured.

Turns out, V was her torturer. But, he did it because he loves her. He wants to make her fearless, so he torturers her. In return, she falls in love with him and helps him save the world.

OK, it's fiction. And, maybe the movie had to collapse a lot of stuff into a short time and the book is different. I don't know. But the man who saves a woman from rape only to torture her (in one way or anther), for her own good, is a standard in quite a bit of fiction. And I've never heard that torture makes its victims fearless. PTSD is a much more frequent result of torture than fearlessness. But I will say that, for many women, falling in love with the torturer is a survival technique.

So the whole thing kept reminding me of something and then I finally realized what it reminded me of. It reminded me of Robin Morgan's The Demon Lover. Morgan realized, long before September 11th, that patriarchal society often finds terrorism sexy. As Beverly Miller noted in 1989, Morgan's book "raises questions other authors have avoided: Why are most terrorists men? Why do terrorist acts primarily victimize women and children? What is the relationship of terrorism to the patriarchal state, to the mythic hero, to messianic religion? To the economic and social policies of, among other nations, the United States?" Recently, Morgan has asked, "Is it possible that terrorism attracts so much attention today because men, as well as being its main perpetrators, are also among its victims?" She explained that, " If men are now afraid in daily circumstances, why then the situation must be taken seriously, attention must be paid.

Men of the State-that-is [the Establishment] and men of the State-that-would-be [“rebels” or “terrorists”] share a peculiar intoxication. It permits them to call up armies, attach electrodes to living flesh, justify the invention, testing, and stockpiling of world-destroying weapons; it also permits them to “kneecap” informers with electric drills, purge “incorrect” colleagues by literal crucifixion, and eventually to consider the political reasons for doing these things as secondary or irrelevant, the mere doing them as creative acts. Such men suffer from a lack of ambivalence. " Lack of ambivalence permits V to torture Evey "for her own good."

So, I liked the movie, appreciate the message that sometimes old symbols need to be destroyed, especially when fascists such as George Bush and Karl Rove use them to cloak their evil in order to pretend that they are for "freedom" and "democracy," when precisely the opposite is true. I enjoyed the special effects, Portman's sexy shaved head, and the film's appreciation for the role of the media in allowing religio-corporate fascists to gain control. I'm more than willing to believe that, at the very, very least, our government let September 11th happen on purpose.

But I'll take a pass on being tortured by my lover for my own good. And I'll take a pass on finding men who torture anyone so sexy that I long to kiss their Guy Fawkes' curved plastic lips.

Flame away.

Gee, This Doesn't Surprise Anyone, Does It?

The BBC reports that climate change disproportionately hurts the world's poor. The report discusses a British report that found that, "the cost of rising greenhouse gas emissions will fall predominantly on the poorest people who will be unable to cope. Global warming, it forecasts, threatens to reduce India's farm output by as much as a quarter. And half of the $1bn (£0.58bn) in aid given by rich nations to Bangladesh is at risk as sea levels rise. In Africa, it says the number of people at risk from coastal flooding could rise from one million to 70 million by 2080. It points out that natural disasters already cost donors $6bn annually, says BBC environment correspondent Roger Harrabin, and as 73% are climate-related, this bill is set to soar."

Actually, poor people have very often born the brunt of bad environmental policies. From the poor workers crowded into sooty Victorian London, to poor communities forced to drink polluted water (Erin Brockovich, anyone?), to farm workers exposed to dangerous pesticides, the poor often get an even worse dose of pollution than the rest of us. The Envirnomental Justice movement exposed a number of such unfair situations. Somehow, toxic chemicals are seldom dumped in gated communities.

Can I also say that anything that reduces India's farm output by as much as one fourth is not a good idea politically? Starving farmers sometimes find alternative uses for their pitchforks. India, however, has a nuclear pitchfork. I'm just saying.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why In The Name of Nimue Is This Even Up For Debate?

BBC News reports that:

Governments, not private firms, must take responsibility for getting water to their people, a new report argues.

"Private companies only invest where they can make a profit, not where there is the greatest need," Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement says.

The organisation has launched the report, Pipe Dreams, on the eve of the United Nations' World Water Day.

The Sustainable Development Network, on the other hand, argued last week that free markets improved water services.

The WDM is unconvinced by the conclusions of the Sustainable Development Network, an array of 30 non-governmental organisations.

"Time and again the private sector has failed to deliver the promised investment," Mr Hardstaff, WDM's director of policy, said.

The article also notes, "The report describes sub-Saharan Africa as "the area that needs investment in water services the most".

But it says the private sector has failed to deliver the level of investment it promised in every single case where it has been responsible for extending access to water in the region.

"The private sector is not sufficiently reliable to manage these essential public services. Government must assume its responsibilities," David Boys of Public Services International said."

For the love of the Goddess, we're talking about WATER here! How can anyone imagine for even a moment that it should be privatized? Hello??? California and electricity, anyone? We KNOW what private companies do when they're set free to withhold an essential service with no demand elasticity; they withhold it and exercise their market power. They are perfectly willing, as we saw in California, to let people die.

Oh, and guess what business Enron was entering just before it went kabloom? That's right. Water.

Surprisingly, It Turns Out That Ken Lay Is A Liar

Today's NYT reports what most of us already knew: Ken Lay is a big, fat liar.

I've gotta say, I just love Lay's Colonel Klink defense. These CEOs get obscene, and I mean that in the true sense of the word, salaries on the theory that they're such incredible managers that it's worth it for shareholders to pay them salaries that are many, many multiples of what their average workers get. Yet, when the company literally blows up, they swear they were potted plants, mushrooms, sitting in the dark with no frapping idea what was going on. They'd have fired a mail room clerk who said she didn't have even the vaguest notion that there were drugs being sold in the mail room, but somehow it was ok for them to not know what was going on.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sacred Spaces in the Modern (Urban) World - Fourth in a Continuing Series

Sage Woman is a fantastic quarterly -- a reasonable place for anyone interested in feminine spirituality to begin. I'm sorry to see Editor-in Chief Anne Newkirk Niven thinking of migrating away from the U.S. to Columbia, Canada, although I understand the need for parents of young children to get the fuck out of the United States at this point in time. She'll continue to guide Sage Woman from Canada, so no worries on that front. If you don't subscribe to Sage Woman, you can occasionally find it at Borders' bookstores, or at least you used to be able to.

At any rate, this quarter, the theme for Sage Woman is: Simplicity. I am given to understand that there is an entire industry devoted to the Simplicity Movement. You can subscribe to magazines, buy books, watch videos, and attend seminars on Simplicity. I recently bought a large coffee-table book on Gardens for the Not-So-Big House. Or, you could just throw away a lot of useless stuff, focus on your priorities, and spend more time meditating, but that's just me.

There's an interesting article by Diana Partington about "Building Temples for the Goddess," -- the tie-in "Simply Special" is a bit weak, but WTHey -- that focuses on a temple for the Goddess in an Orange County, California office park. It absolutely tickled me. I have to say, I'm of the generation that worshipped the Goddess completely in private. Our homes, our yards, quiet places in parks.

Not too long ago, my wonderful son and brilliant daughter-in-law had to explain to her parents, who are charming, fun people, but Southern Baptists, that I was a witch. My brilliant daughter-in-law's sweet, successful father asked, "Well, they don't worship Satan, do they? They just worship nature, right?" My wonderful son, telling me about this, said, "I told him that was it. I figured I wouldn't get into the Goddess stuff. A Goddess figure would just have been too much." So, you can see why, for us, worship of the Goddess happened in private. So it's with a bit of joy and, I admit, a bit of sadness for what's passing, that I read Partington's article about public spaces, public temples, to the Goddess.

She explains, "Moving through the foyer into the temple proper, I was approached by a Priestess who offered to clear my energy with a simple bell ceremony. I began my sojourn at a basin of water that invited me to perform a self-blessing. I sprinkled my brow lightly, and then moved clockwise around the room. To my left were nine altars and shelves brimming with goddess images."

After describing an altar to Mary, Partington continues, "As I made my way around the room, a Priestess offered me a bindi for my forehead. I was delighted, as I have long loved this Indian ritual costuming of the third eye and believe it awakens a sense of beauty. Gazing at the women gathering for the service I had come to attend, I witnessed the bindi's effect on all of them: an opening of sensuousness, backs straightened, eyes laughing. There was magic afoot."

She concludes with a description of the temple's grotto: "Inside the curtained cocoon is a forest wilderness in miniature, with just enough room for a woman to perch on a wide wooden stump next to a euphonious fountain, featuring healing waters from the grottos at Lourdes and the Chalice Well at Glastonbury. Bark and vines, soft twinkling lights, the golden imprints of fairies and dragonflies covered the walls. Overall, I was amazed and delighted; the temple was a genuine realization of communal sacred space." And, here's how times have changed. The temple's web site lists the priestess' cell phone. No more need to hide behind names like "Lady Unique Inclination of the Night" for this generation of Goddess worshippers!

Sacred spaces are all over and they are, increasingly, springing up in urban spaces. Not surprising, as that's where most pagans live. Would you visit a Goddess temple? Would you visit one in an office park? Have you ever been given a bindi? What makes you feel a sense of beauty? What opens your sensuousness? When was the last time that happened?

Investing in a Carbon-Constrained World

Global warming could melt your portfolio

Fortune reports that, "Long-term investors, take heed: Global warming will have a significant impact on the financial performance of companies in your portfolio.

Some companies -- General Electric, DuPont, Cinergy, American Electric Power, BP, Toyota and Honda -- are seriously grappling with the risks and opportunities posed by climate change. They will be better prepared as governments and shareholders focus on the issue.

Many others -- ExxonMobil, Dominion Power, Sempra Energy, Nissan, BMW and Volkswagen -- have been slow to address climate change, and they could put their owners at financial risk."

Fortune further notes that, "The risks posed by global warming aren't only regulatory. There's compelling evidence that world temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting and storms are becoming more fierce. Food, fishing and forestry businesses could all be affected, the report says.

The cost of natural disasters exceeded $225 billion in 2005, up from the previous record of $118 billion in 2004, according to reinsurance giant Swiss Re. A Swiss Re executive is quoted in the report as saying, "Global warming has accelerated from a problem that might affect our grandchildren, to one that could significantly disturb the social and economic conditions of our lifetime.""

That's $225 billion that didn't go towards finding a cure for HIV or breast cancer. That's $225 billion that didn't go towards putting computers in the homes of those on the wrong side of the digital divide. That's $225 billion that didn't go towards paying off the national debt. There's a cost to doing nothing about global warming -- a point not very often made when Exxon's lobbyists claim that it would ruin our economy to clean up the environment. And, while Exxon, Sempra, and BMW reap the profits of global warming, they've managed to externalize the costs, including that $225 billion, to the rest of us.

Additionally, "ExxonMobil was singled out for criticism by Meredith Miller, the assistant state treasurer of Connecticut, because she said the company won't meet with investors to discuss climate change. Last year, nearly 30 percent of ExxonMobil's shareholders supported a shareholder resolution asking the company to disclose its plans for complying with greenhouse gas reductions targets in countries that have adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which regulates emissions.

ExxonMobil . . . opposed the shareholder resolution as
unnecessary . . . ."

The report comes from, and I love this, a group called Ceres; Ceres was the Roman version of Demeter, the Goddess of agriculture and grain. Have you checked your 401k lately? How well-positioned are you to invest in a carbon-constrained world? I'm thinking seriously this year about both thriving and fear. How do we thrive in such a challenging world? Is such a thing even possible? Can investing in companies that take global warming seriously help us to thrive?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Clean Air Is Good for You -- Who'da Thunk?

The NYTimes reports that decreases in air pollution correlate directly with fewer deaths from a variety of causes. I think this article helps to make a point I like to hammer on. Cleaning up our environment isn't just the right thing to do for moral reasons. It's also good for our economy. Fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease, for example, means lower health care costs for employers and the government. It means increased productivity from those who would have, but didn't, get sick. The nonsense that you hear claiming that we can't afford to clean up pollution is simply not true. Would it be bad for certain sectors of our economy coughoil/coal/Detroitcough? Probably. But it would be good for our overall economy.

"Any" Means "Any"

From today's EEI newsletter:

Electricity Daily Analyzes Court's Decision on NSR Case

In an analysis published in today's Electricity Daily, the newsletter dissects the recent court decision to overturn the EPA's regulation on New Source Review (DEN, March 20, D.C. Appeals Court Panel Overturns New Source Review Rule).

Electricity Daily noted the decision "was written by Judge Judith W. Rogers, a Clinton appointee, and agreed to by Judges David Tatel, also a Clinton pick, and Janice Rogers Brown, a recent and controversial George W. Bush choice for the appellate court." Rogers was quoted as saying: "There is no reason the usual tools of statutory construction should not apply and hence no reason why 'any' should not mean 'any.' Indeed, EPA's interpretation would produce a 'strange' if not an 'indeterminate' result: a law intended to limit increases in air pollution would allow sources operating below applicable emission limits to increase significantly the pollution they emit without government review."

The newsletter said the court backed the arguments advanced by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer "and a bevy of other attorneys general in the region" in opposition to a "bunch of AGs from coal states," concluding that the specificity of the Clean Air Act "is unequivocal."

Wrote the newsletter: "The act describes a modification as 'any physical change in, or change in the method of operation of, a stationary source which increases the amount of any air pollutant emitted by such source or which results in the emission of any air pollutant not previously emitted.'"

Electric Reliability Coordinating Council spokesman Scott Segal called the decision "disappointing." He was quoted as saying: "In light of the consistent actions taken in other federal circuit courts of appeal regarding the actual NSR enforcement cases, it appears that the NSR enforcement actions filed back in the late 1990s are on no firmer legal ground today than they were before NSR II was decided."

Electricity Daily, March 21.

Yahweh Without War?

Have you ever been to Omega? Omega is interesting; it's a "center for holistic studies." Located on a gorgeous site in the southern Hudson Valley, they can be so "crunch-granola, new agey, touchy-feely" that you want to smack them. But they also, year-in and year-out, run some truly interesting courses by some of the most interesting teachers.

This year, in addition to the boatload of yoga courses they've had for the past few years (ever since yoga got to be the hot new thing), they've got Cindy Sheehan, inter alia, teaching a course called "God Without War." Now, by "God", it's clear they mean Yahweh, because all the teachers are either Xian or Jewish, but let's put that to one side. The course looks interesting. It invites participants to "seek to answer this question: How can a vision of God help us create a world of love instead of hate, and a culture of peace instead of war?"

"Through stimulating discussion, reflection, prayer, and meditation, we explore the spiritual foundations of peace and justice, the current polarization in America and the world, and religious roots of our current conflict in Iraq, what belief in a God of love actually means, and actions we can each take to practice what we preach in our efforts to create a more peaceful world."

Go, Cindy!

Top Ten Signs You May Be a Fundie Whack-Job

Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You think sex is evil, even though your god made it pleasurable.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian

Monday, March 20, 2006

What Part of that Loud Buzzing Alarm and Flashing Red Light Do They Not Understand?

Abundance and diversity continue to decline all over our planet. Oh, look! Britney may be pregnant again!

People! Please! Wake the fuck up!


Spent yesterday making little pots out of newspaper strips. Then, this morning, I filled them with potting soil and -- my favorite part -- planted seeds. I planted almost fifty black hollyhocks with seeds I harvested last summer. Thirty dill plants, thirty mint plants, and lots of wormwood seed (too tiny to count). Also, several moonflowers and lots and lots of Bowles Black violas. Slipped them under the bright lights and, now, the magic happens.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

More Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

"Why Is This Century Worse..."


Why is this century worse than those others?
Maybe, because, in sadness and alarm,
It only touched the blackest of the ulcers,
But couldn't heal it in its span of time.

Else, in the West, the earthly sun endows
The roofs of cities with the morning light,
But, here, the White already marks a house,
And calls for crows, and the crows fly.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, August, 2000
Edited by Dmitry Karshtedt, February, 2001