Saturday, April 28, 2007

One Of My Favorites

Swan by Oliver

I save this poem, only parcelling it out for special occasions. I believe that the lines: A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned/into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,/Biting the air with its black beak? are far too sacred to be used without care. But, for Beltane, I'l bring it out.

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

- Mary Oliver

The Feathered Glory From Her Loosening Thighs. Happy Beltane.

Leda And The Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
How can anybody, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins, engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

William Butler Yeats

Beltane Poetry Blogging

He may have written it for the Solstice, but I believe that Graves' poem is for Beltane:

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right she crooks a finger smiling,
How may the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow is falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Robert Graves

Saturday Goddess Blogging

You can find quizzes all over the internet, and books, as well, to help you to locate the "Goddess type" with which you most closely identify. You will, perhaps, be unamazed to learn that I identify strongly with Athena, the Goddess of Politics. Long before I realized that there was such a thing as a modern Goddess religion, I'd loved Athena. The city of Athens, of course, takes it's name from her. She wears armour and an owl perches on her shoulder. One of the most cherished gifts of my life is an owl hand cooler, made of Steuben glass, a gift from Son and D-i-L. For me, it represents the wisdom of Athena.

Athena gets a bum rap in some feminist circles. The patriarchs tried to say that she sprung, sword-in-hand from the forehead of Zeus, motherless, and unconnected to any woman. That she supported men against women. That she used her political acumen to benefit the patriarchy. They lied, trying to absorb Athena and her power into their world view.

In truth, Athena beckons women to the world of politics. She calls to Nancy Pelosi, a father's daughter for sure, and to Hillary Clinton, to Media Benjamin, to Ariana Huffington, to Shakespeare's Sister, and to Twisty, to the Mad Melancholic Feminista, to Echinde, and, of course, to Athenae; calls to them to enter the fray, to join the rumble. To strategize, to bestow blessings upon their favorites.

Where can Athena help you? What part of your life would benefit from Athena energy? Is there some part of you that has been dancing, dancing, dancing for centuries on the steps of the Parthenon, on the steps of Pallas Athena?

Come, dance. Come dance the dance of politics, which long, long ago your mother Athena declared to be a dance in which you could excel, a dance in which you belonged.

Eli Whitney Debevoise II. I Swear That I Am Not Making That Up

Today's WaPo has an article about a leaked World Bank report showing that Wolfowitz broke bank rules -- clearly the World Bank still thinks that it can shame Wolfowitz into resigning. They can't; he's George Bush's man and Bush's men apparently are incapable of shame. See, e.g., Alberto Gonzales. You can have their jobs from them when you pry them from their cold, dead hands. An option which becomes more attractive by the minute.

But what really struck me was this:

Monday was also shaping up as a test of the board's will on a controversial new bank strategy on health, nutrition and population.

In recent months, World Bank employees have shaped the strategy, which directs the institution's lending, to include the ready availability of "sexual and reproductive health services" for women in poor countries. That bit of jargon is widely known in some countries to refer, among other things, to access to safe and legal abortions.

But in recent weeks, Juan Jose Daboub, a conservative Christian whom Wolfowitz appointed managing director at the bank, directed the staff to delete that reference, effectively eliminating the endorsement for access to safe abortions, according to two bank officials. Daboub did not return calls.

In a letter sent last week to the bank vice president overseeing the strategy, several members of the governing board, including those representing Germany, France and Britain, demanded that the original language be restored, asserting that the bank would otherwise be breaking with a 1994 consensus embracing family planning.

This week, the American representative on the board, Eli Whitney Debevoise II, pressed again to remove the reference to "services" and replace it with "care," to eliminate any potential endorsement for abortion, the officials said. Debevoise did not return phone calls.

That's who that cowboy, that good ole' boy with whom you'd just love to sit down and have a beer, that man of the people who saved us from that elitist John Kerry, George Bush appointed to be the American representative to the governing board of the World Bank: Eli Whitney Debevoise II. And that's who gets to decide that some poor woman living in a shack in Africa or India or South America will have to bear one more child than she can care for, or feed, or even carry to term. Eli Whitney Debevoise II.

Young Mr. Debevoise comes from, well, shall we say, circumstances that were significantly removed from those of a poor, pregnant woman living in the Third World. The first Mr. Eli Whitney Debevoise (1899-1990) co-founded the New York law firm of Debevoise & Stevenson (later Debevoise & Plimpton) in 1931. During World War II he served as chairman of an Alien Enemy Hearing Board in New York City, where he ruled on the eligibility of aliens to remain in the country during the war. From 1950 to 1953 he was appointed deputy general counsel with the High Commission for Germany - Office of General Counsel (HICOG-OGC). His namesake, after spending time at Yale and Harvard, became a partner at Arnold & Porter. He testified just last month that he was eager for the great privilege and the responsibility to represent the United States at the World Bank Group institutions.

Hey, who could possibly be in a better position to decide what's good for Third World women? Please. Shoot me now.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Fifth Sacred Thing

Recipe Blogging

So it was close, but JoAnna Colbert's Green Smoothies narrowly won the poll over Susn Weed's Cancer Prevention Cabbage. JoAnna's a wonderful artist and has one of the friendliest blogs on the internet tubes. Back in early February, when it seemed to me that Spring would NEVER come, she posted this recipe for a green smoothie. Every year along about February, I start to crave greens, longing for dandelion, baby spinach, leeks, butter lettuce, baby peas. So, odd as the recipe sounds, I tried it and have been having one or two a week ever since. A week or so ago, I tried it on the women with whom I get together once a week for exercise and a healthy dinner and they really liked it, as well. You really have to try the recipe rather than just imagining what it might taste like; it tastes lots better than it sounds. I've adjusted the recipe a bit for my taste, but the link will take you to JoAnna's blog for the original recipe

In a blender, mix the following:

1/2 ripe banana
1/2 cup frozen fruit (I use peaches or blueberries, but am thinking of trying rubarb)
LOTS of greens — salad greens, spinach, kale, etc — LOTS (I add broccoli sprouts, as well)
1/2 cucumber, peel and all (must be organic if you're eating the peel)
1 Tbsp. flaxseed oil (I buy this with lemon flavoring, but, trust me, you're not going to taste it).

Something about the banana and the cucumber make this taste fresh and springy and good.

Obviously, we're all supposed to eat lots more green vegetables than we ever manage to eat, so this is a great way to get several servings at once. Flax seed oil has been shown to have some cancer prevention properties and, depending upon which kind of fruit you choose, you're going to get phytochemicals. The banana has some potassium. Broccoli sprouts have been shown to fight breast cancer and I can't stand to eat them by themselves, but I can put quite a lot of them in this recipe and hardly taste them.

Oddly, the one time of day that I don't tolerate this very well is breakfast. It's good for lunch or dinner, though. And easy.

Update: In comments, JoAnna asks that her circle sister, Elaine Nichols, get credit for the smootie recipe. Thanks very much, Ms. Nichols for developing this recipe!

Really, This Isn't All That Complicated

Via Witchvox comes an editorial from the North County Gazette, Serving New York State and Beyond that touches on the recent settlement reached with the Veterans Administration that will allow the use of the Pentacle on gravestones. It also discusses a story that I'd missed:

A few days earlier, on April 17, a religious group called Summum won a key round in its fight to place monuments in Utah city parks alongside Ten Commandments monuments. (Summum, founded some 30 years ago, is difficult to summarize, but the group describes its beliefs as consistent with Gnostic Christianity.)

. . .

In the Summum case, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction that would allow Summum to place its
Seven Aphorisms in a public park in Pleasant Grove, Utah. The park already has a Ten Commandments monument donated years ago by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Summum had argued that if the city allows one group to put up a monument in a public park, it must allow other groups the same opportunity.

Pleasant Grove officials could have avoided the problem entirely by not allowing any private groups to put up monuments in the park. Instead they decided that the Ten Commandments monument should be treated differently because of "historical relevance" to the city.

The court unanimously rejected that argument and ruled that "the city may further its interest in promoting its own history by a number of means, but not by restricting access to a public forum traditionally committed to public debate and the free exchange of ideas."

The story reminds me of the one this past December in southern Virginia where local Pagans took advantage of a 4th Circuit opinion that required the local school board to send home notices about xian bible classes. The Pagans sent home notices about a Yule program and the xian parents went ballistic. The message, though, was the same as in Utah. If you're going to allow some religions to have access to government-run spaces and services, you're going to have to allow all religions -- even the ones that most Americans don't like, such as Wicca or Islam -- the same access.

Or, you could act like grown-ups and respect the separation of church and state that the Founders wrote into the Constitution precisely to avoid this sort of nonsense over which religions get favored treatment.

Now, who's up for a monument with the Wiccan Rede for that nice little park in Utah? I'd contribute.

Al Gore, Just In Case You're Still Thinking Of Running, Here's Some Good News

NYT story shows that Americans "get it" about global climate change and that Democrats would be well-advised to run, and run hard, on this issue. For example:

Americans in large bipartisan numbers say the heating of the earth’s atmosphere is having serious effects on the environment now or will soon and think that it is necessary to take immediate steps to reduce its effects, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds. Ninety percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said immediate action was required to curb the warming of the atmosphere and deal with its effects on the global climate. Nineteen percent said it was not necessary to act now, and 1 percent said no steps were needed.

That's SIXTY PERCENT OF REPUBLICANS! Yes, one American in five is either an oil company executive or a retard, but when you've got 90% of Democrats, 80% of Independents, and SIXTY PERCENT OF REPUBLICANS, you can ignore the twenty percenters.

The poll also found that Americans want the United States to support conservation and to be a global leader in addressing environmental problems and developing alternative energy sources to reduce reliance on fossil fuels like oil and coal. Contrast that with Karl Rove's diatribe this weekend when he castigated Cheryl Crowe for wanting the U.S. to lead on global warming by asserting that China isn't doing enough. Kkkkarl's polling may be a bit off; he doesn't have THE numbers on this one, either. Which may help to explain why:

Respondents expressed little confidence in President Bush’s handling of environmental or energy issues, and a majority of those polled, including many Republicans, said Democrats were more likely than Republicans to protect the environment and foster energy independence. Note again that even Republicans, SIXTY PERCENT OF WHOM want the U.S. to take immediate action to curb global warming, believe that the Democrats are more likely to do so.

Democrats have got to use this issue. Asked how they would respond to a presidential candidate who said all Americans would have to pay more for fuel or use less of it to protect the environment, one-third said they would be more likely to vote for that person and 15 percent said they would be less likely. Almost half said it would make no difference.

Only 15% of Americans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who told the truth; that we're going to have to use less fuel (which is what paying more leads to) in order to protect the environment. If the Dems couple that with a works program to build mass transit, they'd likely have a very popular package to sell, even on the tough issue of using less fuel.

Other good news:

*Americans broadly support using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power and say fueling vehicles with ethanol, which is now made largely from corn, is a good idea, the survey found.

**By a substantial margin, Americans continue to oppose drilling for oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, as they have for the last six years.

Although respondents split almost evenly on whether Washington can effectively address global warming, they almost unanimously (92 percent to 6 percent) supported requiring automobile manufacturers to make more fuel-efficient cars.

***A big majority, 75 percent, said recent weather had been stranger than usual, an increase of almost 10 percentage points from 1997. Of those who said the weather had turned weird, 43 percent attributed it to global warming and 15 percent to pollution or other environmental damage. Four percent cited the coming end of the world or biblical prophecy, and 2 percent blamed space junk.

OK, six percent of Americans are complete idiots. I think we can safely quit governing towards the six percent. Kick Dobson, Falwell, et al. to the curb.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bye, Bye, Bumble Bees. Thanks For Hanging In And Feeding Us As Long As You Could.

It may not be, as Lovelock imagined, a case of decades in which to prepare for a soft landing. It may be, rather, only one or two summers without bees. It may be, as Lori Weitzel, suggests, a mere

Drought in the meadery.

Silent Thriae

They’re called back to sweeter, darker places,
away from our quilts of tailor-made maize, triticale,
sorghum and soy. Hives empty as ruins, leaving just
enough honey so, drunk on that gold, we’ll forget
how to hum in the fields of the tripled bee-goddess.

The children of the Thriae are leaving us; no
good-bye note written by fallen corpses, they
have gone, in secret, to caverns full of wax.
The oracle is silent. Hordes, mining a fools' gold,
riddled how nature speaks herself: but she refused
to speak about the bees, and her queens, dimmed
as if lit by an eclipse, host no more dances.

I killed a bumble bee yesterday, when it snuck into my house and buzzed upon me, threatening, surprising, and far too early in the season to inspire sacrifice. As my friend Rachael carried the body outside to give it to the Earth, I understood of what I might be guilty.

Part of me wants to cry out, "Don't give up on us, Sisters! We'll get better; we'll figure out how to live in peace with your work." And part of me says, "We deserve to be abandoned. My deepest wish is to follow the swarms to go to wherever it is that they go when they abandon the hives that have sustained us." If it turns out to be the Amazon, the lungs of Gaia, I won't be surprised. The white blood cells go where they are needed most.

So mote it be.

Thanks to Gold Poppy for directing me to this post.

Beltane and SCOTUS. Not As Unrelated As You Might imagine.

Wicca is often accused of being a-male. I certainly practice a Dianic form of Wicca that, well, that generally ignores the male. It works for me.

Perhaps it's the coming of Beltane, when my circle-sister K. always demands that we invoke the Green Man, that has me considering what it means to be a male: the union of the king and the land. Perhaps it's seeing Son being such a wonderful father to G/Son, changing diapers, cuddling, gentling to sleep, providing for, ensuring the future of.

Miniver Cheevey explains what it can mean to be a man in 21st Century America:

Nothing is stopping the bleeding. There seems to be nothing they can do. They talk about trying some drugs, but then they decide things are going too fast to give time to let them work. So that leaves only surgery as a possibility. Surgery means hosing her out. It means killing the baby. So obviously, we look into other options. Only now, my wife is so out of it, from blood loss, from the painkillers, that the doctor said she is no longer able to legally consent. Now I'm handed a clipboard. On it is consent to basically give my wife an abortion and kill our future child. And it is all on me, my decision, mine alone. Something I never thought I'd ever face, ever have to deal with. Made worse by being a decision of either kill the baby or potentially watch both my wife and the baby die. The doctors did not say at this point that it was absolutely necessary. Maybe more blood could be transfused in. Maybe she wasn't dilated—they hadn't figured it out yet. Still too much blood. So then there I was, facing the sort of choice that you usually see only in hypotheticals in ethics and philosophy classes. Only it was real. It was my wife. And I didn't have exactly a lot of time to think about it. It was just me and the clipboard. An empty line there, marked for my signature. My wife bleeding right next to me. The ultrasound of my baby, and its heartbeat, fresh in my mind from minutes before. I cannot begin to describe how I felt at that moment.

At an early point in D-i-L's labor, when the doctor was trying to impose his will on D-i-L, Son said calmly to the doctor, "Let's step outside and discuss this." He was calm, "Let's step outside." The doctor was freaked out; he thought that Son might be about to punch him in the nose. The doula was amazed; she came out later and told me, "Your son is stronger than almost any father that I've ever seen." Son just wanted to discuss the issue someplace where it wouldn't interfere w/ D-i-L's work of breathing, concentrating, bringing G/Son into the world. To me, that's the epitome of male power, the ability to protect wife and child, to deal with the outside world so that the inner world of childbirth and magic isn't imposed upon.

I'm sad that SCOTUS did what it did. Something in me doesn't believe that this will be allowed to stand. Sometimes, men are, they just are, called upon to stand in that doorway between life and death, that place where their wife's blood and their child's heartbeat run into each other. Sometimes, they are handed a clipboard and asked to step up, to be the Green Man, Pan, Dionysis, and Apollo all at once. Sometimes, they are called upon to stand in the breach, to tell the doctor to step into the hall, to do what they'd hoped not to have to do. I'm sorry that SCOTUS has made that moment so much more fraught, so much more difficult. I think that living male in this patriarchy is already way, way, way too difficult.

I had only one child, Son. Son and D-i-L have likely had their only child, a son. And in this insane patriarchy, in this culture of war and domination and acquisition, I have tried, Son and D-i-L are trying, to raise a man who can thrive and do the right thing in this world, a man who can face this scenario:

And it is all on me, my decision, mine alone. Something I never thought I'd ever face, ever have to deal with.

May the Goddess guard our sons. May she guard them as they must navigate this Roberts/Alito world.

May the Goddess and the Green Man guard Justice Stevens. It's already as difficult as it needs to be.

Blessed Beltane

Anne Hill is talking about doing magic, and what she's learned about magic from akido:

So, back to the candle. Preparing for a strike and then letting it go is a very good way for me to conceptualize doing any kind of magic. It gives me a kinesthetic sense of the largely mental process of asking the spirits to manifest something. And it has helped me understand that there is a middle ground between worrying and controlling something on the one hand, and ignoring it on the other.

I tend to over-prepare for rituals, well, ok, for everything, not just for rituals. My idea of the perfect ritual involves women showing up to a calm, clean, well-ordered space, where wine is poured, tensions are dropped, flowers release their scent into the ritual air, muscles relax, women remember who they are and from whence they came. I want intent clearly specified, ritual supplies laid out, incense alight, and grounding done right.

Like Anne, I prepare like hell for the strike, and then I let that sword just fall as it will. My Younger Self responds better that way.

But, that's not THE only way to do ritual. I've been reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Dancing In The Streets every day at lunch, four or five pages a day. She talks about how women left their spinning to run into the streets to follow Dionyisis, how ecstacy can overtake even the most repressed, at times. Beltane is all about living in the moment, all about feeling, after a long winter of parsing out the left-over seeds and saving enough back for planting, that it's ok to let go, ok to burn fires on the high hills, ok to have sex in the fields, ok to act without thinking it all through. About finding what Anne calls the "middle ground between worrying and controlling something on the one hand, and ignoring it on the other."

Blessed Beltane.

Out Now!

Gee, I Am Very Surprised No I'm Not.

From today's EEI newsletter:

Research Shows Deregulation Hasn't Brought About Lower Rates Promised

According to an analysis by the Associated Press, "Not one of the 16 states - plus the District of Columbia - that have pushed forward with deregulation since the late 1990s can call it a success." In fact, wrote the AP, "consumers in those states fared worse than residents in states that stuck with a policy of regulating their power industries. The idea was to move from a monopoly situation to robust competition for electric customers, with backers promising potentially lower rates in state after state. But competition, especially for residential and small business customers, rarely emerged."

As a result of politically-imposed deregulation, utilities were often put into a situation where their rates were artificially frozen for several years – an action that the AP suggested "drove potential competitors away. [Analysts] point to states like Illinois, where rate caps just recently were lifted and where there already is talk of reinstating them." Utility officials also pointed to the price of fuel for the power plants as the critical factor in higher costs to consumers.

The evaluation by the AP was based on the average electric rate that residential customers paid annually from 1990 to 2006 and a comparison of regulated and deregulated states. Wrote the AP: "The analysis found more than a widening price discrepancy. Consumers in deregulated states also have suffered from bigger price swings, as rate caps in place when deregulation began in the late 1990s were lifted in the last couple of years."

Associated Press via the San Gabriel Valley, Calif., Tribune , April 25.

Hmm, maybe those old farts knew something back in 1935 after all.


Beltane's coming. Better start getting ready.

(Art found here).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday Poetry Blogging

The Elephant is Slow to Mate
by D.H. Lawrence

The elephant, the huge old beast,
is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
till they touch in flood.

From The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, edited by V. De Sola Pinto & F. W. Roberts. Copyright © 1964, 1971 by Angela Ravagli and C. M. Weekly, Executors of the Estate of Frieda Lawrence Ravagli.

Even The Freepers Get It

Jason at the Wild Hunt, a braver man than I, checked out Free Republic's comments concerning the VA's caving in on the issue of Pentacles on gravestones. Surprisingly EVEN THE FREEPERS are generally pretty sane about this issue. I admit to being amazed. If the VA was dragging its feet on this issue in deference to the boyking's notions of religion (and it's pretty clear from e-mails received in discovery that they were), it's worth noting that the boyking is way, way, way to the right of THE FREEPERS on this issue.

Once in a while, my fellow Americans give me a pleasant surprise.

Angela, at Nine Ravens, has some amazing pictures.


I don't normally post such a long excerpt, but you really need to read all of this. Rahm Emanuel doesn't normally inspire me, but he's just dead on here.

Not since the days of Watergate, when our judicial system and intelligence community were deployed by the White House in the service of partisan politics, have we seen such abuses. And in many ways, what we have seen from this administration is far more extensive than that scandal.

Partisan politics has infiltrated every level of our federal government – from scientific reports on global warming to emergency management services to the prosecutorial power of the federal government itself. Even the Iraq War – from our entry to the reconstruction – has been thoroughly politicized and manipulated.

Recently, even those who had become somewhat inured to the intense partisanship of this Administration were shocked by the political manipulation of our U.S. Attorneys. And we have just begun to feel the impact of this scandal. Just as Hurricane Katrina exposed the issue of incompetence, the U.S. Attorney scandal has placed a spotlight on the Administration’s pattern of always placing the Republican Party’s interests before the public interest.

Now, the U.S. Attorney scandal will be to public corruption what Hurricane Katrina was to incompetence in the Bush Administration.

And the scandal has created a new context for viewing and evaluating scandals in the Bush Administration. Americans have learned just how the Bush Administration works and are discovering that under President Bush, no function of the federal government is free from the influence of politics.

And this is no accident. It’s all by design. The incidents I will list today are not a laundry list of one offs or isolated cases of corruption. There is a common denominator. Instead of promoting solutions to our nation’s broad challenges, the Bush Administration used all the levers of power to promote their party and its narrow interests.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s political architect, often drew an analogy between that election and the election of 1896, in which adviser Mark Hanna joined forces with many of the plutocrats of that Gilded Age and ushered in a 35-year era of Republican dominance – dominance that didn’t end until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Without a trace of reserve, George Bush and Karl Rove set out to recreate that earlier era of one-party rule. And they pursued their goal by inverting the very purpose of government.

Under this Administration, the federal government has become a stepchild of the Republican Party. And in promoting its partisan interests, absolutely nothing is out of bounds – from our national security to our justice system and everything in between – places that in past Administrations were off limits to political influence.

Principals and supporters of the Bush Administration have taken to attributing its myriad failures to mere incompetence. This is an ironic defense for an Administration that once touted President Bush as the first MBA President and boasted about a cabinet filled with CEOs.

In his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied politics was involved in his firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Instead, he suggested that the dismissals were just “poorly handled” or a PR failure.

The Attorney General could offer no coherent explanation for the fiasco, because to do so would unveil the guiding principle at the core of this White House -- insinuating partisan politics into every aspect of government and bringing politics into what used to be a political-free zone – the Justice Department.

Even today, after three months of interviews and investigations and public discussion we still do not know who drafted the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. We have been left with only three logical explanations for their dismissal:

1) the names of 93 U.S. Attorneys were thrown in a hat and eight were selected at random; or

2) the eight U.S. Attorneys were incompetent, a notion that has been dismissed by the Justice Department’s own rankings; or

3) a White House fearful of public corruption cases further weakening their hold on power concluded that attorneys leading public corruption cases were not “loyal Bushies” and had to go.

They had a plan. They told us what they were going to do. They carried it out. And now America is paying the price.

From the very beginning, the Bush Administration has seeded the government with highly partisan appointees – people more interested in serving their party than serving the broader public interest.

Almost every senior Bush appointee to the EPA and Interior Department has come out of the very industries they regulate – and which generously fund the Republican Party. As Jim Hightower has noted, this Administration eliminated the middleman. The corporations don’t have to lobby the government, because they are the government.

This cronyism transcends the regulatory agencies. The Bush Administration even laced FEMA with political operatives rather than people with experience handling emergencies.

There were early signs, not heeded, that this Administration would be driven by partisan politics, not public policy. In Ron Suskind’s book “The Price of Loyalty,” former-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill complained that he couldn’t interest anyone in policy discussions at the White House, because it was populated with political operatives rather than policy experts.

Even the President’s highly touted faith-based initiative turned out to be a purely political play. The top two leaders of that new office both quit in frustration. John J. DiIulio Jr. left after being forced to work in a White House that he likened to “the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.” Former Deputy Director David Kuo later alleged that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use that government office to mobilize religious voters in 20, targeted congressional races – of which the Republicans won 19.

I’ve got to tell you – Tammany Hall had nothing on team Bush.

The Bush Administration has redefined the famous challenge of President Kennedy’s inaugural address. Instead of “Ask not what your country can do for you,” it has become “Ask what your government can do for our party.”

It’s true that Franklin Roosevelt started an era of Democratic domination of Washington that lasted into the 1960s. Roosevelt forged a lasting political coalition by conquering the economic blight of the Great Depression and uniting our country to win World War II. The Democratic Party reaped the political dividends of successfully confronting those national challenges.

In contrast, the Bush Administration has ignored the great challenges of our day. And for six years, the Legislative Branch was complicit in this scheme. Now our country is paying the price.

Let’s begin with the biggest issue facing our nation: the war in Iraq. We now know that when the CIA and other intelligence agencies failed to find evidence to justify the President’s rationale for war, the Administration browbeat the CIA to tailor its intelligence. Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld even set up their own intelligence arm to provide the desired evidence.

And when former-ambassador Joseph Wilson cast doubt on the Administration’s contention that Saddam was trying to obtain uranium in Niger for a nuclear weapon, Cheney’s chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, embarked on a smear campaign by leaking the identity of Wilson’s wife, an undercover CIA officer.

Once the Iraq War was launched, we all knew how important the reconstruction would be to securing the peace. But politics extended to that country’s reconstruction and the examples are truly shocking:

The person chosen to oversee Iraq’s health care system was the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan. The man he replaced was a physician with a master’s degree in public health and post-graduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and UC-Berkeley and taught at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health where he specialized in disaster response.

A 24 year-old with a background in commercial real estate was hired by the Authority to reopen and manage the Iraqi stock exchange.

The daughter of a prominent neoconservative was tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion annual budget.

Nothing was free from political influence.

This bias toward political appointees for key positions extended beyond Iraq to our own homeland security. At Mayor Giuliani’s urging, President Bush nominated former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security. Bush’s legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, took charge of Kerik’s vetting by the White House. Kerik was later convicted of taking gifts from a construction firm with ties to organized crime.

Politically connected individuals weren’t the only beneficiaries of the Administration’s Iraq operations. Before the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary was granted a $7 billion classified contract to restore the country’s oil fields. Halliburton then went on to overcharge the government for fuel imports by more than $100 million.

The Administration’s coziness with corporations extends to the treatment of our injured veterans. Last year, a company called IAP Worldwide Services won a $120 million contract to privatize the management of Walter Reed. IAP is owned by a firm chaired by former Bush Treasury Secretary, John W. Snow, and has political ties to Congressman Jerry Lewis, the former Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Everyone knows about Vice President Cheney’s secret energy task force meetings with top executives from Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil and BP America. But science and sound policy have also taken a back seat to political considerations when it comes to the government’s findings on global warming. The New York Times reported that when Philip Cooney served as chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, he removed or adjusted descriptions of scientific research to downplay links between emissions and global warming. Before joining the Bush Administration, Cooney worked for the American Petroleum Institute. After resigning his government post, he went to work for Exxon-Mobil.

Bush Administration officials even vacation with energy lobbyists. The Justice Department’s former top environmental prosecutor, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, recently bought a beach house with an energy lobbyist and J. Steven Griles, a former Bush Administration official who pled guilty in the Abramoff case.

From legislation to government reports to oversight, the energy industry, one of the GOPs largest donors got what they needed.

Even federal efforts to help students learn and afford college aren’t off-limits to manipulation. The Washington Post recently reported that Matteo Fontana, a senior official in the Department of Education’s financial-aid office owned about $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company that has been subpoenaed by New York officials.

Last weekend, we learned of an investigation into President Bush’s Reading First program and allegations that officials improperly profited when implementing the program and the case has now been referred to the Justice Department.

The Bush Administration memorably demonstrated its willingness to enrich those who helped carry out its political agenda. Seeking to build support among African-Americans for the No Child Left Behind law, the Administration paid Armstrong Williams $240,000 in taxpayer funds to promote the law on his nationally syndicated TV show.

An even more egregious misuse of public funds took place around the Administration’s budget-busting Medicare prescription drug program. The non-partisan General Accounting Office concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services illegally spent federal money to produce videos made to look like news reports and distributed them to TV stations across the nation.

After the bill was passed it was revealed that the Administration purposely withheld information from Congress on the true cost of the prescription drug program. Richard S. Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary for two Administrations said Bush Administration officials threatened to fire him if he disclosed that the drug plan would cost hundreds of billions more than what President Bush was telling Congress. In short, he would be fired if he did his job.

Perhaps the most thoroughly politicized bureau in the federal government is the General Services Administration, the mammoth agency charged with procuring supplies and managing federal properties. Its former chief of staff, David Safavian, was convicted of covering up his efforts to assist Jack Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA.

Safavian was also convicted of concealing facts about a lavish weeklong golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland and London– a trip that included Congressmen Bob Ney.

The current head of the GSA is Lurita Doan, a former government contractor, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party. On January 26th of this year, Doan took part in a meeting at the GSA that included 40 regional administrators by videoconference. At this meeting, Karl Rove’s deputy, J. Scott Jennings, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the 2006 elections. The Washington Post reported that one slide named 20 Democrats in Congress the Republicans will try to defeat in 2008. Another slide listed Republican Congressmen the party wants to protect.

According to the Post, Ms. Doan asked the assembled government employees how they could “help our candidates” in the next election.

Of course, it’s illegal for political activity of this kind to occur in a federal office, involving federal employees on taxpayer time. At a House hearing last month, Ms. Doan claimed she couldn’t recall the slide presentation or making the remarks that were attributed to her by various Republican appointees who were in attendance. Now, the Office of the Special Counsel is investigating this matter.

The most vivid example of this Administration’s corruption– and the one that revealed its true cost to the American people – was the fumbling of the Katrina disaster. Under President Clinton, FEMA was run by James Lee Witt, a political appointee and a man with years of experience in disaster management. But the Bush Administration chose to staff that sensitive agency with unqualified political appointees.

Bush first appointed his 2000 campaign manager, Joseph Allbaugh, to run FEMA. Allbaugh hired his long-time friend, Michael Brown, as the agency’s general counsel. Brown had no emergency management experience, having served as attorney for the International Arabian Horse Association. Allbaugh left in early-2003, and Bush named Michael Brown to replace him.

When the Gulf Coast was hit by the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, FEMA, one of the best agencies in the federal government and only four years after 9/11, was woefully unprepared to provide the needed assistance.

Now, millions of Americans are continuing to suffer terrible consequences and FEMA has left behind a striking legacy of mismanagement. Even FEMA’s attempt to take modest action failed. After purchasing thousands of trailers for those displaced by the hurricane, the trailers continue to sit empty in Arkansas. FEMA had no plan to move the trailers to the communities where they were needed.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with political appointees, per se. James Lee Witt, whom I mentioned before, was a political appointee and he was qualified to run FEMA. So was Alexander Hamilton as our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. And Harold Ickes Senior, appointed by FDR, was a key architect of the New Deal that helped our nation emerge from the Great Depression.

Political appointees are not inherently corrupt. The difference is that these appointees were well qualified for their positions. And they put the welfare of the nation ahead of purely partisan interests. Judged by those criteria, few of this President’s appointees would pass the test.

We have all focused on the recent firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, but they didn’t come out of the blue. There were a number of examples of political considerations overriding the work of Justice Department lawyers that should have woken us all up.

Indeed, the removal of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons is not a new occurrence. In 2002, a grand jury in Guam opened an investigation into Jack Abramoff’s secret arrangement to block a bill threatening his clients in the U.S. Territories.

Just days later, the U.S. Attorney who launched that probe was demoted after more than a decade in office. A report by the Interior Department’s Inspector General later concluded that Abramoff had actively lobbied for his dismissal and had a pipeline into the White House to accomplish that goal. And he wasn’t shy about reaching out to the White House for help. While the White House initially told us Jack Abramoff only occasionally reached out to the West Wing, we later learned he contacted the White House 485 times.

You can see the beginnings of a scandal – a U.S. Attorney was removed who wasn’t a “loyal Bushie.”

Sharon Y. Eubanks, the 22-year veteran career Justice Department lawyer who led Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies, told the Washington Post that three political appointees in Attorney General Gonzales’s office undermined the government’s case in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, which cost the federal government billions of dollars.

Now we’ve learned that political considerations were behind the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys across the country, including some who were actively investigating Republican Members of Congress. Recently released emails between staff at the Justice Department and staff at the White House show that loyalty to President Bush and pressure from political figures led to the firings.

In the course of the ongoing congressional investigation, we have also learned that White House staffers, including Karl Rove, have used email addresses issued by the Republican National Committee. I have a simple question and it remains unanswered: why? Why did government officials need a political tool to conduct business each day? Of course, party computers are necessary for running a re-elect campaign. But are they still necessary two years later when the President had no campaign ahead of him? These email accounts were only necessary because politics was so deeply engrained in the administration’s normal course of business. R.N.C. – U.S. Government…it is all one seamless political machine to them.

The Administration would like the press and public to believe all of this corruption and cronyism consists of isolated instances and one-offs. But I ask you:

Michael Brown. Scooter Libby. Bernard Kerik. Halliburton. Philip Cooney. David Safavian. Lurita Doan. Matteo Fontana. Sue Ellen Wooldridge. Steven Griles. Alberto Gonzales. FEMA. Iraq intelligence. Iraq reconstruction.

This Hall of Shame is no accident and these are not isolated incidences. It’s a pattern of political appointees who put partisan interests ahead of country – and were told to do so.

The good news is that this pattern of putting party first and country second has been brought into the light of day and can no longer be explained away as the product of errors or lapses in judgment by individuals. The implausible excuses are piling up, the explanations becoming harder and harder to believe and the truth more difficult to obscure. Americans now know that we are witnessing much more than just incompetent individuals at work. We are watching corruption in action.

This corruption might have continued unchecked, except for the last election – which brought a Democratic majority to Congress with subpoena power and a real seriousness about oversight and accountability. This Administration, and a complicit Congress, thought that the American people didn’t care about the rampant corruption infecting their national government.

Many in Washington dismissed Democratic efforts to make corruption an issue in the 2006 elections. But voters across the country rendered a different verdict than official Washington. And now we Democrats are accountable for fixing the problems we inherited.

. . .

The saddest legacy of the Bush Administration’s six-year trail of cronyism and corruption is that it contributes to the public’s already cynical view of government. This makes it even more difficult for those of us who believe that the purpose of government is to secure a better future for our country and all of its people. Repairing this sorry legacy is the first challenge our next President will face.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Daffy Down Dilly

Daffodils" (1804)

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

It's Time For You To Go

Graeme Wheeler, the bank’s managing director, said at the meeting that the fight over whether Mr. Wolfowitz should stay on at the bank amounted to the “the biggest crisis in its history.”

He said it arose from a range of issues, including fears that Mr. Wolfowitz and his aides were trying to impose Bush administration ideas on family planning and climate change at the bank and worries over a possible conflict of interest in the bank’s hiring of a Washington law firm, Williams & Connolly, to investigate leaks. A partner at the firm had earlier negotiated Mr. Wolfowitz’s employment contract with the bank.

Mr. Wheeler also said Mr. Wolfowitz’s staying on would cause “fantastic damage” to the bank’s reputation and effectiveness.

Bush junta ideas on family planning and climate change. We all know what that means.

Throw the motherfucker to the curb.

America Zero; Mexico One.

Well, we can go to Mexico City for a "vacation," I guess.

At the entrance to the chambers, an antiabortion activist cut off Assemblyman Jorge Schiaffino, a vocal backer of legalizing abortion.

"What about all those people in the streets?" Beatriz Rodriguez demanded.

"We don't vote in the streets, we vote in here," Schiaffino responded before sliding away.

Air Fare here.

In April, In April

Goddess, she was good.

She Went To Prison Twelve Times That Year

I Am With My Mother's Mother's Mothers.

Check out number 37.

The lawyers involved in this case rock.

*Patrick Stewart was shot down over Afghanistan. His widow led the fight to force the VA to allow the pentacle on grave markers. May the Goddess guard him. May he find his way to the Summerllands. May his friends and family know peace.

For my circle of amazing women, Beltane, this year, will be at my house, as it been for the past two years. Driving home late from work tonight and calculating how much I have to write between now and the night when we celebrate Beltane, I worried a bit. What if drafting goes late? Sure K. will let the women into my house and they'll go ahead w/o me, but what if I can't get there in time to celebrate the whole of Beltane w/ them? How will I manage?

Street Prophets, a Kos spin off, blogs a bit about Beltane:

And it was powerful, up there in the priestess’s bedroom, taking off my clothes, and as I did so removing all the things that people said I was. The act of courage that night was not taking my vows...that was as natural as breathing, when it was time. The thing that took the most nerve was stepping out onto the landing. I have come a long way since that night, in many ways. I joke that with my large tattoo, I don’t feel naked anymore. But in ways, I don’t. I feel, instead, somewhat veiled in my clothing, and only when I step out of it, to sleep, to bathe, to make love, do I feel entirely myself, without pretenses. I love my body now, even the weak left ankle, the stretch marks, and the extra weight.

So for Beltane, when I will celebrate the mystic union of Goddess and God, of spirit and flesh, of deity and humanity, I won’t sew myself a new robe, or color my hair, or put on makeup. I’ll spend time beforehand looking at myself, at the person I am and the self I’ll bring into the formal presence of the gods in the circle that evening. And I’ll bring Them the person I am... beautiful past words, perfect in my imperfections, utterly human, entirely Hers, and greatly beloved.

May we all know our true selves, and see the beauty all around us, and within us.

I think that's a lovely summary of what one of my very favorite Sabbats is about. I'll write madly between now and then in order to be able to be there. To gladly push the "send" button on my draft, whisking it off to others to critique and allowing me to walk lightly off into the early May sunset, to join my sisters, to celebrate the mystic union of Goddess and God, Earth and Seed, Earth and King, Writing and Effect, Beginning and End.

Because, really, that's what Beltane is about. The union of Beginning and End, the Seed that contains within itself its own end, and beginning, and end, and beginning and . . . .

Paying The Mortgage. Putting Food On Miss Thing.

Miniver Cheevey reminds me just how lucky I am to make a living the way that I do. The people that I work with have (blessedly) no idea that I blog and most of the people who (kindly) read my blog have no idea where I work, but I do get to work with an amazing group of very smart and, generally, quite kind folks. I've gotten to spend my legal career, so far, on a fascinating case and I've gotten paid to do what I love best of all -- read and write. My friends know that I bitch all too often about my job. But I was working on a project today that made me look up and realize just how incredibly luck I am -- second career, night school grad that I am -- to be doing what I do.

Now, if I can write five pages a day for the next six days . . . .

Thank you, Goddess. Thank you for letting me find this career and for letting me do what I was born to do. It's a gift.

The Better Part Of Valor

Took them a while, but WaPo finally managed to get up an article about the huge win for Wiccans.. Remember the guy who quit Bush's "Faith-Based Initiative" program and who said that everything was political for these people?

The settlement stipulates, however, that the plaintiffs must not keep or disclose any documents handed over by the government during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. Lawyers familiar with the case said that some documents suggested the VA had political motives for rejecting the pentacle.

During his first campaign for president, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush told ABC's "Good Morning America" in 1999 that he was opposed to Wiccan soldiers practicing their faith at Fort Hood, Tex. "I don't think witchcraft is a religion, and I wish the military would take another look at this and decide against it," he said.

Lynn, of Americans United, said references to Bush's remarks appeared in memos and e-mails within the VA.

"One of the saddest things is to learn that this wasn't just a bureaucratic nightmare, there was a certain amount of bigotry," he said. "The president's wishes were interpreted at a pretty high level. . . . It became a political judgment, not a constitutional judgment."

I'd have settled, too, VA. I'd have settled, too. Think what you put widows of our veterans through just to placate Bush who was placating the fundies. Disgusting.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Could We, Please?

And All Of You Kids! Get Off Of My Lawn!

As per always, Twisty says what I've been thinking. Look, what happened at Virginia Tech was awful, although completely predictable in a culture that insists that easy access to guns is more important than anything else. But the attempt to manipulate everyone's emotions so that Cute Little Catie Couric can sell us some more Budweiser or another Chevy Truck-Built Ford Tough just really rubs me the wrong way. And Diane Sawyer. Don't get me started on Diane Sawyer.

I'll tell you what else has been bothering me. The attempts by everyone from, just for example, Newt the Hoot Gingrich to Robin Artisson to blame the VATech shooting on whatever it is that each one of them most abhors. Isn't it weird how when people go looking for "meaning" in these horrible events the meaning that they extract precisely confirms their own already-established beliefs? It's kind of like the way that everyone who goes through past-life regression was Cleopatra or Morgan le Faye or Anna Pavlova, but never Cleopatra's slave or a drunken prostitute or a child laborer in a Victorian factory.

Come on. Sometimes shitty things just happen. Could we all act a bit less like some hysterical maiden uncle who believes that everything that happens is all about him and a lot less like Jerry Falwell? It would be nice and we'd all look a bit less idiotic.

VA Caves On Wiccan Headstones

About fucking time

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Akhmatova Blogging


A swarthy youth rambled
by the forsaken lakeshore.
A centry passes, and we hear
his crackle on the path.

Pine needles, thick, thorny,
bury the stumps of trees . . .
Here lay his tricorn hat,
his dog-eared verses by Parny.