Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Goddess Blogging

Corn Woman

Amy Sophia Marashinsky says that: Corn Woman brings her love for you in the form of food to tell you [that] it is time to nourish yourself. Eating is a sacred act. Something living dies and you take it in, whether you hunt/kill the animals [that] you eat with your own hands or buy your vegetables in the supermarket. Part of being human means causing death in order to live. To treat the act of eating as a chore, as something to be feared or avoided is to denigrate the gift of love from Corn Woman and the plants and the animals.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Too Little Too Late Is Not Enough

Today's EEI newsletter reports that:

More Details Emerge on Sen. Boxer's Plan for Climate Change Probe
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the incoming chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has indicated that she likely will hold an "intensive" round of climate change oversight hearings early in the 110th Congress, which convenes in early January, Inside EPA reported. Her goal is to lay a foundation for a clear understanding of a wide range of opinions on how Congress can intervene in the critical components that make up climate change.

According to one source knowledgeable of Boxer's plan, the newsletter reported, "the initial hearings are likely to focus on updated science showing overwhelming evidence of the earth's warming, quickly followed by sessions digging into the principal policy issues related to various emission-reduction schemes, including carbon cap-and-trade schemes."

Boxer was quoted as saying the initial hearings would be designed to "listen, listen, listen, hear all the ideas and then put some legislation together. We're going to take our time and do it right." Added the newsletter: "Boxer said she will set a gold standard for climate legislation that would be 'very close' to an aggressive law recently enacted in California that will cap carbon emissions."
Inside EPA, Dec. 8.

I'm glad to hear that Boxer's going to hold intensive hearings, but if she thinks that coming close to the California plan is a "gold standard," she's mistaken. The California plan is not enough to save the Earth. Hopefully, those testifying before her committee can convince her of this.

Separation Of Church And State -- What A Good Idea.

The xians continue to have their panties in a wad over a policy that they went to court in order to implement. Swear to Kali, these people sure do love to see themselves as persecuted.

Via Witchvox, WorldNetDaily reports that: In the appellate opinion from Maryland, Judge Diana Motz concluded giving school officials "unbridled discretion to deny access to the oft-used forum [notices in kids' backpacks] – for any reason at all, including antipathy to a particular viewpoint – does not ensure the requisite viewpoint neutrality."

In that case, the school board specifically wanted a policy allowing teachers to hand out flyers from groups school officials liked, but that would ban flyers from Christian Evangelism Fellowship.

WorldNetDaily is lying. School officials had a policy that allowed them to send home, for example, notices about the local Department of Parks and Recreation, but did not allow ANY religious notices. It had nothing to do with whether or not school officials "liked" a particular group. A fundie father got Jerry Falwell's group to sue the school system and the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit -- one of America's most conservative -- told the Board of Education that if it sent home any notices that were from any organization other than the school system itself, it had to allow religious notices, as well. The fundies were perfectly happy with that, thinking that they could now prostelityze a captive band of children to their hearts' content.

Well, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Pagans who attend the local Unitarian church sent home an announcement for their Yule celebration through the school system.

And the fundies, used to having their cake and eating it, too, are going nuts.

The whole debacle simply goes to show what a good idea separation of church and state really is.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pagan Jujitsu on Virginia Fundies

Here's the blog of the Baptist pastor who thinks that since they're a minority, the Pagans should just sit down and shut up and here's the blog by the oh-so-xian mother whose little darlings shouldn't have been exposed to a flyer from those nasty Pagans.

Simply because we always strive to provide competing viewpoints.

Inhofe -- Major Jerk

From today's EEI newsletter:

Sen. Inhofe Uses Hearing to Slam Media Reporting on Climate Change

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the outgoing chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, used his rights as chairman to conduct a final hearing condemning media coverage of climate change issues. Inhofe brought a group of witnesses forward who generally supported his position, but Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., challenged them to address whether Inhofe was correct in an assessment he has issued calling climate change "a hoax." None would agree with that assessment, only that it was being hyped and unfairly cast in the media.

The Washington Times today quoted Inhofe as saying: "The media often fails to distinguish between predictions and what is actually being observed on the Earth today. Rather than focus on the hard science of global warming, the media has instead become advocates for hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism." And the Los Angeles Times today quoted Inhofe as saying: "Hysteria sells. Scare tactics should not drive public policy." [Gee, Jim. That's not what you said about attacking Iraq.] The Times wrote that Inhofe believed that "rising Earth temperatures are mainly a natural, cyclical phenomenon. His staff distributed a 64-page booklet that included a speech by Inhofe in September that he characterized as 'a skeptic's guide to debunking global warming alarmism'."

The incoming committee chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle today as saying: "In a free society in what is the greatest democracy in the world, I don't believe it's proper to put pressure on the media to please a particular Senate committee's view. My other sadness about this hearing is again we're arguing about who believes what rather than moving toward solving the problem." The Tulsa World today quoted Inhofe as saying: "As the Democrats rush to pass costly carbon cap legislation in the next Congress, today's hearing showed that the so-called 'scientific consensus' does not exist."

Wrote the Chronicle: "Boxer was one of five senators who joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair for a fireside chat Wednesday night at the British Embassy to discuss Blair's efforts to push the United States and other nations to address climate change. The other senators invited were Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I- Conn., co-authors of a bill to limit carbon emissions, as well as Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who is seeking to replace Inhofe as the ranking Republican on the environment committee."
Los Angeles Times , San Francisco Chronicle , Tulsa World , Washington Times , San Jose Mercury News , Dec. 7.

Come on, January. I can't wait until Inhofe's insane ramblings are those of a MINORITY member.

Just To Piss Off The Fundies, Part The Second

My madcap friend, R., is tweaking the fundies in a rather innovative way. Chas Clifton has the link.

In Albemarle County, Va., fundie central, Pagans recently sent a notice home with all school children inviting them to attend a Pagan Yule celebration. "What!?!" you say; "Doesn't that violate the First Amendment's requirement of separation between church and state?" Why, yes. Yes it does. And the fundies, as you may imagine, are none too happy about it. But they have only themselves to blame.

The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church’s Vacation Bible School to their peers via “backpack mail.” Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.

School officials originally denied the request from the twins’ father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring “distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.”

A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski “sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county,” and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group founded by Mathew Staver and now affiliated with Falwell.

Some local Pagans who attend Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Charlottesville, decided to take advantage of the new forum as well. They created a one-page flier advertising a Dec. 9 event celebrating the December holidays with a Pagan twist and used the backpack system to invite the entire school community.

“Have you ever wondered what ‘Holidays’ refers to?” reads the flier. “Everyone knows about Christmas – but what else are people celebrating in December? Why do we celebrate the way we do?”

The flier invites people to “an educational program for children of all ages (and their adults), where we’ll explore the traditions of December and their origins, followed by a Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule.”

It concludes, “Come for one or both parts and bring your curiosity.”

Many members of this congregation are strong supporters of church-state separation who don’t believe public schools should promote any religion. But they were also unwilling to cede the field to Falwell and his fundamentalist allies. Falwell opened the backpack forum, and the Pagans were determined to secure equal time.

Suddenly not everyone was pleased by the open forum. Jeff Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, wrote on his personal blog, “If the school allows the Baptist or Methodist church to send home a note to its students about Vacation Bible School, it also has to allow the Unitarian Church to send home a note about its ‘Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule’….This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).” [See, now this is what's funny. You'd think he'd conclude that this kind of note adds weight to the argument that we ought to keep church and state separate, but, sadly, no.]

Another conservative Christian blogger in the county complained about finding the flier in her child’s folder. Apparently unaware of Falwell’s role in bringing it about, the blogger who goes by the name Cathy, noted disclaimer language at the bottom of the flier noting that the event is not connected to the school and wrote, “They [the school officials] aren’t endorsing or sponsoring this? Then it shouldn’t have been included in the Friday folders. The Friday folders have never been used for any thing other than school work and school board and/or County sanctioned/sponsored programs.”

She then fumed that a “pagan ritual” is “an educational experience my children don’t need.”

To be clear, I'd strongly prefer to have NO religious flyers sent home from public school. I think it violates the First Amendment of the Constitution to have the school sending home announcements about any religion. It seems to me that the school should only be sending home notices about school and, maybe, say, the Department of Recreation or the Health Department.

But R.'s action is a great way to remind the fundies why we need separation of church and state. Don't like having your tax dollars used and your captive-audience child subjected to propaganda about my religion? Or a madrassa that teaches that the United States is the Great Satan? Or the Scientologists who want to sell your child "services," or the child-molesting Catholics? Fair enough. Then keep your damn vacation bible school announcements to hand out at your Sunday school.

Gee, five seconds of thought might have allowed the fundies to see the logical outcome of their actions, but, as demonstrated by Jeff Riddle, logical thought may not be their strong suit.


The event is planned for this Saturday, December 9th 1-3 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Charlottesville (Rugby Rd). Drop by and say hello to the Fairy Guide.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Just To Piss Off The Fundies

The Dilemma That Patriarchy Poses

Some days, we have to believe six completely obscene things before breakfast

The beams fired by the ADS feature 3mm wavelengths as opposed to a 12cm wavelength used in an average household microwave oven. As a result of the shorter wavelengths, the weapon does not represent a radiation risk to victims and will not impose long-lasting damage in most cases.

Human volunteers (active, reserve and retired military personnel) subjected to the beam felt immediate and immense pain from the ADS weapon. The beam causes a person to feel that he or she is on fire and triggers a "flight" response. A result, Air Force officials say that the weapon has what is called the "Goodbye effect" meaning that subjects turn tail and run. "If hit by the beam, you will move out of it -- reflexively and quickly. You for sure will not be eager to experience it again," reported one test subject.

Tests on the volunteers revealed that most subjects reached their threshold for pain within 3 seconds while no one could hold out for more than 5 seconds at a time. After roughly 10,000 test exposures, there were only six reported cases of test subjects receiving blisters from exposure to the beam. One test subject did, however, receive second-degree burns in controlled laboratory testing. . . . In one war game, an assault team staged a mock raid on a building. The ADS was used to remove civilians from the battlefield, separating what the military calls "tourists from terrorists."

From The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk:

"Why didn't we start weapons production three months ago?" a young woman asked.

"We have no factories to make guns and bombs and laser rifles," said a large man whom Maya had seen before, speaking for the Technician's Guild. "We have no consensus to build them. And if we had, it would have been at the expense of something else, food production, or communications[,] or transport. . . .

"That's exactly what they wanted. We could have tightened our belts," said a young man who was, in Maya's opinion, already far too thin.

"Maybe," said the big man. "But if we start choosing guns over food and water, we become what we're fighting against."

"But if we lose to the Stewards, we won't have the luxury of choosing food or water over anything else."

"That's the dilemma patriarchy has posed for the last five thousand years," Greta said. . . .

"Isn't that our collective challenge, then?" Lily said. "if we don't have guns, we have vision and imagination."

"A vision ain't much protection against a laser rifle," a voice called from the back of the crowd. . . .

"Don't give up," Lily addressed the room as the discussion lagged. "We are simply challenged now to extend our imaginations beyond solutions that have been tried before."
Gore says Iraq 'worst strategy mistake in US history'


Ten Years To Tipping Point

From EEI: Rep. Gordon Outlines Climate Change, Energy Issues for Next Congress

Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., the incoming chairman of the House Science Committee, plans to focus on seeking a bipartisan consensus "for helping state and local communities protect themselves from severe weather events, and for speeding up the development of technology - such as energy-saving and emission-reducing industrial innovations - designed to mitigate global warming."

Gordon indicated, according to National Journal's Congress Daily, that he would side with the assessment advanced by NASA scientist James Hanson, who indicated that the world has a "very brief window to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade." Gordon was quoted by the newsletter as saying: "There is a tipping point somewhere and we have got to beat it."

Wrote the newsletter: "Another important item on Gordon's agenda is the promotion of energy independence for the United States. He said he was committed to the passage of legislation that would set up a special research agency within the Energy Department to develop ideas for fostering a domestic alternative fuel industry. Gordon said his committee agenda for energy also included using the panel as a venue for an intelligent national conversation on the expanded use of nuclear power."
National Journal's Congress Daily, Dec. 4.

The best news I've heard in some time is that Gordon agrees with NASA's James Hanson that "the world has a "very brief window to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade." One of my big concerns about the incoming Democratic majority has been that they seem to think that a few more tax credits for renewable energy is going to be "enough." It's not. We need really serious action and we need it right away.


I work in Washington, D.C. and live in Arlington, VA, so I don't want, in any way, to minimize the lives that were lost and damaged by the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Arlington was declared a disaster area; almost everyone knew someone who was in the Pentagon when the plane hit. But perhaps some perspective would be a good thing.

In Endgame, Derrick Jensen makes the point that Americans appear to believe that "the lives of people killed by foreign terrorists are more worthy of notice, vengeance, and future protection than those killed, for example, by unsafe working conditions, or by the turning of our total environment into a carcinogenic stew. Let's say that three thousand people died in those attacks. In no way do I mean to demean these lives once presumably full of love, friendship, drama, sorrow, and so on, but more Americans die each month from toxins and other workplace hazards, and more Americans die each week from preventable cancers that are for the most part direct results of the activities of large corporations, and certainly the results of the industrial economy. The lack of outrage over these deaths commensurate to the outrage expressed over the deaths in the 9/11 bombing reveals much -- if we care to reflect on it -- about the values and presumptions of our culture."

The difference in outrage springs, I think, from Jensen's Fourth Premise: Civilization is based on a clearly[-]defined and widely[-]accepted[,] yet often unarticulated[,] hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower on the hierarchy is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

The violence done by corporations to large groups of Americans and to our environment is invisible and not the cause of outrage because it is done by those higher on the hierarchy (the wealthy who make money off of these practices) to those lower on the hierarchy (working Americans, women who get breast cancer, etc.) The terrorist attacks of 9/11, however, were done by those lower on the hierarchy (brown people, foreigners, non-xians) to those higher on the hierarchy (mostly white people, Americans, xians). Thus, that violence is regarded, in Jensen's words, "with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims."

We've spent billions and billions of dollars "responding" (foolishly and ineffectively) to 9/11 -- money spent on everything from increased "security" at airports to bombing Iraq. When are we going to spend the same amount of money responding to the violence done to working Americans and to our environment? And if we're not going to respond to that violence, can we really pretend to be living in anything except a patriarchy?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Speaking Truth To Power -- And To War Criminals

It's absolutely amazing the effect that my new Senator, Jim Webb, has had upon the chattering classes. They simply cannot determine what to make of him. I supported Webb reluctantly -- his record on women is nothing to be proud of, although compared to G. Felix Allen, Jr., he didn't look all that terrible. That's not saying much. But his impact on the nattering nabobs of centrism has been simply breathtaking.

Last week, George Will, whore extraordinaire, got quite an ass-whooping for misrepresenting what happened between Webb and the boyking. For the record, it appears that Webb's son, a Marine in Iraq, narrowly missed death a few days before the boyking threw a meet-n-greet for newly-elected representatives. Webb attended the function, as only makes sense: it's not just a chance to meet the boyking, but also a chance to meet and network with future colleagues. Webb decided early on NOT to have his picture taken making nice with the boyking. Good for Webb. It's time we stopped treating war criminals as if they were anything other than war criminals. He didn't make a big deal of it; just didn't go through the receiving line. The boyking, in spite of having been briefed that the whole issue of Webb's son was pretty sensitive, went charging over to Webb and demanded, "How's your boy?" Webb, apparently wanting to deflect any personal discussion of his son with a war criminal, attempted to steer the conversation away from his son in particular, responding: "I'd like to bring them (i.e., not just my son but all Americans in Iraq) home, Mr. President." Bush, ever the snippy son of privilege, retorted: "That's not what I asked you. How's your boy?" Webb, apparently taken aback by Bush's rudeness, responded: "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President."

Will had to essentially re-write the entire exchange in order to attempt to portray Webb as having been rude to the war criminal, rather than the other way around. Will's a tool and lies as easily to his reading public as he once did to both his wife and his mistress, so that's no big surprise.

But today's columns by Kinsley and Cohen show just how much Webb discombubulates the DC establishment. Goddess knows what Kinsley's blabbering about; he doesn't even make a pretense at coherence. I don't care what Jenna and NotJenna do with their lives. Fuck them. And fuck Kinsley, who has to create strawmen and put words in Webb's mouth in order to come up with this piece of journalistic tripe: Webb seems to believe that because he served in Vietnam, anyone who could have but didn't should shut up. That includes people who opposed that war -- that is, who got it right -- as well as those who supported it. Webb's son is serving in Iraq, and -- in a gesture that would throw Dr. Freud for a loop -- Webb wears a pair of the son's combat boots. At a White House reception for new members of Congress, Webb avoided the receiving line and then, when Bush came up and asked him how his son was doing, he basically told the president to flake off. Webb's self-righteousness can be obnoxious. But at least he is being morally serious. Kinsley tells the same lie that Will told, pretending that Bush simply asked a nice question and then Webb went off on him. Go on, Kinsley, keep on lying and pretending that it's "obnoxious" to treat war criminals with disdain.

But WTF is Cohen on about?

After assuring his readers that confronting warmongers never ends wars any sooner, Cohen asserts that: In this case, it might have jarred Bush into appreciating the fact that many of his critics actually feel keenly about the war in Iraq -- that they are not mere political opponents but people who are morally appalled by a war that continues for no apparent reason. Maybe also the incident made him wonder about Webb, who, after all, hardly fits the demagogic antiwar stereotype constructed by Bush, Karl Rove and Fox News. Webb is a pugnacious sort, a former college boxer, Marine officer in Vietnam and secretary of the Navy under, of all people, Ronald Reagan. I would not, to his face, impeach his patriotism or suggest a dreamy liberalism. Then, Cohen notes that here is accumulating evidence that Bush is talking to mirrors and taking instruction from his dog. He makes no sense, saying he's amenable to change one day and digging in his heels the next. "I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," he said recently. Yes. Absolutely. But what is the mission? Please, ask the dog. Lives are being wasted.

That, of course, is the whole point. This imbroglio about Webb and manners is, at bottom, about the (very) premature deaths of young people in Iraq -- the sons and daughters of people much like Webb. Their only hope is that Bush is a liar rather than a fool. There is ample evidence for both propositions. He vowed enduring loyalty to Rumsfeld while interviewing his replacement, and he has overseen the administration of the war with an incompetence that will earn him a special place in American history.

Maybe the president has a plan for disengaging in Iraq. Maybe, though, he is disengaged himself. If that is the case, the thought occurs that it would take a polite version of a Cagneyesque grapefruit in the face to get his attention. If Webb did that, then a medal, not a rebuke, is in order.

Yet the by-now schizophrenic Cohen concludes: "Now, Jim, behave yourself."

WTF? Are the Washington glitterati so shocked to see how a real parent reacts to really having his child put in harms way for no fucking reason by a war criminal that they're reduced to blabbering inconsistencies and lies?


Monday, December 04, 2006

But That Is Never True

"After the uprising, we found ourselves caught in a dilemma. We knew that war was responsible for shaping the world into all the forms we wanted to change -- and yet there we were, surrounded by hostile enemies who might, at any moment, attack and destroy us. This was the dilemma that every peaceful culture has faced for the last five thousand years, at least. And this was our one advantage -- that we had history behind us. We had seen all possible solutions played out, from resistance to retreat to acquiescence, and we knew [that] none of them worked. That saved us a great deal of time. We didn't have to waste our energies stockpiling weapons or drilling troops; we could jump right to the heart of the matter, which was magic."

"In what sense?" Madrone asked.

Lily nodded to Maya. "You remember that Dion Fortune quote you've always been so fond of? That magic is the art of changing consciousness at will? You can look at a war as a massing of arms and materiel and troops, but you can also see it as something else -- as a delicate web of interwoven choices made by human beings, made out of a certain consciousness. The decision to order an attack, the choice to obey or disobey an order, to fire or not to fire a weapon. Armies and, indeed, any culture that supports them[,] must convince the people that all the decisions are made already, and they have no choice. But that is never true. So, mad as it may seem, this is the terrain upon which we base our defense of this city -- the landscape of consciousness."

From: The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk

If They Want Silly, We Should Give Them Silly

If you've been following the wingnut meltdown concerning the question of whether America's newly-elected Congress Critter would take his oath of office with his hand over the Quran, as I have, you'll be fascinated to learn, as I did via a comment over at the Wild Hunt, that America also elected two Buddhists this past election.

In an exercise in utterly missing the point, conservative radio host Dennis Prager recently attacked the wish of Keith Ellison--American's first Muslim Congressman--to be sworn in with a copy of the Qur'an instead of the Bible. Prager seems to be willfully ignorant of both US law and cultural precedent. Nevermind that the Constitution officially enshrines separation of religion and state, that presidents and other officials have sworn on a variety of books (and none at all), or that the point isn't to make someone swear to America's alleged Judeo-Christian culture but to get them to swear on a text so meaningful to them as individuals that they will acquit their governmental responsibilities with propriety. Prager goes so far overboard that he declares Ellison's decision to use the Qur'an to be more damaging to America than the 9-11 attacks and compares it to a hypothetical Nazi Congressman being sworn in on Mein Kampf. It would be easy to take such offensive, uninformed opinions as dismissable if only they weren't representative of a not-small percentage of the American population.

Ellison's act is perfectly legal and so we can expect it will take place without darkness coming at noon or the sudden disintegration of the United States of America. For Buddhists, though, the "debate" does raise some additional questions. Should Buddhists swear on the Bible? If they do, is it meaningful? If they don't, why exactly are they avoiding it? Is there a better alternative? The sight of someone swearing on the entire Buddhist canon would be pretty comical, since it is much larger than the Bible.

Buddhists don't typically have the same sort of relationship with their scriptures that Christians (or Muslims) have with theirs. Most Buddhists do hold the Sutras to be factual and to contain truths so profound as to approach in some sense the idea of revelation--it took a deeply insightful Buddha to penetrate the fog of human ignorance that envelops most of us and speak the truths laid out in the Sutras, truths which range from the commonsense to the mind-bogglingly esoteric. But the scriptures nonetheless do not hold the same central place as the Bible or Qu'ran do. Buddhists take refuge first in the Buddha, second in the Dharma (which is usually understood to be the body of the teachings and the truth they represent, not the texts themselves), and third in the community of teachers and fellow practitioners. Few Buddhists regularly read the canon in the way many Christians and Muslims are intimately familiar with their own holy texts. Buddhism is fundamentally about practice, not text or doctrine.

As it so happens, Mr. Ellison will be joining Congress along with the first two Buddhists to serve. Hank Johnson, the new Representative for Georgia's 4th District, is a member of Soka Gakkai. Soka Gakkai derives from Nichiren Buddhism, whose central text is the Lotus Sutra. This is interesting because Soka Gakkai is one of those few Buddhist groups that focus heavily on one specific Sutra to the near exclusion of others, and elevate that Sutra to a status approaching a sort of living Buddha itself, with practitioners often reading and chanting from it daily. Will Mr. Johnson take an oath on a copy of the Lotus Sutra (and if so, which translation)? Will reactionary pundits be as threatened by the Lotus Sutra as the Qur'an, or is the invective toward Ellison more about Muslim-bashing than about protecting an imagined American cultural foundation?

We should note in passing that one of Japan's largest political parties--New Komeito--is run by Soka Gakkai, who are part of the coalition government. Soka Gakkai is thus no stranger to politics, though outside of Japan few Soka Gakkai Buddhists have risen to posts as prominent as Mr. Johnson's.

The other incoming Buddhist Congressperson is Mazie Hirono of Hawaii's 2nd District. The grapevine says that Hirono is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist (haven't heard back from her representatives directly yet), the largest form of Buddhism in Japan and Hawaii and the oldest organized Buddhist group in America. As a form of Pure Land Buddhism, the three central Pure Land Sutras and the writings of Shinran are the scriptural heart of her denomination. But Jodo Shinshu (aka Shin) Buddhists are rarely fundamentalist about their scriptures, seeing them more as the wellspring of the concepts of Other Power, humility, and gratitude that drive their Buddhism rather than as objects of devotion or prooftexts. In fact, Hirono has already indicated that she intends to swear in on no text, Bible, Sutra, or otherwise. Is this opting out more or less threatening than the possible decision to swear on something like the Larger Pure Land Sutra?

We should also note that in adding Buddhists to Congress these districts are improving the racial and gender profile of that venerable body as well. Mr. Johnson is African-American, Ms. Hirono is Japanese-American. Both are Democrats. Perhaps the amazing thing is that while white meditation-oriented converts to Buddhism tend to dominate the public face and voice of American Buddhism, when Buddhists finally got a place at the good ol' boys table of Congress, it was the much more representative pools of Asian-American and devotional Buddhism that made their way there. Perhaps this will be a small step in correcting the imbalance of coverage that tends to favor white Buddhist spokespersons over the far larger group of non-white American Buddhists.

Goddess knows what the first elected Wiccan Congress Critter will hold her hands over when she takes the oath of office. I'd suggest a small tray with a rock, a feather, a hot pepper, and a few drops of water -- earth, air, fire, and water -- the four sacred things. Maybe she can cast a circle first and call down Athena and Innana to bear witness. Skyclad. It could be the most fun swearing-in ceremony EVER.

Surely You Can Pray For Me And I Can Dance Naked In The Woods For You

Media Matters continues to do a very good job of exposing the many ways in which the mainstream media gives the xian right a free pass, while beating up on those of us who oppose the xian right. For example, MM notes that:

In his December 3 New York Times column (subscription required), Nicholas D. Kristof condemned the "fundamentalist" writings of atheists [now THERE, my friends, is a non sequitur!] such as Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins and author Sam Harris, claiming that "the tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is often just as intolerant -- and mean" as that of Christian conservatives. Kristof concluded his column by claiming that "the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars," adding that he hopes "that the Atheist Left doesn't revive them." It's strange, but I just can't seem to recall any instances of Kristof calling the xian right mean-spirited when they were in the ascendant, oh, just a few short years ago.

And, as MM notes, Kristof is full of shit. The whack-jobs may be bloody, but they're not bowed at all. For example: The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is conducting a "2006 Christmas Watch," noting: "Every December sees its fair share of 'Grinches,' those retailers, schools, websites, towns and municipalities who refuse to acknowledge Christmas as part of the 'holiday season.' These Christmas kill-joys are all around. This Christmas, the Catholic League, Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. and the other Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have joined up to put the spotlight on these folks."

Yeah, you can hardly turn on the tv in America, go to the Mall, or, well, or exist without having xmas shoved down your fucking throat, but the Catholic Fucking League for Religious and Civil Rights has to be on guard against people who won't acknowledge xmas "as part of the holiday season." Bite me, CLRCR!

This weekend, Son and D-i-L brought Grandson to my firm for the holiday children's party. There was a ginormous xmas tree in the lobby, surrounded by huge faux gifts, wrapped in paper and bows that were color-coordinated with the ornaments on the xmas tree, which were color-coordinated with the swags of fake greenery festooned all over the lobby. Oh, and there were two very pretty menorahs centrally-placed in the lobby, as well. In the party room, children sat on Santa's lap, a lady dressed as some kind of a fairy did balloon tricks (I guess that was the nod to my religion -- not), and nice ladies handed out gifts wrapped with a peppermint candy ornament tied into the bow. I think what was being celebrated, menorahs aside, was a cultural winter holiday.

Religious holidays, on the other hand, are what we celebrate in our homes and at our places of worship. (OK, I don't have a set "place of worship." Today, I saw a lovely t-shirt that said, "Surely you can pray for me and I can dance naked in the woods for you." I loved that! But if I had "A" place of worship, I guess that it would be the woods.) So the CLRCR can go fuck itself. If they want to celebrate fucking xmas so much, they can go fucking celebrate it in their fucking churches and leave the rest of us the fuck alone. Otherwise, I'm going to start demanding that everyone wish me a Happy Solstice, sing Solstice songs, put up Solstice ornaments, and dance naked in the woods.

Of course, the catholics are in ZERO danger of not being able to celebrate their religious holiday. What they object to is the notion that they won't be able to shove their religious holiday down everyone else's throats. Stupid fuckers.

Thank You!

Many thanks to the kind, and anonymous, reader who sent me The Second Circle, Tools for the Advancing Pagan. I'm hardly advanced, but hopefully this will book will help me to advance. There's a huge need for books that go beyond "Wicca 101," but that aren't so full of ceremonial magick mumbo jumbo that an old hedge witch like I am isn't turned off. I'll try to read it soon and post a review.

Go Lautenberg!

From EEI:

EPA Tells Senators It Will Retain Annual Reporting Rule for Toxics

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson informed Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., that his agency will retain an annual reporting requirement for its Toxics Release Inventory rather than adopt a biannual requirement, the Washington Post reported.

In his letter, Johnson did not indicate whether EPA also plans to cancel its proposal to increase the inventory's reporting threshold for some toxins from 500 pounds to 5,000 pounds. Lautenberg called the letter "welcome news," and the two senators withdrew their hold on the consideration of the nomination of Molly O'Neill to head EPA's Office of Environmental Information.

Lautenberg said he will join Menendez next week in introducing a bill to block EPA's remaining proposed changes to the inventory, Congressional Quarterly Today reported. EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said a final rule on the program should be released by 2007 and that the agency seeks to make "a good program better."

Lautenberg warned: "Democrats will now control the EPA's budget and will run the committees that oversee the agency's activities. EPA will be held accountable for every abuse and misreading of the law it engages in."
Washington Post , Congressional Quarterly Today , Nov. 30.


This is long, long overdue. Under the Bush junta, EPA has become an enabler of polluters, rather than the watchdog and clean-up agency that it was supposed to be. There are likely now so many corporate plants and lobbyists working at EPA, that it will take years to root them out and revise the agency's culture. Lautenberg has his work cut out for him.

Well, Yeah.

It's not just the values of the South that pose a problem. It is the region's appetite for government. The most solidly red states in the nation tend also to be the most reliant on federal handouts -- farm subsidies, water projects and sundry other earmarks. It's hard to be the party of small government when you represent the communities that benefit most from big government. George W. Bush tried to straddle this divide by pleasing libertarians with tax cuts and traditionalists with spending. The result is a huge deficit.

Of course, Mallaby has to get in a swipe at those nasty leftists, as well.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What Scout Said

Someday, I'm going to start a blog called "What Scout Said." All I'll do is link to Scout's posts. It will be a fantastic blog.

Scout has done a better job than anyone I know of blogging New Orleans, and she didn't quit once the national media had declared the New Orleans story "over."

She's got up a great post today, about how insureres are abandoning New Orleans now and plan to abandon other coastal areas soon. You need to read it.

Bush and the oil companies can lie from here until tomorrow morning, but the people who have money at stake, the insurers, know that global climate change is real. The problems of global climate change are not the sort of problems that private industry (aka insurance companies) can address. We're either, as a people, going to have to abandon our coastal areas or get all Netherlands on the oceans' ass. Likely, we're mostly going to be abandoning. Thirty years or so ago, we had a chance to step back from the brink. Reagan and the Republicans wanted to party as if it were the 1980s instead. New Orleans is as much a victim of Ronald Reagan as it is of George Bush.

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging

The Victory


Over a pier, the first beacon flamed --
The vanguard of other sea-rangers;
The mariner cried and bared his head;
He sailed with death beside and ahead
In seas, packed with furious dangers.


By our doors Great Victory stays ...
How shall we glory her advent?
Let women lift high all the children! They blessed
With life mid millions of deaths --
Thus shall we sweet victory answer.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver
April, 1996
With help from Hecate, today


The picture is of a Viking funeral, although it shows the ship already afllame, rather than the archers shooting flaming arrows into the oil-soaked craft after the tide had begun to carry it into the West. This wasn't at all the victory that Akhmatova had in mind, with her images of women holding up their children to celebrate. But it's what the poem made me feel. I've always loved the idea of Viking funerals.