Saturday, July 22, 2006

They Never Miss A Single Chance To Fuck Things Up

NYT reports yet another in the Bush junta's continuing efforts to render the Earth unlivable:

From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

Further, the change comes as an unwelcome surprise to many NASA scientists, who say the “understand and protect” phrase was not merely window dressing but actively influenced the shaping and execution of research priorities. Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

“We refer to the mission statement in all our research proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy meetings,” said Philip B. Russell, a 25-year NASA veteran who is an atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much easier to justify this kind of work.”

Several NASA researchers said they were upset that the change was made at NASA headquarters without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or informing them ahead of time.

And, The “understand and protect” phrase was cited repeatedly by James E. Hansen, a climate scientist at NASA who said publicly last winter that he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking out about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Hansen’s comments started a flurry of news media coverage in late January; on Feb. 3, Mr. Griffin issued a statement of “scientific openness.”

I fucking hate these fucking fuckers.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fuck This Shit. I Need A Cup Of Jasmine Tea And Some Escapism. How About You?

I'd forgotten just how much I loved Kay Nielsen's illustrations in children's books.

One Definition Of Insanty Is To Keep Doing The Same Thing And Expect Different Results. I'm Just Sayin'

NYT reports that: Scientists worldwide are watching temperatures rise, the land turn dry and vast forests go up in flames. In the Siberian taiga and Canadian Rockies, in southern California and Australia, researchers find growing evidence tying an upsurge in wildfires to climate change, an impact long predicted by global-warming forecasters.

A team at California's Scripps Institution, in a headline-making report this month, found that warmer temperatures, causing earlier snow runoff and consequently drier summer conditions, were the key factor in an explosion of big wildfires in the U.S. West over three decades, including fires now rampaging east of Los Angeles.

Foser's Mom Probably Read Him Where The Wild Things Are

Jamison Foser regularly writes clear, insightful media analysis. Atrios usually blogs him, so I don't, as I assume most of the people who are kind enough to read my blog come from Eschaton, but Foser is truly, truly worth reading.

The MSM is getting ready to fuck Hillary Clinton like she's never been fucked before. She's going to get the Al Gore Treatment multipled by the X chromosome factor.

Some of us are going to be pissed off by it.

I am.

Let The Wild Rumpus Begin -- Theodora Goss Explains Subversive KidLit

Why Where the Wild Things Are is a subversive book:

1. Because it teaches that it is OK to eat your mother, or at least threaten to do so.
2. Because it teaches that a wolf suit is acceptable attire, both in the home and for outdoor activities.
3. Because it teaches that in the end, whatever you have done, your supper will still be waiting for you.
4. Because it teaches that the imagination is more important than reality.

Why Where the Wild Things Are is an important book:

1. Because it teaches that monster are cowards (so you should not be fooled by their terrible roars or their terrible claws).
2. Because it teaches that everyone needs a little wild rumpus.
3. Because it teaches that a hot supper is more important than being king.
4. Because it teaches that the imagination is more important than reality.

What I have demonstrated, I hope, is that you cannot raise a child without Where the Wild Things Are. At least, not a child who will grow up to be subversive and important, as everyone should be..

Son's favorite book, EVER. Can't wait to read it to Grandson.

It's Not That I'm Cynical; I Just Want To See What Happens

Michael Moore reports that police have started issuing citations to my own personal heroes, the Raging Grannies, for holding up signs that say "Police Say Don't Honk for Peace," after the police cited people for holding signs that said, "Honk if You Want Bush Out."

Here's an idea for an interesting experiement. Someone go stand on the same corner with a sign that says, "Honk If You Support Our President" and see if you get cited for anything.

All Bush Is Saying, Is Give War A Chance

I think Uggabugga gets it exactly right. They really like war. Sure, it makes them lots of money and, sure, they at least imagine that someday some sort of good will come out of it, but that's the window dressing. The truth is that they like war, they enjoy war, and they're unhappy when they don't have one. And as long as we imagine that this just couldn't be true, we'll fail to address the problem.

Don't Touch Me, Black Person.

John Thune Thanks You

WaPo follows up its series of articles concerning the millions wasted by the Department of Agriculture with an interesting editorial: A QUESTION raised by The Post's recent reports on farm subsidies is this: Why does the nation tolerate this waste? [The federal goverment] gave $400 million worth of powdered milk, which it had bought to support milk prices, to supposedly drought-stricken ranchers -- only to find that ranchers and middlemen sold the milk back onto the world market, driving milk prices down again while clearing a fast profit.

This theater of the absurd reflects more than government incompetence. The Livestock Compensation Program . . . was the result of careful political judgment. It was created by the Bush administration in 2002 to boost John Thune, the Republican Senate candidate in South Dakota. The White House calculation was that Mr. Thune would pick up crucial votes from his state's ranchers if he was seen to have delivered federal pork.

Your tax dollars. At work getting conservative assholes elected to the Senate.

Wanna Bet How Well-Prepared FEMA Is To Handle The Coming Blackouts? Me, Either. Two Words: Black Start

From today's EEI newsletter:

Week Sees All Seven U.S. RTOs, ISOs Meet Record Demand Levels
The ISO-RTO Council announced that all seven U.S. ISOs and RTOs already have seen record demand levels this week and maintained adequate reserve margins to secure against blackouts.

Aggregate demand for the RTOs and ISOs peaked at 483,233 MW with individual grid operators seeing demand up 0.9 percent to 4.5 percent over 2005 demand peaks. Among the peaks was the Southwest Power Pool's successive demand levels of 41,324 MW on Monday, 41,874 MW on Tuesday, and 42,227 MW on Wednesday, all three of which surpassed the previous 40,081 MW record.

The Council noted that because the Eastern grid is interconnected and ISOs covering that grid share operating data with each other on a daily basis, the ISOs easily can shift power across regional grids as demand levels fluctuate. The Council observed that the ISOs and RTOs "said their experiences so far this summer in successfully meeting high demand for power should prove valuable throughout the remainder of the season as well as in preparations to meet future demands on their respective systems."
ISO-RTO Council news release , July 20.

It's Friday. We All Deserve Some Chocolate

I'll take the Shelia Na Gig, thank you.

Theobroma: Food of the Gods

Believed to be of divine origin, the cocoa tree was the bridge between heaven and earth. The Maya, believing no other tree was worth naming, simply called the cacao tree, cachuaquchtl, or "Tree." Believing that the "tree" belonged to the gods and that the pods were an offering from the gods, if not the gods' food itself, the Maya quickly incorporated its pod into their everyday symbolism and mythology. They believed the gods placed this tree and its wonderful seed pods on Mother Earth for man [sic] to cultivate, enjoy and offer back to them.

From Chocolate's beginnings, there was an intimate connection between the gods and humankind--one that touches the body, mind, and ultimately the soul.

Chocolate Deities: It all started nearly ten years ago when Jeanne Fleming and Jessica Bard were asked to make the hors d’oeuvres for an opening at a local art gallery. The show was entitled: Shrines and Altars. So, we decided to make a goddess entirely out of food, wine flowing freely from her breasts, and providing everything from nibbles to dessert. We were inspired by the Tibetan goddess Tara–a Green Tara–the Goddess of Compassion and the Goddess of the "god-less" in that she was a totally accepting goddess who welcomed all into her protection whether they were direct followers of her or not or whether they worshiped any god at all. That was the spirit we wanted for our original creation: a generous, welcoming and warm goddess.

Our Goddess turned out to be a massive project, taking the skills of a sculptor, who carved her in Styrofoam to our specifications. A trip to the local beer making guys showed us how to make wine mysteriously flow from her breasts. That information and a few hundred dollars worth of fruits, vegetables, and candy later, we began what turned into a week long project for both of us. In the end, we developed a philosophy for our food goddess and a raison d’etre for every piece of food that she offered up to the amazed opening night crowd. No one ever figured out how we made the wine flow on request (into specially made cups!). The children finished off the candy in her beautiful headdress and our local Green Man kept stealing her beautiful, huge, strawberry nipples (we came prepared to replace them, of course!)

Operation Rescue Me From Them

Here's more info on the Koran burning by Operation Rescue in Mississippi. Ironically, the group says that they burned the Koran "because it condones violence." I'm not going to go dig up the hundred or so examples of violence that the Bible condones -- God sure did order those Israelites to kill a lot of people and take their land, though -- but I find it pretty damn ironic that Operation Rescue is worried about violence.

Tallk to Action's article also documents the activities of "Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and his traveling fetus": A memorial service for an aborted fetus concluded today without the planned burial in Smith Park. Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, said the fetus, which is being preserved in a formaldehyde-like solution, will be buried in Alabama in a few months. Pavone said the fetus was aborted at about 18 weeks. It has been used in demonstrations in New York and Columbus, Ohio, he said, and will be in several more before being buried.
The Rev. Flip Benham, the leader of Operation Save America, bristled at those who might question showing a fetus to children. "This does not traumatize our children," Benham said. "This traumatizes the adults who would hide the horrors of abortion."
You've got to click the link and see the pictures of grown women weeping over the casket. Really.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? It's like that nightmare where you're stuck in a building or on a ship with people who are stark-raving mad but you're the only one who's sane so they think you're crazy. Get me out of here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lies Are Harmful To Our Democracy

TruthOut has a fascinating interview with Robertk Kennedy, Jr. that confirms something I've been thinking about for a long time. Lots of people who call themselves Republicans and who vote for Republicans do so because, to be blunt, they don't know any better. It answers the question that What's the Matter with Kansas? raised but never answered: Why?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, my opinion hasn't changed, that the press has been negligent, and that the large amount of support for the President, and for the people that did vote for the President, that large numbers of them would not have done so, had they known the truth about his policies, and his record. You say my opinion changed, but it hasn't changed.

You know I've known this for many years, because of my anecdotal experience. I give about 40 speeches a year, in red states to Republican audiences, and I get the same enthusiastic responses from those audiences as I get from Liberal college audiences. The only difference is, is that the Republicans often say to me, "How come we've never heard this before?" I made the conclusion many years ago that there's not a huge values difference between Red State Republicans and Blue State Democrats. The distinction is really informational. 80% of Republicans are just Democrats who don't know what's going on. And my anecdotal conclusion was confirmed by a survey done immediately after the 2004 election called the PIPA report, which tested Bush supporters and Kerry supporters based upon their knowledge of current events. It found that among Bush supporters, they were widespread in its interpretations, or there were factual errors in the way that they viewed Bush's major public policy initiatives.

For example, 75% of the Republican respondents believed that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center, and 72% believed that WMD had been found in Iraq. And most of them believed that the war in Iraq had strong support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and our traditional allies in Europe, which of course is wrong. The Democrats as a whole had a much more accurate view of those events. And then PIPA went back twice to these same people
. The first time it went back to the people that had these misinterpretations, and asked them where they were getting their news, and invariably they said talk radio and FOX news. And PIPA went back a third time, and made inquiries about their fundamental values, and it did start with a string of hypotheticals:

"What if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with bombing the World Trade Center? What if the U.S. Invasion of Iraq had little support among Iraq's Muslim neighbors and was largely opposed by Iraq's Muslim neighbors, and by our troops and allies in Europe? Should we have still gone in?" And roughly 80% of Dem and 80% of Rep said the same thing, "We should not." And so the values were the same. It was the facts, the information, it was the access to information that was different.

Making Jesus Real Indeed

Hatred is all that they've got. The Clarion-Ledger (Motto: Real Mississippi) reports that, "Activists from Operation Save America, formerly known as Operation Rescue, have been in Jackson since Saturday for eight days of protests against the state's only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization in the Fondren neighborhood. During a demonstration at the Capitol on Tuesday, anti-abortion activists tore up pages from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, along with a gay pride flag and copies of six U.S. Supreme Court rulings related to religion in public schools, sodomy and abortion."

Ironically, enough, the burning took place "in the parking lot outside Making Jesus Real Church in Pearl, McEwen said. Police confirmed the burning."

Hand, Meet Pocket. Pocket, Meet Hand. Let's Practice It Again, Mr. President. Hand, Meet Pocket. Pocket, . . . .

The brilliant watertiger reports that some of us still haven't learned the lesson about keeping our hands to ourselves.

I Don't Know About You, But I Can Use A Little Bit Of Humor Right Now

Anne Johnson interviews Mithras and learns that Condi and Coulter are two of his newest adepts.

You Have Got To Be Frappin' Kidding Me

Via Witchvox comes a story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that "The Las Vegas City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that bans providing food or meals to the indigent for free or a nominal fee in parks.

The measure is an attempt to stop so-called 'mobile soup kitchens' from operating in parks, where residents say they attract the homeless and render the city facilities unusable by families."
No, really. And, it gets (as it so often does, these days) worse. "The city's new ordinance, which officials could begin enforcing as early as Friday, defines an indigent as a "person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive assistance" from the government under state law. Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has been a vocal advocate of cracking down on the homeless in city parks, dismissed questions about how marshals, who patrol city parks, will identify the homeless in order to enforce the ordinance, the violation of which would be a misdemeanor. "Certain truths are self-evident," Goodman said. "You know who's homeless.""

What kind of country are we living in?

"But one advocate who feeds the homeless at the park said she will continue to do so. "I'm going to do whatever I think is necessary to keep people alive," said Gail Sacco. Sacco has been cited twice while feeding the homeless, for holding a gathering of 25 or more people without a permit." Good for her.

Why I Drink

From the LATimes comes the sort of story you're sure, absolutely sure, couldn't still be happening in the twenty-first century -- until you see that it just happened last Friday.

A woman moves out of her home into a domestic violence shelter (ever seen one? they're not palatial) and goes to court to get a restraining order against her husband. The judge finds out that she's in the country illegally and threatens her with immediate deportation unless she drops her case. He said he thought the couple "obviously wanted to get back together" and that he was trying to avoid granting a restraining order that would keep them apart for at least a year. Yeah, cuz when I want to get back together with someone, what I do is I move out of my home into a domestic violence shelter and then seek a restraining order. WTF?? And, its bullshit anyway because if the couple had reconciled -- say by attending marraige counseling that the judge could have exempted from the order -- then they could have sought to have the order rescinded. It gets worse.

I'm going to count to 20, and if you people have left this courtroom and disappeared, she isn't going to Mexico forthwith," Fink said, according to the court transcript. "One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. When I get to 20, she gets arrested and goes to Mexico."

After Gonzalez left the courtroom, Fink asked Salgado if he wanted to stay, and he said yes.

Fink then dismissed the case: "Well, she brought the proceedings, and if she's not here to go forward, I guess all of the requests are denied."

On Wednesday, Fink, who has been a family law attorney for 35 years, insisted he was seeking what he thought was an agreeable solution for both parties.

"What I saw was nothing more than some yelling and screaming between a husband and wife," he said.

"I also saw that they really didn't want to not be together anymore."

If he had issued the restraining order, Fink said, "we'd wind up with exactly the opposite of what these people wanted."

"The cure could be far worse than the illness," he said.

So the woman's moved out and wants a restraining order, but the judge can somehow tell that "no" doesn't really mean "no" and he makes her run out of the courtroom to his counting so he can dismiss her case since, "she's not here."

A spokesman for the court assured reporters that, the woman "was welcome to refile for a restraining order." Yeah. I'm sure she's in a big fucking hurry to line up child care, take another day off work, fill out a bunch of new forms, and get humiliated and threatened with deportation again.

Bush To Congress: Piss Off

I'm not sure precisely what it was that finally flipped the switch for the NYT -- maybe having the right-wing blogsphere call for the execution of editors, writers, and photographers for such "crimes" as reporting on Bush's domestic spying program or printing authorized pictures of Rumsfeld's summer mansion finally clued the paper in to the nature of Bush and his supporters. Whatever it was, we can only hope it lasts. Here's their reaction to the Attorney General's disgraceful performance the other day:

Tap-Dancing as Fast as He Can
Published: July 20, 2006

This is how President Bush keeps his promise to deal with Congress in good faith on issues of national security and the balance of powers: He sends the attorney general to the Senate Judiciary Committee to stonewall, obfuscate and spin fairy tales.

Testifying on Tuesday after months of refusing to show up, Alberto Gonzales dodged questions about President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping operation. He refused to say whether it was the only time that Mr. Bush had chosen to ignore the 1978 law on electronic eavesdropping. In particular, he would not say whether it was true that the government had accumulated large amounts of data on Americans’ routine telephone calls. “The programs and activities you ask about, to the extent that they exist, would be highly classified,” Mr. Gonzales intoned.

Mr. Gonzales did answer when he was asked who had derailed a Justice Department investigation, requested by Congress, into Mr. Bush’s decision to authorize the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail without a warrant. Mr. Gonzales said that Mr. Bush himself did it, by refusing to grant the needed security clearances to the lawyers involved.

But even that seeming candor was shrouded in fog. Mr. Gonzales gave the committee documents that argued there was no need to investigate because the eavesdropping was the “subject of extensive oversight by the executive branch and Congress.” Actually, the program is supervised only by the agencies that are running it. The Congressional intelligence committees were not briefed until long after Mr. Bush refused the security clearances.

Supervised only by the agencies that are running it -- isn't that how this whole junta works all the time? Oil companies write energy policy in secret, big pharm pays the people responsible for determining drug safety, agricultural support boondoggles turn out to have been created by a total lack of enforcement, and now, the agencies running secret domestic spying are "supervising" themselves. Well, hell, we should just trust them because, Goddess knows, the junta that fucked up Iraq, let New Orleans drown, and can't account for the millions that it just handed over to Haliburton is bound to do a fair, legal, and professional job of spying on Americans.

And, WTF is up with this: Mr. Gonzales did answer when he was asked who had derailed a Justice Department investigation, requested by Congress, into Mr. Bush’s decision to authorize the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail without a warrant. Mr. Gonzales said that Mr. Bush himself did it, by refusing to grant the needed security clearances to the lawyers involved.

Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had derailed a Justice Deparment investigation into Whitewater or Monicagate?? The press, the Republicans, and, of course, Losing Joe Lieberman would have gone apeshit. But, what the hell, those were really important issues involving ancient land deals and sex and here we're just talking about actual impeachable offenses and violations of the Americans' most basic rights.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Love This Poem. It Says Everything About What I'm Struggling With Spiritually, These Days

Little Furnace

—Once more the poem woke me up,
the dark poem. I was ready for it;
he was sleeping,

and across the cabin, the small furnace
lit and re-lit itself—the flame a yellow
“tongue” again, the metal benignly
hard again;

and a thousand insects outside called
and made me nothing;
moonlight streamed inside as if it had been . . .

I looked around, I thought of the lower wisdom,
spirit held by matter:
Mary, white as a sand dollar,

and Christ, his sticky halo tilted—
oh, to get behind it!
The world had been created to comprehend itself

as matter: table, the torn
veils of spiders . . . Even consciousness—
missing my love—

was matter, the metal box of a furnace.
As the obligated flame, so burned my life . . .

What is the meaning of this suffering I asked
and the voice—not Christ but between us—
said you are the meaning.

No no, I replied, That
is the shape, what is the meaning.
You are the meaning, it said—

Brenda Hillman
Brenda Hillman, “Little Furnace,” from Bright Existence. Copyright © 1993 by Brenda Hillman.

Once More With Feeling

Via Witchvox comes this article from a poor fool who really, really, really doesn't get it.

A witch who cannot hex cannot heal.

Dont Say There Is Nothing You Can Do, When Giving Up Is What They Want From You. ~ Amy Clarke

Crooks & Liars commissioned a video from Ava Lowrey, the brilliant fifteen year-old behind Peace Takes Courage.

Go watch it right now.

Demand a plan for peace. If not you, who? If not now, when?

Keep Your Hands To Yourself

Keep Your Hands To Yourself

Lots of folks have had plenty to say on Bush's unwelcome groping of German Chancellor Merkel. I'll weigh in with my two cents.

Most women I know have had this happen to them. A man who is neither your husband, nor your boyfriend, nor even a very close friend comes up behind you and begins massaging your shoulders and neck. What's going on?

In this case, context matters. Merkel was one of only a few women in tht entire room and, unless I'm mistaken, the only female head of a country there. In a situation like that, given the status differences of men and women in our society, every single thing that emphasizes your femaleness, whether it's the use of you first name or Ms., whether it's men standing up when you come in, whether it's small talk on subjects that exclude you, anything that emphasizes the fact that you're a woman demeans you and makes it more difficult for you to function in that situation. And the men know it.

Of course, if and when you object, the men (all of them, not just the one who massaged you) will look at you like you have two heads, mutter about overly-sensitive feminists, and say, "Just tryin' to be friendly. Heh, heh." This, for me at least, completely explains Merkel's expression in the final picture. Jumping out of your chair and shoving the creep while you yell, "What the fuck are you doing? Don't walk in here and grab me!" will only call attention to what's happened and make it worse. She hates what's happened but she's convincing herself right then and there to let it pass so she can achieve some of the things she came to the meeting determined to achieve. There isn't a woman over the age of 40 who hasn't swallowed hard and done what Merkel's doing in that picture.

There was also something else going on at the G-8 meeting. Again, there was a room full of men with almost no women there and only one "high-status" woman -- Merkel. Bush walks into the room and heads directly for Merkel. By putting his hands on her in this intimate way, he "claims" her in front of all the other men, especially the Italian prime minister with whom she was deep in conversation when Bush grabbed her. It's a way of attempting to claim alpha male status that has less to do with Merkel, she's merely the object that he uses, than with all the other men in the room.

Do men sometimes rub other men's necks and shoulders? I guess so, in a coach/athlete kind of way. But even there, the higher status person puts their hands on the lower status person. Bush was waaaaaaaay out of line.

Course, I Know Some Adults Who Are Too Immature, As Well

Colorado has decided to ban children from getting married. Sounds like a good idea to me. I'm all in favor of love and sex and everyone realizes that teen are sexually active. Doesn't mean that 35 year-old men should be marrying twelve year old girls. And, no, I don't care what it says in your holy book.

Why Words Matter

I've been reading Seducting the Demon: Writing for My Life by Erica Jong. Here's a brief sample:

You cannot tell the truth when words are corrupted. Our country was founded on the notion that the plain words of the people are more important than the fancy words of kings. We admire George Washington not only for refusing to be king but also for not sanctioning lying -- even though the cherry-tree story may be wholly apocryphal. We hold politicians to a much lesser standard today. We expect them to lie to us. We grant them the latitude to lie. We are lax about holding them to their word. We don't expect them to tell the truth about power any more than we expect movie starts to tell the truth about love. And we write off many lies as PR. Having stopped expecting truth, we rarely get it.

. . .

Why is getting mad at lies so important? Because our survival depends on it, our republic depends on it. Our lives depend on it-- whether it's pharmaceutical companies lying about drugs or chemical corporations lying about polllution or politicians lying about why our young people are coming home in flag-drapped boxes. We are in danger unless we know the truth, and the truth depends on words.

Because There Was No Enforcement

WaPo reports on how the government gave away millions of dollars of commodity to ranchers and created an Enron-style system of trades and price hikes. "The milk was being bought and sold, bought and sold. Some of it was probably ending up in dog food and pet food," said Matthew J. Hoobler, a Wyoming official who oversaw the distribution of more than 60 million pounds of powdered milk in that state. That trading was possible, he said, because "there was no enforcement."

Tons of the surplus milk entered the commercial market in one of two ways. Some states ended up ordering more powdered milk than ranchers could use and then auctioned the rest to brokers. And ranchers sold powdered milk they didn't want or need back to feed dealers, who marked it up and sold it to other dealers or brokers.

"Because there was no enforcement." Kind of sums up everything that's wrong with this administration, doesn't it? From Enron to money wasted and "lost" in iraq to Katrina to secret spying programs -- all possible because there was no enforcement.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Cold Poem For A Hot Day

The Bear's Daughter
by Theodora Goss

She dreams of the south. Wandering through the silent castle,

Where snow has covered the parapets, and the windows

Are covered with frost, like panes of isinglass,

She dreams of pomegranates and olive trees.

But to be the bear's daughter is to be a daughter, as well,

Of the north. To have forgotten a time before

The tips of her fingers were blue, before her veins

Were blue like rivers flowing through fields of ice.

To have forgotten a time before her boots

Were elk-leather lined with ermine.

Somewhere in the silent castle, her mother is sleeping

In the bear's embrace, and breathing pomegranates

Into his fur. She is a daughter of the south,

With hair like honey and skin like orange-flowers.

She is a nightingale's song in the olive groves.

And her daughter, wandering through the empty garden,

Where the branches of yew trees rubbing against each other

Sound like broken violins,

Dreams of the south while a cold wind sways the privet,

Takes off her gloves, which are lined with ermine, and places

Her hands on the rim of the fountain, in which the sun

Has scattered its colors, like roses trapped in ice.

Follow The Money

The religious right: where the money comes from. Read it. Throw up. Get up and start over. These men cannot be allowed to win.

Go On Vetrans' Administration. Keep Showing Your Asses.

What was it Bush was lecturing Putin on this weekend? Oh, yeah, religious freedom. Fuckwit.

Last Week, I Longed To Be In Paris, This Week In Saratoga Springs

NYT lacks any truly great ballet writers. But they do an adequate job today of making me long to be in Saratoga Springs:

Lexei Ratmansky’s “Russian Seasons,” . . . is such a marvel of a dance that when the curtain fell, it was like awakening from a vivid dream. To borrow a line from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Mr. Ratmansky’s favorite book, “It was so long since she had been anything near the right size, that it felt quite strange at first.”

The ballet for 12 dancers told in 12 sections was both strange and something of a perfect fit. The resplendent crown of City Ballet’s Diamond Project, “Russian Seasons,” an endearing, capricious example of playful refinement, are being performed this week in the company’s season at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

This approaches good ballet writing: While all the dancers meet or surpass their promise in “Russian Seasons,” Ms. Stafford has never danced with more joy and lightness. In the third section, “Song for St. George’s Day,” she playfully breaks through Mr. Carmena and Mr. Hendrickson’s linked arms and, while on point, straightens her left leg to the side, swings it backward into an attitude pose and pauses in passé before striking an arabesque.

With all of her strength but none of her usual toughness, Ms. Stafford breezes through the steely footwork until, stopping at the edge of the stage, she massages her calf. Turning sideways, she stretches her leg while other couples, in pairs, bow elegantly.

I can almost see that.

There's no real dance going on in DC right now. Were my job not holding me hostage, I'd fly to Saratoga.

Peak Load

I suppose that in the annals of headlines, Heatwave In July ranks somewhere behind Man Bites Dog and ahead of Sun Rises In The East. But, add an ever-larger population, one that is "wired" to the gills, and the story becomes far more interesting.

2006 is already on course to be the hottest year ever recorded. The second half of July and the months of August and September could be doozies.

But what about the wired part? Most of America's electric grid -- the transmission lines that move electrons from a generating station to your area, with the exceptions of Alaska, Hawaii, Texas (not interconnected with the rest of the country) and the Southeast (smart politicians) -- is controlled by Independent System Operators (ISOs) for short. Electrical grids measure daily load, sometimes called demand, to determine how many electrons (MWh if you're being technical) were used on each day. Each ISO has a record load -- the highest load that it has ever served. In addition, ISO's have reserve requirements. Someone, often the electric company that sends you your bill, is responsible for buying not only all the electrons that you "demand" or use, but also an extra amount in order to ensure that if one plant or line goes down or if load were to go up more than expected, there would still be enough electricity. What often happens is that certain older, more expensive-to-run plants get paid to be on standby, ready to start producing power if needed.

All of which is a long way of explaining why Heat Wave In July really is an interesting headline. Yesterday, the California ISO, the Midwest ISO, the New York ISO, and the Pennsylvania-Maryland-New Jersey (PJM) ISO all hit record loads. New England ISO appears to have avoided a record peak load by a small amount yesterday, but hit one today. Other areas of the country without ISOs may have hit record peaks as well; Texas did. In other words, the entire national electric grid was severely stressed. A downed line or two, an emergency that required a few nukes to be shut down, a forest fire out of control in California and even the replacement reserve requirements wouldn't have prevented a blackout. And, as demonstrated rather painfully a few years ago, our electric grid is highly interconnected, not only with other parts of the US, but also with Canada and Mexico. An overloaded line or a marketer who defaults on its obligation to deliver power (because the spot price is too high and it's cheaper to default and pay damages than it is to procure the promised power) in one ISO can lead to blackouts in other ISOs as well.

So why were all those ISOs at peak load? Because of the freaking Heat Wave in July. And because of that large population that demands lots of electricity to not only keep cool, but to run its computers and lights and iPods and Blackberries and plasma screen tv, and refrigerators, and . . . . Well, you get the idea. We're teetering on the edge and if we make it through the entire summer without blackouts it will be due to dumb luck and some amazing folks working as linemen and dispatchers and plant operators.

What are the solutions? None of them are attractive. We can build more generating plants in your neighborhood, we can build more transmission lines across your backyard (which will at least move more of the power from where it's produced to where it's needed, or we can consume less (e.g., live without computers or refrigerators or iPods) or we can begin to sensibly limit population. What's likely needed is a combination of those factors.

But, in the end, we need to address why it's so freaking hot. It's so hot because of global warming, caused by carbon emissions. Which result from a dependence on oil, too large a population of humans, not enough trees (see above re too large a human population), and, ironically, the burning of even more fossil fuels to try to keep ourselves cool in all this heat.

Or, we can just keep doing what we've been doing. People in Iraq are reputed to be able to get by on a few hours of electricity a day and millions of people lived through Soviet-era electricity policies that resulted in erratic and infrequent electric service. As the NYT reported, several people died yesterday from the heat and the heat interrupted air and subway travel. But I suppose we can learn to live with such minor inconveniences.

Bush Administration, Quit Lying To Women

WaPo reports something that we've all known for some time:

Federally funded "pregnancy resource centers" are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma, a minority congressional report charged yesterday.

The report said that 20 of 23 federally funded centers contacted by staff investigators requesting information about an unintended pregnancy were told false or misleading information about the potential risks of an abortion.

The pregnancy resource centers, which are often affiliated with antiabortion religious groups, have received about $30 million in federal money since 2001, according to the report, requested by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.). The report concluded that the exaggerations "may be effective in frightening pregnant teenagers and women and discouraging abortion. But it denies the teenagers and women vital health information, prevents them from making an informed decision, and is not an accepted public health practice."

A spokeswoman for one of the two large networks of pregnancy resource centers, Sterling-based Care Net, said that the report is "a routine attack on us that's nothing new."

And, of course, they're flat-out lying to women. As the article notes, "An expert panel of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), for instance, concluded in 2003 that an "abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer." The experts said their conclusion was "well established" by the evidence."

If their cause were so just and correct, they wouldn't have to lie in order to convince people.

An Illegal Immoral War

Too often when we discuss deaths in Iraq, we forget how many Iraqi civilians are dying in this godawful war. The NYT reports that the U.N. estimates that "nearly 6,000 civilians were killed in May and June as sectarian violence surged across Iraq, an announcement that was underscored by a suicide bombing that killed 53 people and wounded more than 100 in the Shiite city of Kufa today. . . . But the report released today by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq estimates that the death toll day in and day out for the last two months has averaged about 100. Many of the dead were found individually or in small groups, often bound and showing signs of torture before execution."

Why did we invade Iraq again?

Ask A Working Woman

My brilliant friend Elizabeth notified me that AFL-CIO is taking a survey of working women. Elizabeth explains that the "survey asks about issues of concern to working women (equal pay, health care, retirement, living wages, outsourcing, corporate responsibility, child care, etc.) and takes about 5 minutes to fill out. The AFL-CIO will be submitting the results to Congress for Labor Day."

If you're a working woman -- and as we know, all women are working women, regardless of whether or not they get paid for their work -- go take the survey.

Had an interesting lunch with a few female summer associates at my law firm yesterday. Main topic of conversation: the firm's 401k and profit-sharing programs and how to best manage wealth to avoid tax consequences.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sacred Places in the Modern World -- The Fifth in a Continuing Series

The Met. I live in a city of museums, but I have to say that one of the major sacred places in the modern, urban, world is the Met. You can sit in the Met, in the room full of Egyptian temples, or -- my favorite -- the room full of Tiffany windows and turn of the century sculptures -- and, no matter how many other people are around, you can enter sacred space. I'd match the Peacock Room at the Freer and the salon with Morning in the Tropics (my favorite painting of all time) at the National Gallery of Art in DC with the Met, but, really, that's all. The Met is just, well, it's the Met.

Today, on the way to work, i was remembering the lovely old folk ballad that says, "Bring me some peace when there's talk of war, when it's hard to find. Bring me some peace when there's talk of war, I've got peace on my mind. Oh, peace is sweet, most anytime and, yet, bring me some peace when there's talk of war and how easy we forget." We hear so much right now about war. We need sacred space all that much more.

Where do you find it?


So I'm not sure how much I've blogged about it, but my Circle has recently gone through some changes. and one of the outcomes is that we are focusing on the Goddess Hygeia. Now, that may not sound so weird, coming from an electic group of witches, which is what we are. But it turns out -- who knew? -- that Hygeia is one of the, shall we say, lesser-known Goddesses. I really need to blog a lot less this week and, instead, spend more time Googling Hygeia. (Is that funny? Maybe you have to be as old as I am to understand that it's funny that "google" has come to replace "research" -- I wrote my master's thesis before Google even existed -- that's how old I am).

So, this morning, I was delighted to learn that Klimt himself had painted Hygeia.

What do you know about her? Have you ever heard of her? Do you have any links to information on her? Would you be willing or sad to spend time worshipping Hygeia? Does our culture have any other archetypes for the feminine manifestation of health? If so, what are they? What does health mean to you?

Totally Frivolous Fashion Blogging While The Whole World Burns

If I lived on the West Coast, or if I even had a good excuse for a business trip out West, I'd go see this exhibit of Prada skirts. While the LATimes, unfortunately and surprisingly, has no fashion writers as good as the NYT, they are able to pull off such memorable lines as:

*"Waist Down" also makes viewers consider how the body below the waist is a zone of political, social and artistic conflict. The precipitous ups and downs of hemlines over the 18 years of fashion presented here illustrate the skirt's role as a social barometer. As such an object of femininity, the skirt seduces, flirts and labels. Each of those qualities is cleverly illustrated, sometimes with an adapted windshield wiper.

*Other skirts have been vacuum-packed like some boil-in-bag meal and hung along translucent walls. With technology borrowed from futon packing, they're squashed to look more like a sea anemone or pressed flower than a garment.

"It kind of freezes the composition of the skirt," Ota says. "Sometimes in a still moment, you get a better understanding of movement."

Nice job, LaTimes.

And, while we're talking fashion, Erin, at DressaDay uncharacteristically blows it. Erin, that's an ugly dress and those shoes are all wrong for it. For, Goddess, sake, just tell the poor girl. WTF is with that blue border that fights with the print that is already fighting with the maroon border? Ugh. Ugh.

In The Midst Of Living, We Are In Death

This one's for my Goth friends.

Walking Gently Upon the Earth

From Environmental News Network comes an article explaining that California's individual citizens will soon have an easy way to live "carbon neutral."

Californians could soon invest in trees to offset the greenhouse gases they pump into the air when they heat their homes or drive to work.

The nonprofit California Climate Action Registry was set up by the state six years ago to encourage corporations and government agencies to track, and ultimately reduce, their emissions. The Forest Protocols program will allow environmentally minded citizens to pay to preserve enough trees to offset their personal carbon emissions.

The registry has calculated how much the timber industry loses by allowing trees to grow longer and bigger -- past the time they are normally harvested. The industry would then be compensated by other companies that buy carbon credits -- or shares of the trees -- to offset their carbon emissions.

The article notes that living carbon neutral isn't expensive -- consumers can neutralize the carbon associated with their use of electricity for under $5.00 a month. Don't make me remind you what you spent this morning on a latte.

The Object+Present Participle Compound And Today's Conservative Movement

Mother Jones' blog has a fascinating discussion of the grammar (yes, I know, but it's interesting even if you WEREN't a geek who loved, as I did, to diagram sentences in 8th grade) of the conservative movement:

Over on the always interesting if often arcane Language Log, linguist Geoff Nunberg reveals another weapon in conservatives' linguistic arsenal: the object+present participle compound. Those are syntactic constructions like "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking", which make for handily efficient epithets. He writes: "In fact you could trace the whole history of the right's campaigns against liberals via those compounds -- from tree-hugging and NPR-listening back through the Nixon era's pot-smoking, bra-burning, draft-dodging, and America-hating, until you finally excavate the crude origins of the trope in nigger-loving, the ur-denunciation of white liberal sentimentality."

Why Conservatives Should Not Be Running The Goverment

I think Miniver Cheevy gets this exactly right:

Conservatives believe that government is inherently inept and screws things up, so activist government is a bad idea. So they don't do a lot of policy wonkery, because they see it as a doomed project. So they're not very good at thinking through the consequences of policies; in fact, they're often not terribly aware of this being a kind of question you might consider stopping to think about. So in a weird paradox, though conservatives are more worried about the unhappy consequences of government meddling, they're less well equipped to prevent it when they agree that some government meddling is called for.

And you may have noticed, conservatives are running things now.

Now That's A TV Makeover Show That Makes Sense

From today's EEI newsletter:

EEI, Whirlpool, EPA Sponsor Home Energy Makeover Contest
To raise awareness about the benefits of making homes more energy efficient, EEI, Whirlpool brand appliances, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® Program have created the Home Energy Blueprint contest. The program is being supported in part by Lowe’s.

In the Home Energy Blueprint contest, homeowners from across the country are being encouraged to write in why they think their home needs an energy makeover—in other words, why their home is an "energy hog." The 10 most convincing entries—two each from five regions around the country: the West, South Central, North Central, Southeast, and Northeast—will be declared winners.

The winning households will receive an audit of their home’s actual energy use. Based upon the findings of that audit, the owners will win a series of energy-efficient product upgrades—ranging from ENERGY STAR® qualified Whirlpool appliances to insulation, weatherstripping, and other materials from Lowe’s.
EEI news release , July 14

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It's The Patriarchy, Stupid

James Wolcott gets it:

Father Knows Best by James Wolcott

Yesterday, on one of the network news broadcasts (I was channel surfing so fast I'm not sure which of the big three it was), there was a report on the civilian reaction in Beirut to the attacks which showed a young Lebanese mother in headscarve, who with her children had fled from their home to safe haven, arguing that they--Hezbollah--should return the two soldiers, it wasn't worth all the misery that was being inflicted on everyone. Whereupon a burly older man, hearing her criticism, bulled forward and angrily reprimanded, asking (demanding) to know why she was talking this way to the press, and displaced her in the camera frame to hold forth and spout defiance-militance-whatever.

It was an instructive moment, the male prerogative chestily asserting and inserting itself, and a dramatic reminder that although wars and organized violence have their social-national-ethnic-religious-tribal vectors, they are also brute expressions of patriarchal force...male arrogance and insanity sheathed in metal. The mother was sensibly, rationally decrying the cost of conflict on the lives of her children and other civilians, while the older man (a stranger? a relative?--it wasn't clear) was trying to squelch such talk as ignorant and disloyal. He was the stand-in for every other male blowhard (on every side of the debate) who thinks he knows best and loves to hear himself talk tough. Meanwhile, the children are weeping, or being pulled in bloody pieces out of smoking debris.

07.16.06 5:20PM · LINK

Big Pharma

Look, this is what we're up against in every single branch of the government. The Bush Junta has allowed to corporatists to take over everything -- including determining how safe the medicine prescribed for cancer patients is.

I've been a cancer patient, injecting poison into my system every couple of hours, every day, for months. I don't know about you, but I'm less than amused to learn that big pharma is paying the people at NIH who are supposed to INDEPENDENTLY detemine how safe and effective drugs are.

If you've ever had cancer, or, I imagine, any serious illness, you know how confusing it can be. I remember, at my consultation with the third oncologist that my wonderful doctor sent me to see, getting the third piece of confusing advice that matched neither of the other two pieces of advice I'd gotten concerning chemotherapy, breaking down in tears and explaining to the doctor, "I'm a lawyer. It's not that I'm an idiot. It's just that this is not my field. I keep getting different advice and, if I make the wrong choice concerning things that I really don't understand, I'll die."

At least, back then in the Clinton era, I didn't worry that the drug company set to make big profits off of the drug was the one greenlighting its use by doctors.

Have I mentioned fucking hating this fucking coup?

We're Going To Lay Down A Withering Field Of Fire And Leave Sucking Chest Wounds

Anyone who imagines that the theocrats--this article dubs them the theocons and I'm pleased to adopt that term -- aren't out to win complete control of our nation is so naive that they really ought not be allowed to buy things on credit. Take, for example, the "Officers' Christian Fellowship, a private organization with 14,000 active-duty members on more than 200 U.S. military bases around the world. In its mission statement, the OCF says its goal is 'a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.'"

The WaPo article profiles Mikey Weinstein, "51, [and] once a White House lawyer who defended the Reagan administration during the Iran-contra investigation. Three generations of his family -- his father, himself, both of his sons and a daughter-in-law -- have gone to U.S. military academies." Weinsten became upset about the theocon's attempts to subvert our military when, on " July 29, 2004 [,he] visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs that day as a proud parent. His son Curtis, who was entering his second year at the academy, had just finished three weeks of combat survival training. Weinstein spotted him across a room and knew instantly that something was wrong. They drove off campus, in stormy silence, and pulled into a McDonald's.

"All right, Curtis . . . I can't take any more of this. What the hell have you done?" Weinstein remembers asking.

"It's not what I've done, Dad. It's what I'm going to do," Curtis answered, according to his father. "I'm going to beat the [. . .] out of the next person that calls me a [. . .] Jew or accuses me or our people of killing Jesus Christ."

At that moment, Weinstein says, "everything kind of telescoped. I could hear my heart in my ears. For a guy who talks a lot . . . I was speechless."

Weinstein says Curtis recounted eight or nine separate incidents in which cadets and officers had made anti-Semitic remarks. One came in the heat of athletic competition, when an upperclassman taunted: "How does it make you feel to know that you killed Jesus Christ?"

"What hurt me the most was . . . you know, he's a tough kid, he was the city wrestling champ of Albuquerque as a sophomore in high school . . . [but] he said, 'Dad, I don't really know what to do when they say that,' " Weinstein recalls.

Since that day, Weinstein says, he has talked with hundreds of present and former cadets and staff at the academy, and has become convinced that the conflict is not between Christians and Jews, but between aggressively evangelical Christians and everybody else.

When Weinstein bitched, an "internal inquiry substantiated virtually all of his specific allegations. It found, for example, that Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, the commandant of cadets, taught the entire incoming class a "J for Jesus" hand signal; that football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a "Team Jesus" banner in the locker room; and that more than 250 faculty members and senior officers signed a campus newspaper advertisement saying: "We believe that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world."

But the Air Force's report concluded that there was "no overt religious discrimination"
-- no I am not making this up.

In the usual up-is-down, hot-is-cold, nasty-is-virtuous bullshit we've all come to expect, it turns out, of course, that it's actually THE THEOCONS who are being discriminated against! ""I consider my constitutional right to discuss my faith without censorship or fear of retribution as valuable to the military and the future of our nation as the aircraft, bombs and bullets I am trained to employ," Air Force Capt. Karl Palmberg, one of the would-be interveners, said in an affidavit." Forget the fact that there's a difference between what you get to do on Saturday on random street corners or big, ugly megachurches and what you do during the week on the government's dime. It's the xians who are, as per always, being persecuted by being told that they can't impose their monotheistic, patriarchal crap on the rest of us.

Go, Mikey.

Gee, NYT, Ya Think?

NYT, apparently not going to back down simply because people send it what they want the NYT to think may be anthrax

The Cost of Executive Arrogance

The president’s constant efforts to assert his power to act without consent or consultation has warped the war on terror. The unity and sense of national purpose that followed 9/11 is gone, replaced by suspicion and divisiveness that never needed to emerge. The president had no need to go it alone — everyone wanted to go with him. Both parties in Congress were eager to show they were tough on terrorism. But the obsession with presidential prerogatives created fights where no fights needed to occur and made huge messes out of programs that could have functioned more efficiently within the rules.

Jane Mayer provided a close look at this effort to undermine the constitutional separation of powers in a chilling article in the July 3 issue of The New Yorker. She showed how it grew out of Vice President Dick Cheney’s long and deeply held conviction that the real lesson of Watergate and the later Iran-contra debacle was that the president needed more power and that Congress and the courts should get out of the way.

To a disturbing degree, the horror of 9/11 became an excuse to take up this cause behind the shield of Americans’ deep insecurity. The results have been devastating. Americans’ civil liberties have been trampled. The nation’s image as a champion of human rights has been gravely harmed. Prisoners have been abused, tortured and even killed at the prisons we know about, while other prisons operate in secret. American agents “disappear” people, some entirely innocent, and send them off to torture chambers in distant lands. Hundreds of innocent men have been jailed at Guantánamo Bay without charges or rudimentary rights. And Congress has shirked its duty to correct this out of fear of being painted as pro-terrorist at election time.

Thanks, NYT. Better late than never.

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

Here's what I think is a rather good translation of an Akhmatova poem that I found noodling around on the web. Good in the sense that the poem actually seems to scan almost effortlessly and speaks to me -- I can't say if it's good in the sense of accurately conveying what Akhmatova was trying to say. Unfortunately, I can't remember who did this translation.

Akhmatova's relationship to dirt is different than mine. Me, I love dirt, think about it, respect it, create compost for it, love to dig in it and bury bulbs, seeds, spellworkings in it. Do you ever think about dirt?


In all the world no people are so tearless,
So proud, so simple as are we.

In lockets for a charm we do not wear it,
In verse about its sorrows do not weep,
With Eden's blissful vales do not compare it,
Untroubled does it leave our bitter sleep.
To traffic in it is a thought that never,
Not even in our hearts, remote, takes root.
Before our eyes its image does not hover,
Though we be beggared, sick, despairing, mute.
It's the mud on our shoes, it is rubble,
It's the sand on our teeth, it is slush,
It's the pure, taintless dust that we crumble,
That we pound, that we mix, that we crush.
But it's ours, our own, and will open one day
To receive and embrace us and turn us to clay.

Democracy Blues

The Heretik captures Putin's complete bitchslap of Our National Embarassment.