Saturday, September 23, 2006

Like As A Huntsman By Edmund Spenser

Like as a huntsman after weary chase,
Seeing the game from him escap'd away,
Sits down to rest him in some shady place,
With panting hounds beguiled of their prey:
So after long pursuit and vain assay,
When I all weary had the chase forsook,
The gentle deer return'd the self-same way,
Thinking to quench her thirst at the next brook.
There she beholding me with milder look,
Sought not to fly, but fearless still did bide:
Till I in hand her yet half trembling took,
And with her own goodwill her firmly tied.
Strange thing, me seem'd, to see a beast so wild,
So goodly won, with her own will beguil'd.

Perhaps Someone At The Next Press Conference Will Be Brave Enough?

Who would Jesus torture?

Hat tip to Miniver Cheevey.

A Modest Proposal

I got to wondering the other day: what's the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the world? And then I started to think: wouldn't it be cool if companies competed to have their vehicle be the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the world? And wouldn't it be cool if the President of the United States said that s/he only wanted to travel in the world's most efficient vehicle? Wouldn't it be cool to see, say, Ford and Honda and GM compete with each other to produce the world's most fuel-efficient vehicle and, consequently, to provide the president of the US with said vehicle? What great free advertising?

President [Clinton/Gores/Kerry/Whoever] only rides in a [Ford/Honda/GM/Whatever] vehicle. Why should you drive any less?

Elect a Democrat and maybe it could happen.

Maybe It's Time For An Intervention

I had a dear friend once who stayed with an abusive drunk long after any of the rest of us could figure out WTF was going on. I confronted her about it once and she told me, essentially, that although she knew that he "could be" (aka "was") abusive to her, she believed that he would always "protect" her from "anyone else." Of course, it was a form of mental illness, and, thank the Goddess, her women friends eventually convinced her to leave him and get some counseling.

I guess that I'm reminded of this incident by the "Security Moms" on my street -- otherwise smart and creative women who tell me that they don't like anything much at all about George Bush, but that they voted for him because they trusted him (and in most cases, still do) to "keep them safe" from "terrorists." These are not idiots, nor was my friend. Like her, (at least, at first, she was like this) they have college degrees, current interests, active lives, lots of moxie.

Well, today's NYT ought to function for them the same way that our (several) interventions functioned for my friend. George Bush has made life more dangerous for all of us. For me, for you, for the adorable children of the Security Moms on my street -- the cute, well-behaved kids who sell me Girl Scout cookies, collect canned good from me for the homeless, borrow my Slip-n-Slide (Atriots, you know who you are), and wave to me when I slowly drive by their games of street lacrosse.

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

Women. For the love of the fruit of your own sweet wombs. Vote for a Congress and Senate that will put the brakes on this madman who endangers all of us. Vote Democratic in November.

I'll Be Happy When There's No Need For "Awareness"

Yeah. What Twisty says. And what Barbara Ehrenreich says, too.

Nine years ago next week, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 41, with no family history. My general practitioner sent me for a "baseline" mammogram which just happened to turn up a tumor. I had a lumpectomy and then, a week later, they repeated the lumpectomy at the same site, in order to ensure better margins and they went under my arm and took out a bunch of lymph nodes to check those for cancer. Luckily, those were cancer-free, and so, after chemo, radiation, chemo, and Tamoxifen, I was "cured." Well, if by cured you mean thrown into early menopause, half-crippled in my right arm, burned by radiation, chemo-brained, and made stiff by Tamoxifen, then I was cured. And of course, bitch though I do, I was "one of the lucky ones."

Ironically, enough, haha, my cancer was discovered in October, which, since the Goddess has a wicked sense of humor, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

So, every October, just as I'm having my annual mammogram and visit to the surgeon, we get the stirring magazine articles about "Survivors," Hallmark-worthy ads on tv about bald women racing for the cure in pink t-shirts, preferably in slow motion, and -- where but in America -- people promoting everything from shampoo to yogurt to cars by using breast cancer. I gotta tell you: I hope to Hera all that money that the companies say they donate actually does some good, because my immediate reaction is always: Fuck you. Fuck you for using this disgusting disease to sell more stuff. Glad to be able to help out your bottom line. No, really.

And, as long as I'm bitching, please don't tell me that it's a "gift." I want to punch people who say that breast cancer is a "gift." Being alive and healthy is a gift. Anything that involves taking chemo -- not so much.

This week, I had my mammogram. It was good.

Now, if I can just make it through October. Maybe I'll spend my time hunting down the creator of that ceramic and pink rhinestone abomination and shoving sacchrine down their throat.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I've Really Had It With The Whole Abrahamic Cult

I agree with everything that Jason from the Wild Hunt says about Ratzi the Nazi's hatred of all things Pagan, except for Jason's suggestion that the clash between two scions of the Abrahamic cult may be good for Pagans.

Jason, in fact, does seem to realize that, as the saying goes, when elephants fight the grasses get trampled. He concludes that: With a possible war in Iran looming and rhetoric about WWIII being thrown around things could get quite bad before they get any better. We may just see a further "hardening" of Christian attitudes towards anyone who isn't supporting the Christian cause. In the coming years modern Pagans and Heathens may need more than ever to look to the health and safety of our communities lest we get swept up in a new inter-religious conflict.

And, as for xians getting their panties in a wad over Pagan cults practicing near the site of xian saints' graves, I'll simply note, for the record, that the xians stole our holy sites and built their churches right on them (where they re-enact human sacrifice), stole our sacred wells, cut down our sacred groves, appropriated our goddesses and turned them into their saints, and stole Eostara, Beltane, Yule, and Samhein, for starters. So they can shut the fuck up. Now.
When I Get Disgusted With The World (CoughTortureCough), It Helps Me To Take Some Positive Action.

Help save the rainforests.
Meet G. Felix, Jr. and Jim

You know, it's pretty easy to tell who's real and who's a slick inside-the-beltway cowboy.
George Allen is Not a Jew

The General sets the record straight.

Fed Up? Vote Democratic.

NYT reports that, under Bush, the rich have gotten significantly richer.

The Bushes and Dick Cheney have made millions off of tax cuts. Have you?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Party of the Gods II - Halloween Edition

Those Bored Gods! They really love to party.

No Matter How Cynical You Are, That's A Lot Of Money

NYT has an article on Sir Richard Branson's pledge, made as a result of the efforts of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, to invest $10 billion over the next ten years in fighting global climate change.

Maybe the Bush family would like to step up to the plate? I hear they have a lot of money. Or, we could all just assume that Sir Richard, Bill, and Al all have much bigger

bank accounts. (What? What did you think I was going to say??)

It Just Gets Worse And Worse

Sweet Farking Freya.

I bet the Iraqi people sure are grateful to George Bush for unleashing hell on Earth "over there," so that "evildoers" can't "fight us, over here."

From Yahoo: BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi insurgents are no longer using just volunteers as suicide car bombers but are instead kidnapping drivers, rigging their vehicles with explosives and blowing them up, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

In what appears to be a new tactic for the insurgency, the ministry said the kidnap victims do not know their cars have been loaded with explosives when they are released.

The ministry issued a statement saying that first "a motorist is kidnapped with his car. They then booby trap the car without the driver knowing. Then the kidnapped driver is released and threatened to take a certain road."

The kidnappers follow the car and when the unwitting victim "reaches a checkpoint, a public place, or an army or police patrol, the criminal terrorists following the driver detonate the car from a distance," the Defense Ministry statement said.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. military. In the past, U.S. officials have said insurgents often tape or handcuff a suicide driver's hands to a car, or bind his foot to the gas pedal, to ensure that he does not back out at the last minute.

Although roadside bombs are the main weapon used by insurgents, suicide car bombers are designed to maximize casualties and sow fear among the population.

According to the Washington-based Brookings Institution, there have been 343 suicide car bombings causing multiple deaths in Iraq since the fall ofSaddam Hussein in 2003.
Clinton on The Daily Show

If she ran and won, it would be good for America. I'm not untalented at reading faces. If I read Bill's face correctly, she's running.
George Allen is Sorry.

Not sorry enough.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What Hugo Chavez Said

I have the feeling, dear world dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.

Yes, you can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the empire, against the model of domination.

The president then -- and this he said himself, he said: "I have come to speak directly to the populations in the Middle East, to tell them that my country wants peace."

That's true. If we walk in the streets of the Bronx, if we walk around New York, Washington, San Diego, in any city, San Antonio, San Francisco, and we ask individuals, the citizens of the United States, what does this country want? Does it want peace? They'll say yes.

But the government doesn't want peace. The government of the United States doesn't want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.

More, here.

No Shit, Sherlock.

The NYT has a report on the speech that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela gave to the United Nations one day after the head of the Bush junta, George W. Bush, gave an idiotic, embarrassing speech to the U.N."
Yesterday, the devil came here," Mr. Chavez said, alluding to Mr. Bush's appearance before the General Assembly on Tuesday. "Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of."

Then Mr. Chavez made the sign of the cross, brought his hands together as if in prayer and glanced toward the ceiling.

The moment may not become as famous as Nikita Khrushchev's finger-wagging, shoe-thumping outbursts in the General Assembly in the cold-war era, but it still produced chuckles and some applause in the assembly hall.

In case anyone had missed the point, Mr. Chavez drove it home:

"Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world."

Just in case you don't know, we Wiccans don't worship the devil. In fact, we don't believe that there is a devil. The devil is a xian belief. Wiccans have always worshipped "the horned god," who represents the generative male force and animals such as deer, aurochs, and other animals that are hunted. The modern Wiccan chant for Mabon says, "Hoof and horn. Hoof and horn. All that dies shall be reborn." The xians, in an attempt to discredit the Pagans, gave their devil horns and tried to blur the line between the Horned God and their devil. Whatever.

So Chavez can cross himself all he likes. Maybe it will work against the xian devil and maybe it won't. It won't protect even a brave man like Chavez from an immoral fool like George W. Bush. But Chavez did put his finger on one very important point. Bush does believe that he owns the world. He's the worst, most privileged, sort of incompetent pissant.

Good Choice

Today's NYT reports that one of my favorite poets, Adrienne Rich, has been named [a] recipient[] of [an]honorary National Book Awards medal[], the National Book Foundation announced Wednesday.

The 77-year-old Rich, known for her passionate, socially conscious verse, has been awarded a ''Medal for Distinguished Contribution.''

A few of Rich's poems have literally sustained me through some of my darkest days.

Here's my favorite:

Transcendental Etude" in The Fact of a Doorframe

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
--And in fact we can't live like that: we take on
everything at once before we've even begun
to read or mark time, we're forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ten Years -- Until 2016. How Old Will Your Children Be In 2016?

A ten-year window. This is, BTW, one of the more optimistic opinions that I've heard recently. We have, according to one of NASA's preeminent scientists, a ten-year window in which to save the Earth.

That is, in case you're calculating, the final two years of the Bush junta and 8 years of complete, flat-out effort during a Democratic administration, burdened with the Bush junta's terrible debt, working on the problem. Otherwise, your children, my grandson, all of our hostages to fortune, are fucked.

I am just saying.

I'm Just Saying, Is All.

This is at least the second article that I've seen recently concerning high suicide rates among India's farmers. That many of them choose to commit suicide by swallowing pesticide marketed to them by American conglomerates is, somehow, doubly ironic. Today's NYT reports that: In what some see as an ominous trend, food production, once India’s great pride, has failed to keep pace with the nation’s population growth in the last decade.

Let's, to use a newly- and horribly-popular term, "unpack" that, shall we?

Food production in India -- one of the world's most populous countries -- is not -- as in not -- keeping pace with population growth -- as in the number of people being born. That means just what you think it means. It means that there is not enough food for so many people. Too many people. Not enough food.

India is, BTW, one of the countries most likely to be hit hard by global climate change.

India, BTW, has atomic bombs.

E and Deb, This One's For You

Somehow, you just know this article isn't by Robin Givhans. It's interesting, informative, and readable.

Hey! Guess What! In America, There Are Xians And A Few Other Patriarchal Monotheists And There's "Other." I'm Other.

Jason, at The Wild Hunt beat me to commenting on this survey of religions from Baylor University that appears to believe that "religion" means "xian."

Interestingly, the study is being touted for its "Four Gods" meme. But, don't get excited; they're not pantheists. They just mean that, apparently, in America you can conceive of divinity in any of four different ways -- as long as all of those ways are male. As Jason explains, the four conceptions of divinity that, apparently, all Americans endorse are either Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant . . . .

"One area that emerged from the survey that has excited the researchers is what they call the "Four Gods." Depending on how engaged people think God is in the world and how angry God is with the world. "If you think about people perceiving God as high in anger, low in anger, high in engagement, low in engagement, it results in four different types of gods," said Froese."

It's such a narrow view -- one that ignores half of the human race and half of the divine beings ever recognized -- that it's startling. It reminds me of the first book that I ever read about female conceptions of the divine: The Politics of Women's Spirituality, edited by Charlene Spretnak. An essay by Anne Kent Rush in that book literally changed my life. Rush wrote that: [F]or any woman, to perpetuate a patriarchal religion and to worship a male god is for her to deify her oppression. Rush closed her essay with the famous words of Monique Wittig from Les Guerilleres: You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.

I set off immediately upon that road, and, as the poet said, that has made all the difference.

So, Baylor, bite me.

May The Goddess Guard Him. May He Find His Way To The Summerlands. May His Friends And Family Find Peace

South African poet Mazisi Kunene has died. The world is poorer.

Was I Wrong?

Was I wrong when I thought
All shall be avenged?
Was I wrong when I thought
The rope of iron holding the neck of young bulls
Shall be avenged?
Was I wrong
When I thought the orphans of sulphur
Shall rise from the ocean?
Was I depraved when I thought there need not be love
There need not be forgiveness, there need not be progress,
There need not be goodness on the earth,
There need not be towns of skeletons,
Sending messages of elephants to the moon?
Was I wrong to laugh asphyxiated ecstasy
When the sea rose like quicklime
When the ashes on ashes were blown by the wind
When the infant sword was left alone on the hilltop?
Was I wrong to erect monuments of blood?
Was I wrong to avenge the pillage of Caesar?
Was I wrong? Was I wrong?
Was I wrong to ignite the earth
And dance above the stars
Watching Europe burn with its civilization of fire.
Watching America disintegrate with its gods of steel,
Watching the persecutors of mankind turn into dust
Was I wrong? Was I wrong?"

$830 Million -- Next Thing You Know, You're Talking Real Money

Yet more evidence that cleaning up the environment could make a lot of people a lot of money and could provide a lot of people with a lot of jobs. EEI reports that:

U.K. Firm Raises $830 Million for Efforts to Cut GHG Emissions

Climate Change Capital of the U.K. announced that it has raised $830 million for its investment fund to reduce GHG emissions worldwide, the London Times reported. The fund invests in the installation of technology to cut emissions and monitors the resulting reductions.

Fund founder James Cameron said he created Climate Change Capital after the Kyoto Protocol was signed and he saw no investment firm involved in emissions reduction. Cameron responded to criticism that his fund merely shifts the reductions from Europe to foreign countries where reductions are less expensive. Cameron was quoted by the Times as saying: "We have one atmosphere. It is very thin and delicate and it doesn't matter where you take out the tonnes of carbon, but it does matter when."
London Times , Sept. 16.

Mr. Cameron is right -- it does matter when. Yesterday would be good.

Go Al, Go Al, Go Al!

Today's EEI newsletter reports that:

Gore Urges New Programs Focused on Climate Change, Energy Efficiency
Former Vice President Al Gore, in a speech at the New York University School of Law, outlined a series of programs that were designed to address climate change, including possibly freezing CO2 emissions and setting up a new government agency, the Carbon Neutral Mortgage Association, to help make more energy-efficient homes, the Washington Post reported today.

In his speech, the Post reported, Gore "took a veiled shot at the Bush administration" when he said: "The debate over solutions has been slow to begin in earnest … because some of our leaders still find it more convenient to deny the reality of the crisis." Wrote the Post: "He saluted a Republican, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for helping to push through sharp reductions in carbon emissions."

The Wall Street Journal today said the speech came amid concern that the White House was about to launch a new policy initiative. However, the Journal said that James L. Connaughton, head of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, indicated in an interview with the newspaper that "there is no 'imminent' policy change in the works. But he added that White House policy makers continue to review incentives to push new technologies that help reduce greenhouse gases. The possibilities include introducing more efficient diesel engines for cars and light trucks - slated to begin this fall - that, he said, could reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by as much as 20 percent."
New York Times , Washington Post , Wall Street Journal , Sept. 19. Associated Press via the Houston Chronicle , Sept. 18.

You can read the entire text of Gore's remarks here. And you should.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hope Is the Thing With Feathers That Perches In The Soul, And Renders You Ineffective.

Lately, I notice an upwelling of hope among liberals. Maybe, we think, the rest of America is waking up. Maybe the Democrats will retake Congress in November, grow a spine, and begin to put the breaks on the Bush junta. Maybe Al Gore will run in 2008 and do something serious about the environment. And you might think that hope is a good thing. But environmental activist Derrick Jensen explains below that hope is a big part of our problem.

THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We're fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have—or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective—to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they're reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here's how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons
for doing the work: "As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they're gone in twenty, they'll be gone forever."
But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We're losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don't care.

Frankly, I don't have much hope. But I think that's a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

. . .

We've all been taught that hope in some future condition—like hope in some future heaven—is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. I'm sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind's sole comfort in misfortune. No mention here of action being a comfort in misfortune, or of actually doing something to alleviate or eliminate one's misfortune.

The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying "Hope and fear chase each other's tails," not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is . . . : hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.

I'm not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don't hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn't crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they've assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they've stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.

I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn't drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don't like how they're being treated—and who could blame them?—I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.

When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to "hope" at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.

When we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we're in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free—truly free—to honestly start working to resolve it. I would say that when hope dies, action begins.

. . . [I feel this way b]ecause I'm in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don't determine whether or not you make the effort. You don't simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn't cause me to protect those I love, it's not love.

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there's a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you're dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.
. . . And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you're wondering, that's a very good thing.

If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?

Freeway rocks. In any language.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

If You Won't Acknowledge That There's An Elephant (Double Entendre Intended) In The Living Room, You Can't Ever Hope To Get It Out Of Your Living Room

George Bush says so much about "democracy," that it's kind of ironic to realize that he genuinely has no understanding of its underpinnings. He's kind of like the newly-minted Wiccan, who can't understand why her soulmate didn't appear -- after all, she read the spell exactly as it was printed in the Llewellyn Book of Love Spells. She even did it wearing a red dress and burning that expensive Incense of Love that she bought at the Ren Faire. Bush, similarly, seems to believe that if he keeps repeating the word -- democracy, democracy, democracy -- the Bush junta clusterfuck that is Iraq will magically turn into an oasis in a desert of theocratic despotism. It isn't working for him, any better than the Incense of Love is working for the baby Wiccan.

One of the most important underpinnings of democracy that Bush completely fails to understand is the concept that a democratic government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. In a functioning democracy, people consent to be governed by the winner of an election, even when they voted for the other person. But that lasts only as long as people on both sides -- and ESPECIALLY people on the losing side -- believe that the election was fair and that the votes were accurately counted. Otherwise, people tend to do things like riot, burn buildings, and generally refuse to be governed. Beginning in 2000, the essential underpinnings of our democracy began to crumble. The Bush junta got a despicably-partisan SCOTUS to stop the accurate counting of votes in Florida and Bush assumed power in what I believe was an unconstitutional manner.

Well, a two-hundred-year-old democracy such as ours might have been able to sustain that kind of blow -- once. But the Republicans saw that Americans didn't riot in the streets, burn down any buildings, or refuse to recognize the junta's actions. That led them to make (what I hope will be shown to be) an unwarranted leap of logic. They decided that they could continue to steal elections. They almost certainly stole the 2002 midterm elections and they certainly stole the Ohio presidential election. And, they are planning to steal the 2006 midterm elections, as we sit here.

With each election that they've stolen, they, like many criminals, have become more skilled. One of the most important tools in their black bag has been the Diebold voting machine. The president of Diebold is a huge Bush supporter and promised to "deliver" Ohio to Bush. And, he did.

Last week's fiasco concerning the primaries in Maryland -- where [m]ajor mistakes bogged down Tuesday's primary election. Equipment abruptly turned off or went missing, vote totals didn't arrive on time, and many volunteers lacked the know-how to start and operate the state's new and, for the first time, entirely electronic voting system. Circuit judges ordered polls to stay open an extra hour in Baltimore, where many election judges were no-shows, and in Montgomery County, where [what the Sun is please to call] human error prevented a crucial electronic component from being delivered to polling stations. Today's WaPo suggests that even more such fuck-ups are to be expected this November. (Guess who those "errors" are going to favor? Bend over, Democrats. HICA.)

And, just this week, came news of a careful study from Princeton University (hardly a bastion of liberalism or tin-foil-wearing anarchists) demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that Diebold voting machines are some of the most-easily hacked machines in the universe. Some of the more disturbing results from the Princeton report:

Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss. We have constructed demonstration software that carries out this vote-stealing attack.

Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.

AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses — computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity. We have constructed a demonstration virus that spreads in this way, installing our demonstration vote-stealing program on every machine it infects.

While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.

If you believe that a supporter of the Bush junta would just accidentally market a machine like this and that, given motive and opportunity (both of which they've had in spades), the Bush junta just kept its hands clean and didn't steal votes, then I have a Llewellynn Book of Love Spells and some Incense of Love that I can let you have for a few thousand dollars. I got them from a hereditary witch, the last of a long lineage with its roots in Lascaux, who died just after passing them on to me, but making me promise not to reveal her identity. Really.

I think it's going to take some serious rioting to ever get back to the days when most Americans felt comfortable that their votes were counted correctly rather than stolen, but then I'm a cynical old bitch. The Princeton Study demonstrates, though, why I've vowed not to donate any money to any Democratic presidentiall candidate until the Democrats figure out that they've GOT to re-take the Secretary of State positions in Ohio and Florida. Otherwise, donating to a Democratic presidential candidate is just a way to enrich the Bonna Draziles and Danny Lavises of the world.

However, on the assumption that there might be a step short of national riots that provide the sadist Secretary of the Air Force with the opportunity to microwave-tase Americans for which he's been jonesing, here is one modest suggestion. Diebold stock (ticker name: DBD) was selling on Friday afternoon for $41.97. Call your broker and buy a share. Go on line and buy a share. Ask your parents to buy you a share for xmas.

Shareholder activism may be our last, best hope for a peaceful solution to this problem. Every spring, thousands of annual general meetings take place across America. . . . Shareholder meetings are also the one opportunity each year where minority shareholders and advocacy groups have a chance to speak directly with the company boards in a public forum. Participation ranges from mild-mannered opposition to radical, attention-getting activism. In 1998, for instance, environmental activists from Amazon Watch splashed fake blood on the exterior of the Occidental oil company's headquarters and carried a "pipeline" of eight oil barrels welded together into the lobby of the building. Other meetings have prompted large scale banner drops, traffic obstructions, and puppet parades.

Amazon Watch's Leila Salazar, who was present at this year's ChevronTexaco meeting, believes that participating in these annual meetings is a useful way to be heard as an activist. "A lot of times we don't have that access." She says. "Its rare to be able to go and meet with companies that normally wouldn't listen to activists."

The meetings are also a convenient springboard for social responsibility investors and NGOs to introduce resolutions for shareholder votes to change company practice and generate media attention for their cause against standing policy at a company's expense.

That's exactly what a consortium of groups, including Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and the United Steelworkers Union, aimed to do in mid-April at the lumber giant Weyerhaeuser'’s annual meeting. They assembled a group of shareholders who collectively owned more than $400,000 in Weyerhaeuser stock to ask pointed questions to board members about the company'’s practices of recklessly logging endangered old-growth forests in North America, using wasteful tree-cutting procedures, and abuse of trust in the cutting of billions of dollars worth of cedar forests on the Haida Nation tribe's lands in British Columbia.

Weyerhaeuser CEO Steve Rogel's anticipated his Big Day might be ruined and brought in a large contingent of security guards and eliminated the custom of allowing shareholders to ask direct questions to the board members. Instead, shareholders were directed to write their questions on cards, which board members then chose from.

From the company's perspective, the meeting did not go well. Many shareholders and representatives were furious that they were unable to communicate directly with the board. The Steelworkers said they submitted more than fifteen questions in the meeting and got just one response. Some of the attendees began shouting and were forcibly removed from the meeting. RAN'’s Old Growth Campaign director Brant Olson said that Weyerhaeuser'’s elimination of direct question/answer sessions in the meetings "“set a dangerous precedent for other publicly-owned company meetings. It also shows the contempt Weyerhaeuser has for its shareholders --— the people who actually own the company."

Steve Rogel told the press after the meeting, "Obviously there are elements of society who will do anything to have their views heard." Yet it was Weyerhaeuser'’s attempt to stifle the activists that really sent a message that day. News about the meeting spread throughout the local and national press. That day, The New York Times ran a story under the heading "Manager to Owners: Shut Up."”

Diebold's last annual meeting was April 27, 2006. That gives you six months to go buy a share of Diebold and make plans to attend their next annual meeting. I have some ideas about a derivative action following that meeting, but I need to do some more research and flesh that out before I blog about it.

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

The mysterious spring still thrills...

The mysterious spring still thrills,
A transparent breeze wanders the hills,
And the deep lake becomes bluer still--
The temple of the Baptist not built by human hands.

You were frightened by our first meeting,
But I was already praying for a second one.
And again today the evening is sultry--
How low the sun hangs over the hill...

You are not with me but there's no separation:
For me each moment is a triumphant report.
I know that you are in such torment,
That you can't utter a word..

by Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Judith Hemschemeyer