Saturday, July 01, 2006

It's Like A Jungle Out There.

Tmorrow morning, I am not going to get up and go to the farmers' market, even though it's a sacrament for me, and even though I long like a thirsty woman for tomatoes, and corn, and okra, and plums, and blackberries. Instead, I'm going to go outside and work like a madwoman in my garden, in the hot sun, in the humidity, until the sunlight gives me, as if always does, a terrible headache. I'm going to cut and plant and tie and trim and weed and be as ruthless as any dark goddess. But Wendell Berry wrote the best poem I've ever seen about the Greenman.

The Mad Farmer Revolution

Being a Fragment
of the Natural History of New Eden,
in Homage
To Mr. Ed McClanahan, One of the Locals

The mad farmer, the thirsty one,
went dry. When he had time
he threw a visionary high
lonesome on the holy communion wine.
"It is an awesome event
when an earthen man has drunk
his fill of the blood of a god,"
people said, and got out of his way.
He plowed the churchyard, the
minister's wife, three graveyards
and a golf course. In a parking lot
he planted a forest of little pines.
He sanctified the groves,
dancing at night in the oak shades
with goddesses. He led
a field of corn to creep up
and tassel like an Indian tribe
on the courthouse lawn. Pumpkins
ran out to the ends of their vines
to follow him. Ripe plums
and peaches reached into his pockets.
Flowers sprang up in his tracks
everywhere he stepped. And then
his planter's eye fell on
that parson's fair fine lady
again. "O holy plowman," cried she,
"I am all grown up in weeds.
Pray, bring me back into good tilth."
He tilled her carefully
and laid her by, and she
did bring forth others of her kind,
and others, and some more.
They sowed and reaped till all
the countryside was filled
with farmers and their brides sowing
and reaping. When they died
they became two spirits of the woods.

On their graves were written
these words without sound:
"Here lies Saint Plowman.
Here lies Saint Fertile Ground."

Wendell Berry

First of the Month Bazooms Blogging

It's the first of July. Time for women to do a breast self exam. It's very easy to do. Here's a video with step-by-step directions. If you prefer to do your self exam at a certain point in your cycle, at least go calendar it now so you won't forget.

Men, what women would it break your heart to lose to breast cancer? Remind your wife, lover, mother, friend to do her self exam.

When it's caught early enough, breast cancer is curable.

Better Yet, Show Them The Instruments Of Torture. It Worked With Galileo

Today's NYT reports that the Catholics still haven't learned a goddamn thing from the Renaissance:

"Excommunication Is Sought for Stem Cell Researchers

Published: July 1, 2006
ROME, June 30 — Scientists who engage in stem cell research using human embryos should be subject to excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, according to a senior Vatican official.

Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, who heads the group that proposes family-related policy for the church, said in an interview with the Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana published Thursday that stem cell researchers should be punished in the same way as women who have abortions and doctors who perform them.

'Destroying an embryo is equivalent to abortion,' said the cardinal. 'Excommunication is valid for the women, the doctors and researchers who destroy embryos.'


Apparently the coo-koo cardinal doesn't understand that the research is carried out on embryos that are going to be destroyed in any event. But you know, it's simply amazing to me how the catholic church can keep making the same anti-science mistake over and over again. "And yet, it moves."

Friday, June 30, 2006

If Congress Needs a Raise, What About People on Minimum Wage?

Click here to listen to Senator Clinton explain why Congressional raises should be tied to the minimum wage. You know, an awful lot of the people earning minimum wage are women. I'm just saying.
Amazing Chinese Dance

The Thousand Hands of Buddha.

Yes, This Is How It's Done. Dems. Please Take Notice

The Carpetbagger Report explains that:

"Republican Sen. George Allen attacked his Democratic challenger's opposition to a flag-burning amendment, and James Webb retaliated by calling Allen a coward who sat out the Vietnam War 'playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada.'

The statement by a senior adviser to Webb, a decorated veteran and former secretary of the Navy, went to extraordinary lengths to question Allen's fortitude, even repeatedly using the middle name the senator detests and never uses, Felix.

'While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.'s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada,' said Webb strategist Steve Jarding in the statement Tuesday.

While Allen's campaign denied having questioned Webb's patriotism, Jarding insisted, 'People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield.'

Note to Allen: now would probably be a good time to stop using the flag as a campaign issue."
YearlyKos: Governor Mark Warner

We borrow money from China to buy oil from countries that don't like us very much.

Good News for Women, Setback for Fundie Whackjobs. It Was Ever Thus

Today's NYT reports that, "A federal vaccine advisory panel voted unanimously yesterday to recommend that all girls and women ages 11 to 26 receive a new vaccine that prevents most cases of cervical cancer.

The vote all but commits the federal government to spend as much as $2 billion alone on a program to buy the vaccine for the nation's poorest girls from 11 to 18.

The vaccine, Gardasil, protects against cancer and genital warts by preventing infection from four strains of the human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to federal health officials. The virus is also a cause of other cancers in women."

Of course, the news was received with a scowl by the whatjob fundies who hate women and want to make sure that they (1) don't enjoy sex and (2) suffer for it if they do. The article notes that, "Because Gardasil prevents a sexually transmitted disease, some religious groups have sounded reservations about vaccinating young girls.

'You can't catch the virus, you have to go out and get it with sexual behavior,' said Linda Klepacki of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group based in Colorado Springs. 'We can prevent it by having the best public health method, and that's not having sex before marriage.' [Which, I'll only point out has NEVER worked, EVER in human history, but, hey, what's a little thing like that got to do with making sure women suffer? Even in the Middle Ages when the catholic church basically ran everyone's life, people had sex outside of marriage. Awful lot of "bastards" in that period of history, in case no one noticed.]

Ms. Klepacki's group opposes mandating Gardasil vaccinations. States and school districts have the power to decide whether to mandate vaccinations, but such decisions are usually not made until at least a year after a vaccine is introduced.

In a news conference, the federal panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the immunization program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the panel's approval of Gardasil historic and 'a breakthrough for women's health.'

You know, the fundies have basically opposed every single breakthrough for women's health that there's ever been. They opposed the use of pain-killing drugs during childbirth on the grounds that women were supposed, according to their bible, to "bring forth their children in pain." Queen Victoria finally put an end to that bullshit by having anasthesia during the birth of one of her children.

Well Ms. Klepacki and her ilk lost round one on this. Expect them to beat the shit out of local school boards in the coming years trying to make sure that they don't do the right thing and mandate this vaccine along with measles, mumps, and rubella.

The World Is a Communion of Subjects Rather Than a Collection of Objects

This column in today's BBC is absolutely excellent. I'd love to have seen Dr. Harding look outside of Europe and at pre-patriarchail European thought. He'd have found that the sort of "knowing" that he describes was common and that the "dead machine" way of thinking that he describes is the exception, not the rule. I'd also have loved for him to understand that it's dualistic thinking, and a hatred of women and women's bodies, that leads to "dead machine" thinking, but, still, what he's saying MUST be understood if we are to have any hope of saving our planet. Please read the whole thing:

Stephan Harding

Modern humans have lost a vital connection to "animate Earth", says ecologist Stephan Harding in this week's Green Room. Re-connecting with the natural world and the true place of humans in the cosmos is the best route, he argues, to sustainable societies and economies.

We are wiping out so many species that biologists speak of a mass extinction more fatal than any other in our Earth's history

There is now little doubt that our culture is unleashing a vast and accelerating crisis upon the world.

We have set in train changes to our climate that seem certain to become very dangerous indeed during the next 50 years or so.

We are wiping out so many species that biologists speak of a mass extinction faster and possibly more fatal than any other in our Earth's long history.

Our social fabric is also unravelling, and as it does so crime and massive psychological problems increase apace.

As the Earth gears up to pay us back for waging our unwitting war against her, it is critically important that we discover what has made our culture so uniquely destructive.

Some believe that our inherently "sinful" human nature is to blame, that any culture with our technological might and prowess would have done the same thing; but I subscribe to a different understanding.

I believe that we are suffering from a world view so dangerously pathological that it is leading our civilisation to the brink of suicide.

The fatal flaw is this: that for us, the entire cosmos, including the Earth and all her living beings, her rocks and air and atmosphere is no more than a dead machine that we are free to exploit without limit in the furtherance of our own interests.

This notion of a mechanistic universe comes in part from the great thinkers of scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th Centuries, from men such as Descartes, Bacon and Galileo.

There is no doubt that their creation, modern science, is a brilliant and fabulously powerful intellectual achievement that has given us many significant benefits; but it has also deluded us into believing that only pure analytical reasoning can give us reliable knowledge about the world.

No wonder then that we have ended up in a "dead" cosmos, for science has taught us to be deeply suspicious of our sensual, intuitive and ethical sensibilities.

I believe that we must quickly develop an expanded science that recognises the validity of all four ways of knowing in equal measure if we are to avert the looming disaster.

When we do this, we enter the ambit of a different, more wholesome perspective in which our spontaneous, sensual experiences of the world, our deepest intuitions, our sense of what is right, and our reasoning work together to inform us, in the words of "geologian" Father Thomas Berry, that the world is a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects.

This is no new idea. Plato spoke of the anima mundi, the soul of the world, and many of the great philosophers, including Spinoza, Leibniz, and more recently AN Whitehead, considered matter itself to be sentient in its deepest roots.

Could it be that anima mundi, banished from our consciousness for 400 years, now cries out to be heard in this time of deep crisis?

Within science, she manifests in quantum theory, systems thinking, complexity theory, and, more concretely, in James Lovelock's Gaia theory.

Here we learn that far from being a dead machine, the Earth is more like a living organism in which the tightly coupled interactions between the sum of all life and the rocks, atmosphere and oceans give rise to the stunning emergent ability of the Earth as a whole to maintain habitable conditions on her ancient crumpled surface despite an ever brightening Sun and the vagaries of tectonic events.

When approached simultaneously through our four ways of knowing, Gaia theory teaches us that we live symbiotically within a vast evolving sentient creature of planetary proportions - that we are just plain members of the Gaia community, not its masters or stewards.

What would society look like if we lived according to this more animistic understanding?

We would recognise that other species, and indeed the Earth herself, have intrinsic value irrespective of their value to us.

We would deeply question our mainstream economic model, for the great wild sentient personality of our planet calls out to us to reject the endless and ever-increasing plundering of her material substrate.

Instead we would develop a "steady state" economy in which the things that grow are love, spirituality, creativity, depth of community, simple living, and the healing of the Earth, but in which our use of her "resources" is kept at levels that she can cope with.

We will never know enough about the complex dynamics of our planet to justify a solid pessimism about the future. Fear is a good motivator, but love is best of all.

So the most important task for us all now is to re-discover our sense of belonging to our animate Earth. Only then will we feel our sense of self expanding outwards to embrace the vast more-than human-world that enfolds us.

Just try it. Spend time outdoors - gazing at the sea, or laying on the ground and feeling the great spherical body of our turning world at your back as she dangles you over the infinite expanse of the cosmos.

I guarantee that you'll find an unexpected wealth of happiness and connection in that simple act. Only then will you encounter the most durable motivation for engaging in genuinely sustainable actions.

Dr Stephan Harding is resident ecologist and coordinator of the MSc in holistic science at Schumacher College in Devon, UK. His book Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia is published by Green Books

Sweet Farkin Freya on a Futile Friday

Can he REALLY be this stupid?

BBC reports that:

"Bush surprise at Sudan briefing

George Bush met the award winners from Africa for about an hour
US President George Bush expressed amazement when he heard that the south Sudan peace deal was not working 18 months after it was signed.
'That is not the information I'm getting,' he told the BBC's Khartoum reporter Alfred Taban, who was in Washington to receive an award.

He met the president in the Oval Office with three other recipients of the National Endowment for Democracy award.

Last year, Sudan emerged from a 21-year war between the north and south.

After two years of bargaining the Khartoum government and southern rebels signed a comprehensive peace deal in January 2005, that should provide a high degree of autonomy for the south.

Our correspondent says he spent almost 20 minutes talking to Mr Bush, who was very keen to hear about the situation in Sudan.

'He asked me if the peace agreement was working and I said, 'Mr President, it is not working,' and he was very surprised,' he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

When the president said that this was not what he had been informed, our reporter said he told Mr Bush: "Well, whatever information you're getting, that peace agreement is not being implemented by the government in Khartoum."

He went on to tell the president that people in southern Sudan were still waiting to see improvements to their lives.

'There's no water, there's no electricity, nothing in Juba,' our correspondent said, describing life in the capital of south Sudan.

During the discussion Mr Bush called one of his aides and asked to be given more details on southern Sudan.

'He appeared to be taking it very seriously,' our reporter said, describing the president's manner as warm and welcoming, despite the intimidating surroundings.

'You could almost feel the power radiating from the Oval Office,' our reporter said.

Mr Bush said the four African winners of the National Endowment for Democracy award, were being honoured for their 'courage and fortitude and strength in promoting freedom.'

'We've got a man from the Sudan who talked eloquently about free press,' the president said.

'My spirits are enriched by talking to freedom lovers and freedom fighters,' "


Well I'm glad it does Bush's spirits so much good to hear about "freedom lovers and freedom fighters" (which can only mean those who love freedom and those who fight freedom, right? apparently either option lifts his spirits). Especially "eloquent" talk "about free press." While Bush and his echo chamber go about lynching the NYT for reporting on Bush's spying.

But he honest-to-Hygeia doesn't know what's going on in Sudan?????????

We are so screwed.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Gift Outright

For the last few days, this poem's been running through my mind, for no good reason. Frost, who had written this poem years before, was to read it at JFK's inauguration. The bright light from the snow was blinding and Frost couldn't read, so he recited it from memory.

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

-- Robert Frost


What's always struck me was the line "Such as we were we gave ourselves outright," indicating that Frost wasn't saying so much about the great gift to us of the land, but was talking about the gift that we ourselves can give to land. It's such a lovely idea; to give yourself, outright, over to the health, the life, the needs of the land.

We've Got Magic To Do, Just For You

I'm sad to say this, but often the writing on Witchvox, as opposed to the news reporting and the community announcements, is somewhat disappointing. But this week Witchvox has an excellent article by Colleen Deatsman that ties in nicely with some of the points I tried to make in my Dark Moon Magic posting. Deatsman talls about the roll that intent, focus, and energy play in working magic.

As Deatsman explains, "The tricky part of intent is that we first need to know what we want. We need to fully understand what we are really after before we can make anything happen. In my private counseling practice, I get people all the time who have no idea what they want, or why they want it. It'’s common for people to say they want more money. I always ask them why. Invariably, their answer, their actual goal, is something completely different. That'’s why understanding and addressing one'’s intent is so very important. How can anyone expect any degree of productive outcome from magickal practice with inaccurate, conflicted, or undirected intent about what is desired?"

Further, "The second element is focus. Focus is the means, the discipline, and the pointed action we take to set our intent in motion. During ritual, energy is gathered, built, and concentrated through the action of focus."

Deatsman also notes that, "When participating in the magickal manipulation of energy, it is important to remember that the universe is sentient. All matter is densified high-vibration universal energy, and all high-vibration universal energy is intelligent. No matter what you might think of our current President, even he is comprised entirely of intelligent universal energy. For this reason, we must always exercise responsibility when employing the triumvirate of intent, focus, and energy. We must keep in mind that every component of the universe is interrelated. When we co-create reality, we are changing the shape of the universe by redirecting and reforming the currents of intelligent energy within the web."

Her statement is, I think, a nice explanation of what thealogians actually mean when the use the short-hand term, "Rule of Three." The Rule of Three states: "Ever mind the Rule of Three/Three times what thou givest returns to thee/This lesson well, thou must learn/Thee only gets what thou dost earn!" But no intelligent witch actually believes that if she binds a rapist, she'll suffer three times as much "bad lucK" as the rapist. What the rule of three really means is what Deatsman says: that when "we co-create reality, we are changing the shape of the universe by redirecting and reforming the currents of intelligent energy within the web." And, since we ourselves live in/on the web, anything that we do will affect us, as well. You can't change the system that you inhabit without affecting yourself. And there are times when the Law of Unintended Consequenses comes into play. Would that we as a species understood this on an ecological, much less a magical, basis.

So, do you perform a hex to cause John Ashcroft to get gallstones or do you cast a spell to ensure that he won't be able to violate the privacy rights of women by subpoening their medical records? Do you ask the ghost of Thomas Jefferson to haunt Bush's prayers at night or do you invoke the spirit of Dorothy Day and ask her to turn America's evangelicals into a positive force in American politics? My answer is: Yes. You do the magic that you feel called to do. And you accept when you do it that you may be changing reality in ways that will impact you in a manner that you have not completely imagined. If it makes you feel better, add a phrase such as, "For the good of all, may this or something better manifest itself/ Thiis my will, so mote it be." Or not. Either way, the Rule of Three comes down to this: A witch takes responsibility.

Two Steps Forward, One At A Time

From the NYT:

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti women voted and competed for office in parliamentary elections on Thursday for the first time in the Gulf Arab state.

``I don't know how to describe my feelings, I am so happy, it's a beautiful day as women practice their right,'' said female candidate Hind bin al-Shaikh. ``I hope a woman makes it.''

Parliament passed a law in May 2005 giving women the right to vote and stand as candidates in elections for the 50-seat National Assembly of the oil-producing country.

Officials said some 250 candidates were standing, including 28 women determined to make headway against daunting odds and beat seasoned male opponents, many of whom are former parliamentarians seeking re-election.

``The participation of women has added a new spirit to the march of democracy in Kuwait,'' Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah said during a visit to a polling station.

Women can vote and stand for election in four of the six countries in the conservative, patriarchal Gulf Arab region. They are banned in Saudi Arabia, where women's rights are limited, and there are no political polls in the UAE.

``I feel I am going to cry of happiness because it's a historic moment for Kuwait,'' said Diaa al-Saad, 55, one of the first women to vote in Jabriya.

State media reported a heavy turnout of up to 78 percent in some centers but did not give an overall figure. Polls closed at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) and results could trickle in overnight.

Men and women braved temperatures of around 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). They voted in separate stations across the conservative state as Islamists, who reject female suffrage, had demanded.

Campaigners handed out roses to voters or water bottles with candidates' photos printed on them and volunteers offered voters rides to polling stations in golf carts.


The poll was called after Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved parliament last month following a standoff between the government and opposition over electoral reforms.

The opposition accuses some members of government of trying to turn parliament into a rubber-stamp assembly through vote-buying. But officials dismissed the charges and the government says it is committed to reform in Kuwait, a U.S. ally.

Some analysts say they believe the majority of reformist former parliamentarians running will get re-elected.

Ali al-Baghli, a former oil minister, sees the opposition sweeping the polls with 30 seats. ``This will mean more crisis and more escalation with the government,'' he told Reuters.

A report by Washington-based consultancy PFC Energy said the next parliament could pose as many problems for the government as the previous one. ``There is a real sense of uncertainty on this occasion about how the crisis will resolve itself, and the election campaign has been the fiercest in recent memory.''

The opposition is a loose alliance of pro-reform ex-MPs, Islamists and liberals, tolerated in Kuwait which bans parties.

Experts say the powerful conservative Islamists' and tribes' voting hurt chances of women candidates, who say at least one of them may win as women are 57 percent of 340,000 eligible voters.

But even some women were against them having the vote.

``Women should not be in parliament fighting like men,'' said Lamiaa Khaled, 50, a housewife in conservative Islamic attire.


Lamiaa, may the Goddess guard you. May she open your heart and your mind. May she liberate you. May you know peace.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Time/Space -- It's All A Web

From theNYT article discussing a tribe of Andes "Indians":

"But the Aymara call the future qhipa pacha/timpu, meaning back or behind time, and the past nayra pacha/timpu, meaning front time. And they gesture ahead of them when remembering things past, and backward when talking about the future.

These are not mere mannerisms, the researchers argue; they are windows into the minds of Aymara speakers, who have a conception of future and past that is different from just about everyone else's.

The authors say the Aymara speakers see the difference between what is known and not known as paramount, and what is known is what you see in front of you, with your own eyes.

The past is known, so it lies ahead of you. (Nayra, or "past," literally means eye and sight, as well as front.) The future is unknown, so it lies behind you, where you can't see.

If they are right, this is bigger than anything the 60's tossed up.

Is it possible that human concepts of time can vary this much because of language and culture? And what would it be like to think this way?"

Could You Please Take Your Angry/Thunder/Mountain/Sky/Father/Warrior God and Go Home?

Both The Revealer and The Wild Hunt have posts today concerning what Slate describes as, "Jim Wallis' upcoming conference, focused on electoral politics (which, in the press, is always the most reasonable course): 'Wallis' conference this week, Pentecost 2006, writes Edlund, 'will bring hundreds of Christian activists to Washington to promote a Covenant for a New America aimed at eradicating poverty at home and abroad.'" Wallis' "compassionate Evangelicism" is contrasted with "Rabbi Michael Lerner's obviously flaky confab (think concentric prayer circles)."

You know, I'd love to see some Abrahamic cult members (i.e., xians, Jews, and Muslims) get together and start to provide a counterweight for the whackadoodle members of their cults who have been driving political discourse in the US and Middle East. But, in the end. what you've got are a bunch of old, straight, white or brown men who are members of almost indistinguishable Abrahamic cults trying to impose their views.

Mostly, I wish they'd stop this fucking nonsense. I blame partriarcy.

This Just Makes Me Feel Good All Over

Just Received This from a Local Pagan ListServ:

Earth First!:: :: Appalachia Rising - July 3-10

EF! Round River Rendezvous 2006

Some of the planned workshops are: stealth and evasion, edible and
medicinal plant walks, fighting Plan Puebla Panama, deep ecology, I-69
superhighway, hunt sabbing, sexism in the movement, earth-based
spirituality, state repression and prisoner support, primitive living
skills and a history of resistance in Appalachia.

In 1994, ya'll helped us take over the Watts Bar nuclear power plant
construction site. In 2000, ya'll came back, and we occupied Al Gore's
presidential campaign office in his home state. Well, it's 2006, and
we're starting to get a little lonely down here in the mountains, so we
thought we'd throw all of you fine folks a little party. That's right:
Kat'ah Earth First! (KEF!) is hosting the 26th annual Round River
Rendezvous (RRR).

For those of you not familiar with the area, the Kat'ah bioregion is
located in the heart of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Not only
are these some of the oldest mountains in the world, they are also home
to one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests on our
planet. Everything from bobcats and bears to copperheads and flying
squirrels live out their lives under a diverse canopy of oaks, tulip
poplars, sourwoods, hemlocks and big-leaf magnolias. Running through
every holler and valley are cool, clear streams that are filled with
salamanders, crawdads and trout. If that's not enough for you, Kat?ah
also holds some of the largest, most pristine wilderness areas on the
East Coast.

Many of the folks who inhabit these mountains have lived here for
generations and maintain a close connection to the land. They still
depend on wild foods such as ramps, chicken of the woods, blackberries
and wild game to supplement their diets. And there is still many an
old-timer who heads out each Fall to dig ginseng, goldenseal and other
medicinal roots. But not everything is peachy in Kat'ah these days.
Just when you think you've found paradise, someone's gotta shit on your

The forests, having nearly recovered from intensive logging during the
1800s and early 1900s, were met with a new threat in the '90s:
chipmills. These voracious consumers of trees have popped up all over
southern Appalachia like scabies at a Rainbow Gathering, greatly
intensifying the rate at which our southeastern forests are being
logged. This new wave of industrial logging has been met with stiff
resistance and direct action by KEF!.

However, one of the worst threats to the area goes beyond clearcuts.
The corporations and their lackeys have begun to blast the entire tops
off of our mountains to get their greedy hands on the thin seams of
coal beneath the surface. Through this process, known as mountaintop
removal (MTR), we have seen hundreds of square miles of our lush
mountains blasted into flattened moonscapes?the biological equivalent
of a parking lot. On top of this, more than 1,000 miles of our
life-giving streams have been buried by mining "overburden" (i.e., the
remnants of a mountaintop after blasting), not to mention the miles of
stream rendered uninhabitable by toxic mine runoff. To put it bluntly,
MTR is the "final solution" for the mountains we call home. Trees can
grow back, mountains cannot.

With Smoky Mountain National Park ranking second only to Los Angeles in
smog levels on some Summer days, air pollution is clearly a major
threat to the Kat?ah bioregion (thanks Tennessee Valley Authority!).
And the government wants to build two roads in and near the park. The
first one, the North Shore Road, is a proposed 34-mile incursion into
the park, the largest roadless area in the East. This road would
endanger more than 100 mountain streams and open up one of our finest
wilderness areas to cars and their accompanying pollution. To add
insult to injury, a couple of politicians from Georgia have proposed
the new Interstate 3, which would run from Savannah, Georgia, to
Knoxville, Tennessee. One of the main justifications for this highway
is the almighty need to facilitate tourism in the area. Not only does
the proposed route flank the park's southern border and ruin a prime
stretch of the Appalachian Trail, it would also require blasting
several mountains and displacing a number of mountain communities.

Lastly, as if KEF! didn't have our hands full enough with the US Forest
Service's timber sales, these assholes now want to privatize several
thousand acres of our national forests. The Southeast is getting hit
particularly hard by this program, which is being billed as a way to
fund rural schools. KEF! plans to fight this new privatization program
tooth and nail. Well, that's the lowdown on what's happening here in
Kat'ah. We hope you can come on down for the RRR and help us raise some

The Nitty Gritty

What to Expect at This Year's RRR

KEF! has got a jam-packed week of workshops, skillshares, hiking,
swimming and howlin' around the campfire in store for you. This year's
RRR will be held in the coal-bearing mountains that straddle the
Kentucky-Virginia border. That's right, we'll be camping in King Coal's
backyard. We figured you gotta stay close to your enemy. Don't worry
though, we're not going to make you camp in an abandoned strip mine.
There is still plenty of beautiful, untouched wilderness in these

That said, KEF! is really hoping to use this RRR to turn up the heat on
the coal companies tearing apart our mountains.
Mine-site tours are being planned so that you can see firsthand what
King Coal is doing to our land. We'll be having lots of locals stopping
by to tell their stories of the terror they live with under the wrath
of coal companies, as well as sharing stories of their resistance to
coal mining. KEF! is also hoping to keep the momentum going on new
projects that were started at this year's EF! Organizers' Conference.
Folks from Latin America, as well as other parts of the world, will be
present to continue to foster the international network of EF!ers. If
you know any international ecological activists who would be interested
in attending, throw a fundraiser and get them over here. KEF! is also
in need of funds to make sure that this international component of EF!
gatherings continues.

This RRR will include the second meeting of the EF! Climate Caucus,
which was born in the swamps of south Florida in February. For those of
you interested in organizing a kick-ass direct-action campaign against
climate change, this is the place to be.

Of course, there will be the usual milieu of workshops this Summer.
While we're not going to promise you anything as controversial (or
interactive) as the 2000 Fight Club, we do have quite a few engaging
presentations for you. Some of the planned workshops are: stealth and
evasion, edible and medicinal plant walks, fighting Plan Puebla Panama,
deep ecology, I-69 superhighway, hunt sabbing, sexism in the movement,
state repression and prisoner support, primitive living skills and a
history of resistance in Appalachia. If you are interested in doing a
workshop, please get in touch with us.

You can expect plenty of fun and games too, including bioregional
competitions, an EF! raffle, the Warrior Poets Society's "Night to
Howl," a square dance and the annual EF! rally with rockin' musicians,
fiery speakers and a whole lot of fun.

We are also planning to have childcare and activities for kids, so
bring your youngens. But please keep in mind that the RRR is not the
place for dogs, so leave them at home.

What to Bring

* An open mind
* Food (there may not be a communal kitchen)
* Cooking gear
* Cups, plates, bowls, silverware
* Sweatshirt or jacket
* Rain gear
* Camping gear
* Some sort of personal water purification system (iodine tablets,
filter, etc.)
* Insect repellent, if that's your thing (though please keep in mind
that any toxins you bring will end up in our ecosystem)
* Non-detergent soap
* An affinity group (if you have one) 'cuz KEF! is planning some fun
for ya'll!

Special Note

The organizers of this year's RRR are trying to make the gathering a
safe space. We want to create a space as free from oppression as
possible, where everybody feels comfortable. To make this happen,
sexist remarks or behavior will not be tolerated. The same goes for
incidences of racism, homophobia, transphobia and sexual assault.
Basically, while you're enjoying life in beautiful southern Appalachia,
please keep in mind how your behavior could have an impact on others.
There will be a conflict resolution team on hand to deal with these
issues and others. They will be identified at each morning circle.

For more information, directions or to make a donation, contact Katuah
EF!, POB 1485, Asheville, NC 28802; (866) 411-8016 | |

Come The Fuck On, People. This Has Got To Stop. Takes A Generation My Ass

From today's EEI newsletter:
"Environmental Report Cites GHG Emissions From U.S. Autos

A report to be released today by the group Environmental Defense cites vehicles driven in the U.S. and the driving habits of Americans as a big factor in the country’s high contribution to GHG emissions, the Washington Post reported today. Wrote the newspaper: "Vehicles made by GM, the No. 1 U.S. automaker, produced as much carbon dioxide in 2004 as American Electric Power Co., the nation's largest operator of coal-fired power plants, the report says." Americans drive 29 percent more miles than the global average, consume more fuel, and drive vehicles that emit, on average, 15 percent higher CO2 levels than cars elsewhere. The study’s lead author, John DeCicco, was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying: 'As Americans we're going to be living down the SUV boom for a long time,' he said. 'The implication is that we can't turn the emissions problem on a dime. It takes a generation.'
Washington Post ; Los Angeles Times , June 28."

Since We're The Reality-Based Community, Could We Please Deal In Facts?

Already seeing and hearing that Senator Clinton voted for the Constitutional Amendment to criminalize flag-burning. Not so. Clinton voted against it.

She did support a law that would have criminalized it, in the same way that, for example, hate speech is criminalized (that measure was defeated). I wish she hadn't. It was a clear attempt to triangulate in anticipation of her upcoming presidential bid, but it was wrong and, in the end, won't win her any support from the whackadoodles who think that burning the flag is some kind of big fucking deal (it's not).

As the NYT noted, "With more than half of Democrats supporting the measure, the outcome suggested that Mrs. Clinton's approach had plenty of adherents within her party, and that while she might have tried the patience of her core liberal supporters, she remained within the Democratic fold as she prepared for a possible presidential race.

The divergent views of her position reflect a broader rift in the Democratic Party over whether the key to electoral success rests in winning over centrists or by drawing clear distinctions with Republicans by staking out unapologetically liberal positions." I don't imagine anyone has any doubt about where I come out on this debate.

But could we at least be honest? When it came time to vote, she voted against the amendement.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sometimes An Example Is The Most Important Thing In The World

i wish Freeway would write more often.
Kittens take their first steps

watertiger and Eli wish they were me!

Republicans Vote To Allow Fred Phelps To Harass Widows and Gold Star Mothers

From the WaPo:

"{T]he Senate defeated an alternative measure sponsored by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the minority whip. It would have criminalized flag desecration intended to incite violence or carried out on U.S. government property, but without changing the Constitution. The Durbin proposal also would have prohibited unauthorized demonstrations at the funerals of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Democrats argued that the measure would have passed constitutional muster in the same way that bans on cross-burning have been upheld by the Supreme Court. But the Senate rejected it by a vote of 64 to 36."

Fred Phelps is the "minister" of Westboro Baptist "Church" who shows up at the funerals of dead American soldiers and protests at their funderals with signs saying "God Hates Fags," and so on.

The Democrats wanted to put an end to his viscious harassment. The Republicans think that what he does is just fine.

Why do the Republicans hate our troops?

All Acts of Love and Pleasure

Neil Gaiman makes me hungry for New Orleans. Goddess, don't tell hiim about Bayona's. I want to get a table the next time I'm there.


I looked up this morning from my meetings, conference calls, memos, and obligations to realize that 2006 is almost half over. Back when 2006 was just a gleam in Chronos' eye, I did tarot readings for some of you.

I'd love to know how they panned out. Did I hit the mark or was I wildly off? Please take just a minute and give me some feedback.

And, I'll gladly do readings for the first 25 responders, focusing on the coming six months. It may take me a few days, but I will do the readings and post the results in comments. Pick three cards -- one for the past, one for the present, and one for the future and tell me what you pulled. You can either use Lunea Weatherstone's lovely deck, linked in my blogroll, or your own deck, assuming that it's a Rider-Waite based-deck.

We have six precious months, July, August, September, October, November, and December to thrive in 2006. What does that mean to you?

The Most Boring People In The World Want To Make All The Rest Of Us Just Like Them.

Isaac Bonewits has an excellent post up about the Religious Reich. He notes that, "Remember, Fundamentalists + Money + Political Power = Fundamentalists with Weapons = Terrorists. It’s more urgent than ever than sane people, of all moderate religions and none, unite to stop the religious lunatics from bringing on the Armegeddon they so lust after."

Bonewits provides some suggestions, via America United's Church and State newsletter. Here's the list:

1. Be active in Americans United. If you are not a member, become one. Support AU financially. Sign up for AU’s Activist Network at AU’s Web site: Join an AU chapter if there is one in your area. If not, consider forming one.

2. Get involved politically. Register to vote and pay attention to what candidates say about church-state issues. Attend voter forums and ask questions. Participate in voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. (Note: You may do what you want in politics as a private citizen, but remember that houses of worship and non-profit groups may not intervene in partisan politics.)

3. Speak out in public to defend the separation of church and state. Respond to letters to the editor attacking church-state separation or spreading misinformation about the principle. Remember that many people are undecided about these issues and need to see both sides.

4. Mobilize the faith community. If you attend a house of worship, ask your religious leaders to publicly support church-state separation. When religious leaders speak out in favor of church-state separation, it debunks the Religious Right canard that separation is hostile to faith.

5. Support public education. Pub­lic schools are often the Religious Right’s public enemy number one. Support public schools, even if you don’t have children attending them. Public education free from sectarian control is in everyone’s interest. Oppose Religious Right efforts to starve our schools by denying them an adequate tax base.

6. Expose Religious Right extremism. Remind your friends and neighbors that the Religious Right holds extreme views, far outside the mainstream. Use Church & State and the AU Web site to demonstrate the theocratic goals of the Religious Right.

7. Educate the public. Find out if your local public library will accept a free subscription to Church & State. Also consider donating books that promote AU’s point of view.

8. Contact your member of Con­gress. If legislation is introduced that threatens the separation of church and state, speak up. Write a letter, send an e-mail or send a fax to your senators and representative in the House. Let him or her know where you stand. (AU’s Church-State Action Center can help you with this. Go to and click on “Legislative Action.”)

9. Speak to your local lawmakers. If there is a church-state controversy in your community, speak up. Address lawmakers at a public meeting. Gather supporters to your side. For more advice, contact Americans United.

10. Report a violation of church-state separation. If you are concerned that an action or legislation in your local public schools, local government or state government may violate separation of church and state, report it to Americans United’s Legal Department. Go to and click on “In the Courts” and then “Report a Violation” for more information.


The Wild Hunt has a great post about a group of religious leaders taking on the Catholic Church for trying to keep the rest of us from practicing our own religions. You should go read the whole thing, but here's just a taste:

"[N]o one faith should dictate, control, or unfairly influence the legal status of the sacred rites of another, and . . . where matters of love and the gods are concerned no human agency should meddle. While many of my readers are not practitioners of religious Witchcraft, I think this phrase from Doreen Valiente's 'The Charge of The Goddess' is most appropriate.

'Let my worship be with the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.'

While the powerful and influential will continue to try to hold a monopoly on truth, they can't stop our sacred rites from happening. We will continue to marry and handfast those who are joined by love, no matter their gender, and eventually, the walls of a manufactured single truth will crack and crumble and all those joined will be lifted up together free of the boundaries that separate us."

In Her Own Words

I continue to believe that it's a good idea to read what Hillary Clinton actually says rather than what other people say that she said. Here's a speech that she gave on June 16th concerning privacy -- something the Bush administration has been stealing from Americans almost as fast as they steal our dollars, jobs, and environment. Introductory thanks to the group deleted. Emphasis mine in all instances.

Remarks of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Privacy to the American Constitution Society

I am giving a speech today on one of the most important issues facing us as individuals and as a nation. I believe we are a country headed in the wrong direction in many ways and it’s time to take some fundamental changes in direction in order to make our economy work for all people, to protect our national security in a realistic, effective way, and preserve our values.

Well, privacy is a crossroad of all these issues. And modern life makes many things easier, and many things easier to know. And yet privacy is somehow caught in the crosshairs of these changes.

Our economy is increasingly data driven. We have dramatically ramped up surveillance in our efforts to fight the terrorists who hide among innocent civilians. But every day the news contains a story of how the records of millions of consumers, veterans, patients have been compromised.

At all levels, the privacy protections for ordinary citizens are broken, inadequate and out of date.

Back when I was in law school, the dark ages -- actually what our dean at the time called it -- the first thing we learned about the right to privacy was that it sprung from the mind of Louis Brandeis, beginning with a law review article in the 1890s and later in the famous Olmstead dissent that first set out what later courts have recognized as our constitutional right to privacy. Justice Brandeis, as I’m sure you all recall, wrote that the Framers “recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations.” As Brandeis put it, the Constitution confers “the right to be let alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.”

The right to be let alone. Now I can just imagine some of you thinking what on earth would I know about that? I’m sure you might find it slightly ironic for me to have chosen the topic of privacy for this talk -- since I seem to have so little of it in my own life.

Now, my experience with privacy policy have been, let us say, unique. I’m not the victim of identity theft – though I do sometimes see myself referred to in the media and wondering who they’re talking about. But having lost so much of my own privacy in recent years, I have a deep appreciation of its value – and a firm commitment to protecting it for all the rest of you –and I hope that you will take these remarks with that thought in mind that I am an expert in the perils of losing your privacy.

Most people cherish their privacy, that fundamental desire to be let alone. They see it as essential to their liberty that they be able to go about their daily business free from surveillance and interference. And yet in modern society – without greater safeguards – we are all open books to whoever has access to the data we create every day, from credit cards to store cameras to phone company records. The challenge we face is how to take advantage of all the advantages of technology without losing something precious – which is I think the challenge that we confront individually and as a society.

Now fortunately, we have a uniquely American way of thinking about the privacy challenges we face. It is as old as our Constitution and as new as the firewalls on the Internet. And it is called checks and balances. Now, that has a specific Constitutional meaning to all of you in this room today, but it also has a broader colloquial meaning that is part of the genius of American society – our ability to balance and safeguard our cherished values even as we take full advantage of new innovations.

I believe that it is not just a possibility, but a necessity, that we preserve our right to privacy, while we also participate freely in the modern world and defend our national security. But if we keep going as we are, there will be little left of that cherished right. Every phone call, every Internet search, every credit card purchase -- they are all under potential surveillance from business and government, unless we start to draw the line, reinforce people's basic rights, and put checks and balances back into our system.

Now, privacy and national security have gone hand in hand since America’s beginnings. When the Framers adopted the Fourth Amendment, they had in mind the intrusive and threatening searches that British authorities felt free to carry out on a whim. Well we’re reminded of that again today with the Supreme Court’s decision. The value of the Fourth Amendment is as strong and important now as it was back when British soldiers were garrisoned involuntarily in people’s homes. The 1967 Katz decision demonstrated how this right evolves with technology, establishing a right to privacy, respecting wiretaps. So too the 2001 opinion by Justice Scalia prohibiting the police from using a thermal image to scan a home without a warrant. Privacy is not and should not be a liberal value or a conservative value. It is fundamentally an American value. It is a human value.

Privacy means security in our homes and in our private communications and activities. It is synonymous with liberty, in the sense that every person enjoys a zone of freedom that government may not violate. And we have to operate from a presumption that the Fourth Amendment means that no matter how easily our privacy can be violated, that we still have a basic right to protect the collection and dissemination of information about ourselves from our government. Now, we have to remember that we also have to start all analysis of privacy with this basic notion: individuals have a right to privacy unless there is a compelling reason to breach it. But privacy is not to be the exception, it is the standard.

Today our privacy comes into uncertain conflict with security cameras, data mining, computer hackers and identity theft. We’re concerned not just with government action, but with the ability of the private sector, even our neighbors, to misuse or provide insufficient protection for our personal information.

So therefore we do need legal protections that are up to date with the technological and national security needs of our time – for a world in which we can be confident that our security and our privacy are both protected. And that is what I would like to propose today.

Well, right now, many Americans are frightened, and confused, about losing their privacy. We see patterns of carelessness and outright fraud at the same time as we are exposed to data-gathering and marketing gimmicks at every turn.

According to the non-profit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the personal information of more than one in four Americans – 85 million people – has been compromised in just the last 15 months. Now some of these were massive breaches, like the theft of a single Veterans’ Administration laptop with the Social Security numbers and medical information of 26.5 million people.

Just this year in my state of New York, an armed robbery in New Jersey netted private information on 17,000 patients from a New York hospital; a hacker broke into a retail website in Buffalo and stole credit card data; data tapes for virtually every employee of the Long Island Railroad were lost by a delivery service; two laptops full of employee data were stolen from Verizon; a hard drive containing information on 300,000 certified public accountants was lost in shipment; a laptop with bank account information was stolen from a subcontractor in Buffalo. Now that’s more than half a million people affected in less than six months, in one state.

And the personal stories can be heartbreaking. My office has heard from a minister harassed, wrongly, by credit agencies; a woman whose trusted tax adviser opened bank accounts and stole money in her name; a breast cancer patient whose mammography records were lost.

But at the same time, Americans are asking, privacy at what price, when we are confronted by criminals and terrorists who respect none of our core values. Terrorists don’t hesitate to use modern information technology – cell phones and the Internet. We need to be able to track them. Meanwhile, new techniques like data mining have changed many of the things we thought we knew about surveillance. Americans are genuinely unsure about whether we can keep both our privacy and our security.

But this is one of the most fundamental questions about what kind of country we will be. How we greet the challenges of a more connected, data driven world like our own, while preserving our core values, requires that we take a new comprehensive policy look at what to do to promote a new privacy agenda. I’m proposing that we have a new privacy Bill of Rights that secures the interests of consumers; provides stronger, better-enforced protection for medical privacy; and a new national security consensus setting out clear rules to allow the government to use new intelligence techniques within a rule of law framework and making sure that the public knows its rights and the government’s limits.

When you talk about privacy, we can start where most people live, which is consumer privacy. Few of us would go back to days when we made all our purchases with cash and we could only get money out of the bank during what used to be called “bankers’ hours.”

In fact, information technology often makes us and our personal information safer, when we don’t have to carry large amounts of cash around, when we can pay bills electronically rather than by mail. But the public doesn’t feel more secure, and with stories like ChoicePoint, or Bank America or the VA thefts in the news, they have good reason not to.

So we need a new set of consumer protections that boil down to three basic rights. First, people have the right to know, and to correct, information which is being kept about them. Second, people have the right to know what is happening to their personal information when they are cooperating with a business and to make decisions about how their information is used. And third, in a democracy, people have the right and the obligation to hold their government and the private sector to the highest standards of care with the information they gather. These rights should be basic to all of the commercial transactions we undertake and be part of a basic privacy bill of rights that has to be adhered to by every commercial information gatherer or marketer.

Now my Privacy Bill of Rights will be encapsulated in the PROTECT Act, which stands for -- you know when you’re in the Congress you have to find acronyms, spend hours figuring out how to describe legislation in words that can then spell something. So I give my staff full credit for this. But the PROTECT Act which stands for Privacy Rights and Oversight for Electronic and Commercial Transactions. Pretty good. This legislation not only provides clear privacy rules, but it gives you clear protections for your most private information; the right to sue when those rules have been violated, the right to protect your phone records, the right to freeze your credit when your identity has been stolen, the right to know what businesses are doing with your credit and credit reports, and the right to expect the government to use the best privacy practices itself with your information.

We should start with the principle that, for the most deeply personal information about how we spend money on a daily basis, your information should be shared only when you “opt in.” We know that a booming industry is tracking every purchase you’ve made with your debit or credit cards or personal checks. This means that if you’ve failed to check that tiny little opt out box on your credit card company or your bank privacy statement, there may be a profile on what you read, what you wear – and in what size – and what over the counter drugs you take and what books and music you buy. And that profile then may be bought and sold and shared with third parties everyday.

The opt out protections under current law can be helpful, but for some things the default privacy agreement should be that companies cannot share this information without your explicit agreement to “opt in.” Opt out protection essentially assigns property rights of your personal information to financial institutions, while opt-in awards ownership to consumers. I believe opting in for these types of transactions would reinforce the relatively simple and reasonable concept that you own your information about yourself and you should have control over how it is shared.

The foundation of our legal system is the right to seek redress through the courts. Right now, we have no set definition of what privacy violations cost the individual, and little incentive for banks and other businesses in many instances to protect your data with the highest level of security. As a result, it is very hard for consumers to sue. Legislation I will introduce will create a tiered system of damages, exempting the smallest businesses with set minimums of $1000 for breaches and $5000 for actual misuse of information.

The burden of prevention belongs on the companies that handle our data. We established this principle for stolen credit cards in the 1968 Truth in Lending Act – and that has spawned a whole industry of credit card protection, which is constantly improving to outwit thieves. We need the same standards for other information.

Right now, the rules covering data processors are unclear, especially in cases where projects are outsourced. We need the FTC to issue a single, clear set of rules that provides comprehensive protection against unauthorized access or security breaches.

Right now, it’s too easy to purchase, post or trade cell phone numbers and records. Canadian government officials, journalists, even General Wes Clark, have had their cell phone numbers and records sold to anyone willing to put up the money. And those are just the cases we know about, because reporters and bloggers were doing the buying to draw attention to the threat. Buying and selling that kind of information is a gross invasion of personal privacy – but it’s not clear that it is a crime. And this is only going to get more challenging as consumers move to phone service based on broadband Internet technology, for which no regulations currently exist. My legislation will try to get ahead of the curve of technology, making sure that consumers’ private cell phone numbers and call records remain private.

Right now, if you’ve been victimized, you can place a credit “alert.” But you cannot freeze your credit. If you are a veteran, concerned about your credit because your Social Security number has been compromised, you should be able to call Equifax and say, “No access, and no new credit.”

We also have to strengthen the right to know provision. If your credit or identity is compromised, you should be notified immediately, not days, weeks even months later. Because this is required in some states but not all, a large percentage of identity theft victims are unaware that anything has happened to put their information at risk.

Some firms are now sending data abroad for processing, away from the protections of U.S. law. As inadequate as it is, at least it is a framework better than you’ll find in most of the rest of the world. The potential dangers of this practice are illustrated by the case of an employee in a Pakistani data center doing cut-rate clerical work for an American medical center who threatened to post patients confidential files on the internet unless she was paid more money. Moreover, last year employees doing data processing work for an Indian outsourcing company stole $350,000 from four Citibank customers. Last year I proposed the SAFE-ID bill which ensures that customers will be notified when their personal data is sent abroad, and they should have the right to opt out. This would have two benefits: again, putting the control of information in your own hands, but also sending the message to other countries that if they want to continue employing people in this very lucrative, rapidly growing area of information handling, they need to strengthen their own laws.

The credit industry makes its profits from information that determines whether you can buy a home or send your child to college. You ought to have that information provided to you once each year without paying a fee or jumping through hoops. It shouldn’t be a gold-plated, extra-fee service to let consumers know when someone changes their credit ratings – and we need to make that standard practice.

Across the federal government, privacy concerns are not getting the priority attention they deserve. The results are embarrassing to this Administration and unacceptable for citizens whose privacy and security may be at risk from their own government’s sloppy practices. That’s why the PROTECT Act would create a high-level privacy czar in the Office of Management and Budget. A Chief Privacy Officer for our government would have oversight into the workings of every government department, and power to make sure that the law is being followed and best practices being implemented. We had a privacy czar during the Clinton Administration, but the current administration chose not to follow that model.

There’s no better example of why we need a so-called privacy czar than the theft last month of personal data from 26.5 million veterans and more than a million active-duty servicemen and women. And just yesterday we learned that an offshore medical transcription subcontractor for the VA threatened to post the medical histories and health information of over 30,000 veterans online over a payment dispute. This tells us that the oversight of data processing procedures at the management level of our federal agencies is insufficient at best since several VA officials, including a director, were not even aware that their contractors were sending the most sensitive information of our veterans to countries with few privacy and data security regulations. It’s part of the reason we need the SAFE-ID protections I mentioned earlier. But we need to go further.

This week I joined with my Democratic colleagues to demand accountability from the Administration for this personal data theft of millions of records. We are asking the U.S. Comptroller General to conduct an in-depth study to get the facts on this breach and to address the vulnerabilities that led to it. We also introduced legislation to establish Federal penalties for people who knowingly use personal or health information from a Federal database.

The theft of this data and the Administration’s lax response is a disgrace – soldiers serving in harms’ way should not have to bear the additional burden of worrying about identity theft, and we need to get to the bottom of this to prevent it from happening again. Perhaps if we had the office of the Chief Privacy Officer this might not have happened or would have come to light much sooner.

We also face a critical balancing act in the area of health privacy. Patients’ lives may depend on sharing their most intimate information. Our ability to control costs and improve the quality of healthcare certainly depends on moving away from paper-based medicine to information superhighway medicine.

I’ve worked with Newt Gingrich on this, and when Newt and I agree, you know something unusual is happening.

Newt likes to say, when it comes to medicine, “paper kills,” and he’s absolutely right. But if we can’t assure Americans that their information is safe, we won’t be able to move forward on health information technology that I believe will save billions of dollars, improve care, and reduce error rates.

We had no federal protections for health information at all until the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – also known as HIPAA, a different kind of acronym - was enacted under the Clinton Administration. HIPAA provided important protections of patients’ most private information – their medical information. HIPAA provides a baseline, but the business of healthcare is changing fast, and information technology is changing even faster. Consumers are getting care – and risking their information – in ways that no one could have foreseen a few years ago. And, this Administrations’ indifference toward HIPAA and its enforcement has made even the protections we have utterly inadequate.

Now, HIPAA is not without practical challenges – there is still confusion about the rules for releasing information to relatives for example. We are still trying to strike the right balance between promoting research into diseases and protecting an individual’s heath information. We need to build on the base HIPAA provides by improving enforcement and making sure we have one set of high standards for everyone who deals with health information.

HIPAA was designed to have teeth – government monitoring, fines and legal actions against companies that violate the law. But instead of spot checks and audits, HHS waits for a complaint and then investigates. There have been well over, I think, 35,000 complaints at the last count and not a single civil, monetary penalty has been imposed. This is clearly not working. And because of lax enforcement, we’re now seeing compliance with HIPAA on the decline because people know they won’t be held responsible.

What is more, the Department of Justice ruled last year that employees of HIPAA-covered entities, like hospitals for example, are not themselves automatically liable, and therefore may not be held accountable for illegally accessing or misusing private information. And hackers who break into computer systems that are covered in institutions that are accountable to HIPAA may also not be liable either. Now, this penalizes those businesses that are serious about protecting privacy – and it penalizes Americans when they are most vulnerable. We need to get back into balance on protecting medical information and enforcing the rules that we do have.

Now, consumers have all kinds of new on-line options in healthcare. They can go to sites like WebMD for medical advice. They can create Internet-based personal health records that keep all their information in one place. But HIPAA doesn’t protect you if these new services violate your privacy. So we need to strengthen the federal protections so that there is no debate. Everyone who traffics in your health care information is accountable. Period. No exceptions.

And with the rapid growth of DNA-bases, databases, and the many uses of generic information on the horizon, we must also ensure that this information is protected to prevent genetic discrimination. In 2000, my husband issued an executive order banning genetic discrimination in the Federal workplace. And I have been working with my colleagues in the Senate to enact legislation to ensure that these protections apply to the private sector. Developments in science should move us forward, not reverse progress. And discrimination based on genetic information to get a job, to get insurance, could be a devastating blow to so many people if this is left unchecked.

And finally when it comes to national security, we’ve seen to our dismay that this Administration is not doing a good enough job in protecting the personal information of veterans, Medicare and Medicaid patients. And we have grave doubts about whether it even cares to protect personal information about citizens.

We learned just a couple of days ago that in September of last year, a computer hacker was able to steal the personal records of at least 1,500 employees and contractors of the National Nuclear Safety Administration. That is the federal agency charged with guarding our country’s nuclear weapons stockpile. This time it was personal information. Next time who knows what kind of information will be compromised or how, either, forms of information could be used. The writing is on the wall. It is in neon. It is time to get serious about cyber-security.

Unfortunately, the task of beefing up our cyber-security has been kicked around multiple offices at the Department of Homeland Security. Several political appointees have quit in frustration. We are just living on borrowed time. We need to make sure that we are better prepared against cyber-attacks than we turned out to be against hurricanes.

We also face the challenge of balancing the vital role that information technology plays in defending our national security with our citizens’ rights to privacy. So much of what we know about terrorists, and the successes we have had in preventing and thwarting attacks and tracking would-be perpetrators, has been through information technology. We track terrorists across continents through their cell phones. We monitor terrorist supporters through Internet chat rooms. We had phone intercepts that should have given us advance notice of 9-11, if we had been paying attention.

Now, although our Founding Fathers could not have imagined data mining or terror cells, they did anticipate differences of opinion between the Executive and Legislative Branches, and even within them. And they created the system of checks and balances enshrined in our Constitution.

Now, I believe that the President, and I mean any President, must have the ability to pursue terrorists and defend our national security with the best technology at hand. But we have existing law that allows that: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or so-called FISA. We have judicial mechanisms in place that this Administration could have used to obtain authority for what it did. We have a system of Congressional oversight and review that this Administration could have used to obtain a legislative solution to these challenges.

Instead, they relied on questionable legal authority and bypassed our system of checks and balances. In the months since NSA’s activities have come to light, both the Legislative Branch and the Judiciary have attempted to learn more about the Administration’s surveillance programs. In denying Congress and the courts any information, the Administration’s refrain has been “trust us.” They’ve used it to justify frustrating legislative oversight, deny the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility the clearances they needed to conduct an internal investigation, and just a few days ago we learned they are now invoking it, invoking the states’ secret exception to shut down any judicial review of their conduct through assertion of that privilege. That’s unacceptable. Their track record does not warrant our trust.

Now, this has been the subject of numerous decisions, not on this point exactly but going back years. And in Justice Douglas’s concurrence in the Katz warrantless wiretapping case in 1967 he said it very clearly and I think it still applies today: “Neither the President nor the Attorney General is a magistrate. In matters where they believe national security may be involved they are not detached, disinterested, and neutral as a court or magistrate must be. Under the separation of powers created by the Constitution, the Executive Branch is not supposed to be neutral and disinterested… I cannot agree that where spies and saboteurs are involved adequate protection of Fourth Amendment rights is assured when the President and Attorney General assume both the position of adversary-and-prosecutor and disinterested, neutral magistrate.”

The answer to this delicate security dilemma is neither blank checks nor blanket opposition; it is to use the judicial and legislative mechanisms we have to build a consensus about what is necessary, what is legal, and what is effective.

So first Congress must have an oversight role and help decide where to draw the line between privacy and national security. But we can’t draw anything without knowing the facts. At a minimum, the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees are entitled to know, on a confidential basis, when and wherever necessary, the full extent and rationale for any electronic surveillance programs.

If the executive needs additional authority to legitimately monitor and track terrorists, it should not just simply overlook and ignore the law. The President feels he needs to more flexibility in order to protect our security, he should engage the Congress. As our technology and methods become more advanced and creative, so should the protections we build into our system of checks and balances. It is a cause for deep concern that the Administration did not seek changes to the FISA law to legitimize its surveillance program, but instead deliberately chose to act outside of that law.

Second, the judiciary also has a critical role to play in guarding our privacy from unnecessary government intrusion. As a general rule, when the government wants to conduct electronic surveillance in the United States, it must go before a judge and obtain a warrant. There is no evidence that the courts have not taken seriously the national security imperatives asserted by the Executive Branch, and effectively protected the security of sensitive information. The FISA courts have a proven track record of being able to protect our security and privacy simultaneously. We can allow for carefully defined exceptions to the warrant requirement in the immediate aftermath of war, and allowances can be made for greater flexibility – for example, warrants after the fact, in cases of true emergencies. But as Justice Harlan said in the Katz case, “warrants are the general rule.”

Third, any framework for domestic surveillance must ultimately facilitate, not hinder, effective intelligence-gathering to prevent terrorism. Our surveillance capabilities must have speed, agility, and flexibility. They must also be accurate – both to minimize false positives, which unduly burden the rights of innocent people, and false negatives, which leave potential dangers undetected. This can be done within our system of checks and balances and within the rule of law.

The rule of law is not an obstacle, despite what some in the Executive Branch seem to believe. In fact, the rule of law facilitates our safety and security. Without clear rules, our intelligence analysts don't have guidance on how they should gather intelligence; the intelligence they do collect is distributed haphazardly throughout government agencies; and useful intelligence that could help bring terrorists to justice could be rendered worthless because it was gathered through extra-legal means. If we want to protect our safety and our privacy, we need clear guidelines and we need to get smart about technologies.

Now, one promising approach suggested by thinkers on both sides of the political spectrum is the use of anonymization. That’s technology that protects the privacy of individuals while allowing the government to analyze data. This technology would essentially erase the personal identification attached to information that is monitored, unless red flags are triggered. But whatever our approach, we need to be as creative and imaginative in protecting Americans’ privacy as we are in protecting their security. And we need to abandon the idea that privacy and security are mutually exclusive.

You know, in our society, it is the people who have given their collective rights to the government to use only as necessary. The government derives its ability to undertake surveillance only because we have given it a limited right under justified circumstances.

And you don’t have to go back many years to document abuses at the highest levels. I worked for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate Investigation, and our committee found that the President had not only bugged the Democratic National Committee with former CIA operatives, but had also created enemies lists and manipulated IRS audits. Without the right checks and balances, we found out just how quickly the unthinkable can be done by people whose power is unchecked.

Now as there is a legitimate rush to step up our intelligence for real needs, let’s not forget all of the lessons we have learned over the past 220 years. What might seem sensible at the moment can be used unscrupulously in the future. Unchecked mass surveillance without judicial review may sometimes be legal but it is dangerous.

Every president should save those powers for limited, critical situations, and when it comes to a regular program of searching for information that touches the privacy of ordinary Americans, those programs need to be monitored and reviewed as set out by Congress in cooperation with the Judiciary. That is the essence of the compact we have with each other and with our government, and we cannot ignore it.

So we don’t need to abandon our cherished rights. We don’t need more false debates – liberty versus security, privacy versus danger. What we need is to come together and develop a consensus about how to protect our privacy in a more data driven and dangerous world. This issue is too important to be dealt with haphazardly. It is really too important to be ignored. So let’s stand by a few cherished American ideals. Let’s think intelligently about how to apply what we now face in the new century within the framework of values that have stood the test of time.

We are, after all, a country built on individual liberty, including individual privacy, as well as collective safety and security. We have been very good over the years in resolving the tensions between those two points. And as we look at the rights of the people and the imperatives of the government, we need to see them from the same vantage point, not as competition but as all of seeking the kind of results that will make us a safer, freer people. Our Constitution is fully up to the challenge of protecting our privacy and our security today. The real question is whether we are up to the challenge of enacting laws and implementing policies that honor it.

Where DID I Put My Keys?

Oh, shit. I am SO screwed

Daou To Work With Clinton On Netroot Connections -- Good Move, Hil

Salon's Daou Report:

I have been offered – and accepted – what I believe is a unique opportunity to help close the triangle: joining Senator Clinton’s team as a blog advisor to facilitate and expand her relationship with the netroots. There are endless possibilities for Clinton-netroots collaborations, from Net Neutrality to the Privacy Bill of Rights to voting reform to so many other critical issues. Digby, one of the progressive blog world’s sharpest writers, said this: “Last week Hillary introduced what I think should be a primary plank of the Democratic Party: A Privacy Bill Of Rights…. Hillary said in her speech the other day: ‘privacy is synonymous with liberty.’ This is correct. We give it up far too thoughtlessly in our culture and its going to come back to bite us if we don't wake to the fact that big powerful forces are poking into our lives in unprecedented ways and will use the information they get to force us into little boxes they design.”

The Anti-Science Crowd Is Going To Hate This: Just As Inherent As Skin Color

BBC reports that:

"A man's sexual orientation may be determined by conditions in the womb, according to a study.
Previous research had revealed the more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he is to be gay, but the reason for this phenomenon was unknown.

But a Canadian study has shown that the effect is most likely down to biological rather than social factors.

The research is published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Anthony Bogaert from Brock University in Ontario, Canada, studied 944 heterosexual and homosexual men with either "biological" brothers, in this case those who share the same mother, or "non-biological" brothers, that is, adopted, step or half siblings.

These results support a prenatal origin to sexual orientation development in men

Professor Anthony Bogaert

He found the link between the number of older brothers and homosexuality only existed when the siblings shared the same mother.

The amount of time the individual spent being raised with older brothers did not affect their sexual orientation.

'Maternal memory'

Writing in the journal, Professor Bogaert said: "If rearing or social factors associated with older male siblings underlies the fraternal birth-order effect [the link between the number of older brothers and male homosexuality], then the number of non-biological older brothers should predict men's sexual orientation, but they do not.

"These results support a prenatal origin to sexual orientation development in men."

He suggests the effect is probably the result of a "maternal memory" in the womb for male births.

A woman's body may see a male foetus as "foreign", he says, prompting an immune reaction which may grow progressively stronger with each male child.

The antibodies created may affect the developing male brain.

In an accompanying article, scientists from Michigan State University said: "These data strengthen the notion that the common denominator between biological brothers, the mother, provides a prenatal environment that fosters homosexuality in her younger sons."

"But the question of mechanism remains."

Andy Forrest, a spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall, said: "Increasingly, credible evidence appears to indicate that being gay is genetically determined rather than being a so-called lifestyle choice.

"It adds further weight to the argument that lesbian and gay people should be treated equally in society and not discriminated against for something that's just as inherent as skin colour.""

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Monday Revolution Blogging

"I began revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and plan of action.”

Fidel Castro

Monday Poetry Blogging

The Body
by Marianne Boruch

has its little hobbies. The lung
likes its air best after supper,
goes deeper there to trade up
for oxygen, give everything else
away. (And before supper, yes,
during too, but there’s
something about evening, that
slow breath of the day noticed: oh good,
still coming, still going ... ) As for
bones—femur, spine,
the tribe of them in there—they harden
with use. The body would like
a small mile or two. Thank you.
It would like it on a bike
or a run. Or in the water. Blue.
And food. A habit that involves
a larger circumference where a garden’s
involved, beer is brewed, cows
wake the farmer with their fullness,
a field surrenders its wheat, and wheat
understands I will be crushed
into flour and starry-dust
the whole room, the baker
sweating, opening a window
to acknowledge such remarkable
confetti. And the brain,
locked in its strange
dual citizenship, idles there in the body,
neatly terraced and landscaped.
Or left to ruin, such a brain,
wild roses growing
next to the sea. The body is
gracious about that. Oh, their
scent sometimes. Their
tangle. In truth, in secret,
the first thing
in morning the eye longs to see.