Saturday, October 20, 2007

Twisted Fate

It has a certain symmetry to it, and while I have always liked the word rather more than the definition, I may be coming to appreciate the concept.
I'm about to buy a house in the one place I never wanted to live. And I somehow couldn't be happier after being handed life's lemons.
In the scheme of things, it is not that long past that I left the district, the capitol, the beltway boys behind. I spurned the traffic and the emotional gridlock and the fraternity of men who run think they run this country. I intended never to return.
For work and for marriage, I broke the promise. I broke down crying. I broke with personal traditional and I begged my husband in the middle of the night to pledge I wouldn't have to die in this place, where everything seems corrupt, where everyone becomes pasty and gray-eyed with work. I broke.
And in the candlelight, I sat and I faced the shadow in the inhumanity of the tower of white-walled, beige-carpeted luxury apartments. The months lengthened and when my spirit bent and bowed, it was not the goddess that saved me.
I did it. Day by day I learned to live in the body I am in, to inhabit my own self truly at last. I learned to find the women who would stand with me in the face of that fraternity, women who would not settle, who would not give, who would not only hope but act and laugh as they did.
And when my husband asked me what I thought my heart would long to hear, `Do you want to go?' I was almost disappointed. Why should I be chased away by men with a penchant for hostility and their fingers on the button? How could I leave now, when I have so much work to do? Plus, I'll take it as a sign that our realtor runs a Chinese medicine business on the side.
We stayed. We sang. We thanked the wolf and the spider and the symmetry.
The lemonade tastes good here.

Saturday Goddess Blogging

The Banshee

As we came down the old boreen,
Rose and I – Rose and I,
At vesper time on Sunday e’en,
We heard a banshee cry!
Beyond the churchyard dim and dark,
‘Neath whispering elms, and yew-trees stark,
Where our star shone-a corpse-like spark-
Against the wintry sky.

We heard and shuddered sick with dread,
Rose and I- Rose and I,
As the shrill keening rang o’erhead
Where cloud-wrack floated high.
Our two young hearts long, sorely tried,
By poverty and love denied
Still waiting for some favouring tide,
And now! Death come so nigh.

‘Which of us two is called away
You or I-You or I?”
I heard my patient poor love say,
With bitter plaintive sigh.
‘Neither, dear girl,” I bravely said,
‘To Mary Mother bow your head,
And cry for help to Her instead,
Nor heed the Banshee’s cry’.

We raised our hearts in fervent prayer,
Rose and I-Rose and I,
Nor knew our troubles ended there,
Our happiness came nigh.
For ‘twas the grim old farmer, he-
My only kin, rich, miserly,
Who, dying left his wealth to me-
For whom the banshee cried.

by Alice Guerin Christ

Friday, October 19, 2007

St. Gertrude

If fate had taken a very few different turns, its v. likely that I'd have ended up in a convent, and I'll admit that, to this day, virulent anti-Catholic that I am, I still sometimes long for the structured life of prayer and community that only Catholic convents appear to provide. Katherine Kunz doesn't help with her current photo essay concerning the Monastery of St. Gertrude. Here's the kind of thing that always pulls me in:

Stability with the Land

Sr. Teresa reflects that, “stability in community is also stability in the whole ecosystem of a place,…of which we are a very small part.” Stability cultivates a sense of groundedness. Almost everyone I talked with expressed the importance of the forest and walks on the land to their spiritual life. Sr. Placida spent an entire year living in a rustic cabin in the forest behind the monastery. Living one quarter mile from the monastery, Sr. Placida would join the community on Sundays for Mass. This time of solitude was extremely important and served to deepen her “inner life.” Many of the sisters come from farming families surrounding the monastery, and the bodies of sisters who have died are laid to rest in the monastery’s cemetery. The sisters have recently started to construct their own wooden caskets to be more connected with the land and to decrease the ecological impact of burial practices.

Kunz quotes the brilliant Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister and author, [who] urges sisters to live their Monastic Profession through its three dimensions of stability, obedience, and conversatio morum in their present day commitments. “Do what these values demand, in this culture, on this planet, at this time, in this civilization, in the here and now.”

I imagine that's what Wiccans are supposed to be figuring out how to do, as well: Do what our values demand, in this culture, on this planet, at this time, in this civilization, in the here and now. Sweet Kali on a kettle drum, it's easier to say than it is to do. What does that mean to you, to do what the values of Wicca demand, in this culture, on this planet, at this time, in this civilization, in the here and now?

Hint: it has nothing to do with buying a cool athame. And just because you cast a circle, doesn't necessarily make it magic.

Great News!

Mary Oliver begins blogging.

A Woman In The White House

I think that Eugene Robinson makes some good points in today's WaPo article. I've been pretty upfront that one of the reasons that I support Hillary Clinton is that she's a woman. She's not nearly as liberal as I am, but then, I've never voted for anyone as liberal as I am. For my entire adult life, I've voted for white men who had a shot at winning but who were not nearly as liberal as I am. Given that, I think that there's inherent value in having a woman in the White House, at least once every 231 years or so.

And I don't intend to feel "bad" about calculating based, in part, on sex. Goddess knows, there's a boatload of white men who won't be voting for either Hillary or Obama based upon her sex and his skin color. We should stop taking sex into account? You first, Bubbas, you first.

Friday Cat Blogging

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sex By Moonlight

From NYT:

[A]t night, just after the full moon, under warm tropic breezes, the corals dissolve in an orgy of reproduction, sowing waters with trillions of eggs and sperm that swirl and dance and merge to form new life. The frenzy can leave pink flotsam. . . . When I talk about thousands of reefs in the Caribbean releasing their spawn within minutes of each other during a specific phase of the moon, people marvel and ask, ‘How do they do it?’” said Alina M. Szmant, a coral expert at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. “My answer is always, ‘It’s a mystery.’”

My New Name For A Blog

What John Michael Greer Said.

Now Why Didn't I Think Of That?

My Heroine.

Some Sanity In A World Of "Abstinence Education"

Good. Let's hope that other schools will follow. What's the point to denying children the medical care that they need? Who thinks that it's a better option to let middle school kids conceive babies? As for the "parents' rights," parents can exercise their rights by staying involved with their kids' lives and supervising their kids. But they don't have a "right" to foist unwanted babies and sexual diseases onto their kids or the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When The Rough God Goes Riding

My New Name For A Blog

As always, my new name for a blog is What Athenae Said

Your Wild Self

This is too much fun.

/Hat tip to Shaw Kenawe.

They Don't Even Try To Be Logically Consistent

It's old news by now that the Republicans and their orc pit of bloggers have taken to attacking the families of kids who benefitted from SCHIP, the children's health insurance program that Congress wants to expand and that Bush has vetoed.

What's interesting about the latest attack is that it's directed against a family that lacked insurance but chose to have a child, anyway. The child had a serious heart condition that required expensive health care. (The mother had insurance years ago at a prior job, but quit when that job became "unmanageable" and has worked for years as a waitress at a restaurant that doesn't provide insurance.) The right wing slime machine is in high dudgeon over the notion that this family shouldn't have had kids if they didn't want to work at jobs that provide insurance.

Of course, the right wing also doesn't believe in family planning or birth control. What was this married couple supposed to do -- abstain from sex forever? What if they'd saved enough to pay for a normal hospital birth for a healthy child, but discovered, while the mother was still pregnant, that the child, when born, would have an expensive heart condition? An abortion at that point would be affordable, out of their savings, but they couldn't afford the health care. In the wingnut world, what should they have done? Remember, wingnuts hate abortion worst of all.

And, of course, there's no end to the "objections" the wingnuts can come up with when they presume to decide how other people should live their lives. What about people who have jobs that provide insurance, have a child, lose that job to "oursourcing" (it happens in George Bush's America) and then their child develops an expensive medical condition? Sure, we could go back and criticize some "choice" they made -- there was that year that they took the family to Disney Land instead of foreseeing that their child would develop cancer and need to be hospitalized for a month. If they'd invested that money in the stock market -- oh, wait.

In the end, it's all just nuts. We're the richest country on Earth. We can afford trillions of dollars for an war of aggression against a country that didn't attack us. Our wealthiest citizens pay ridiculously little in taxes. If we have money for that, we have money to provide health care for working families, people like waitresses and cabinetmakers. The notion that people should have to "choose" between working at the vanishingly few jobs that provide real health insurance and having a child or between owning a home and having a child or between being self-employed or having a child is just goofy. Well, no, it's more than just goofy. It's evil and pernicious and disgusting. I'm looking at you, Republican Party.

It Costs Money Not To Address Climate Change

From today's EEI newsletter:

University of Maryland Study Assesses Economic Effect of Climate Change

The University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research has released a study showing the economic impacts of climate change, the Washington Post reported. Wrote the newspaper: "Global warming will strain public budgets and raise the costs of cooling American homes, the authors write, and it will provide only temporary benefits to the mid-Atlantic's agricultural sector. For example, a predicted rise in sea level would require Hawaii to spend nearly $2 billion on upgrading its drinking water and wastewater facilities over the next 20 years."
Washington Post , Oct. 17.

The costs of doing nothing, the costs of business as usual, are staggering.

No. U Can Not Haz Made Bed. Why U Ask? U R Stoopid? Go To Work. Bring Home Fancee Feast

Monday, October 15, 2007

Black Oaks By Mary Oliver

Blog Action Day

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,

or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound though the blue jays
carp and whistle all day in the branches, without
the push of the wind.

But to tell the truth after a while I'm pale with longing
for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen

and you can't keep me from the woods, from the tonnage

of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a
little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from
one boot to another -- why don't you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don't want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don't want to sell my life for money,

I don't even want to come in out of the rain.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

May It Be So For You

There's a moment when the Canon and Gigue in D Major by Musica Antigua Koln is on the stereo, Les Heretiques is breathing in the decanter, the Halloween decorations are up, the oak leaves have been raked into the street for the county to turn into mulch, the boeuf bourguignon is on the stove, the cat is asleep on the hearth, the laundry is done, and my altar becons.

That's the moment when I'm happy, content, alive.

May it be so for you.

Just Go Watch

I totally stole this from Feministing, and it has had me in tears for about twenty minutes.

Relevant Poetry Blogging

"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York,
And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamped
, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them,--
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun." -
-- William Shakespeare

All That Is Necessary For Evil To Succeed . . . .

Normally, I'd just provide a link, but I think that what Frank Rich says today is too important. We have got -- all of us -- to stop being "good Germans."

The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us
Published: October 14, 2007

“BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.
Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: “Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.”

Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled “politics.” We turn the page.

There has been scarcely more response to the similarly recurrent story of apparent war crimes committed by our contractors in Iraq. Call me cynical, but when Laura Bush spoke up last week about the human rights atrocities in Burma, it seemed less an act of selfless humanitarianism than another administration maneuver to change the subject from its own abuses.

As Mrs. Bush spoke, two women, both Armenian Christians, were gunned down in Baghdad by contractors underwritten by American taxpayers. On this matter, the White House has been silent. That incident followed the Sept. 16 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis were killed by security forces from Blackwater USA, which had already been implicated in nearly 200 other shooting incidents since 2005. There has been no accountability. The State Department, Blackwater’s sugar daddy for most of its billion dollars in contracts, won’t even share its investigative findings with the United States military and the Iraqi government, both of which have deemed the killings criminal.

The gunmen who mowed down the two Christian women worked for a Dubai-based company managed by Australians, registered in Singapore and enlisted as a subcontractor by an American contractor headquartered in North Carolina. This is a plot out of “Syriana” by way of “Chinatown.” There will be no trial. We will never find out what happened. A new bill passed by the House to regulate contractor behavior will have little effect, even if it becomes law in its current form.

We can continue to blame the Bush administration for the horrors of Iraq — and should. Paul Bremer, our post-invasion viceroy and the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts, issued the order that allows contractors to elude Iraqi law, a folly second only to his disbanding of the Iraqi Army. But we must also examine our own responsibility for the hideous acts committed in our name in a war where we have now fought longer than we did in the one that put Verschärfte Vernehmung on the map.

I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press — the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration’s case — failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.

As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin.

In April 2004, Stars and Stripes first reported that our troops were using makeshift vehicle armor fashioned out of sandbags, yet when a soldier complained to Donald Rumsfeld at a town meeting in Kuwait eight months later, he was successfully pilloried by the right. Proper armor procurement lagged for months more to come. Not until early this year, four years after the war’s first casualties, did a Washington Post investigation finally focus the country’s attention on the shoddy treatment of veterans, many of them victims of inadequate armor, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals.

We first learned of the use of contractors as mercenaries when four Blackwater employees were strung up in Falluja in March 2004, just weeks before the first torture photos emerged from Abu Ghraib. We asked few questions. When reports surfaced early this summer that our contractors in Iraq (180,000, of whom some 48,000 are believed to be security personnel) now outnumber our postsurge troop strength, we yawned. Contractor casualties and contractor-inflicted casualties are kept off the books.

It was always the White House’s plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.

Instead of taxing us for Iraq, the White House bought us off with tax cuts. Instead of mobilizing the needed troops, it kept a draft off the table by quietly purchasing its auxiliary army of contractors to finesse the overstretched military’s holes. With the war’s entire weight falling on a small voluntary force, amounting to less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of us were free to look the other way at whatever went down in Iraq.

We ignored the contractor scandal to our own peril. Ever since Falluja this auxiliary army has been a leading indicator of every element of the war’s failure: not only our inadequate troop strength but also our alienation of Iraqi hearts and minds and our rampant outsourcing to contractors rife with Bush-Cheney cronies and campaign contributors. Contractors remain a bellwether of the war’s progress today. When Blackwater was briefly suspended after the Nisour Square catastrophe, American diplomats were flatly forbidden from leaving the fortified Green Zone. So much for the surge’s great “success” in bringing security to Baghdad.

Last week Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war combat veteran who directs Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, sketched for me the apocalypse to come. Should Baghdad implode, our contractors, not having to answer to the military chain of command, can simply “drop their guns and go home.” Vulnerable American troops could be deserted by those “who deliver their bullets and beans.”

This potential scenario is just one example of why it’s in our national self-interest to attend to Iraq policy the White House counts on us to ignore. Our national character is on the line too. The extralegal contractors are both a slap at the sovereignty of the self-governing Iraq we supposedly support and an insult to those in uniform receiving as little as one-sixth the pay. Yet it took mass death in Nisour Square to fix even our fleeting attention on this long-metastasizing cancer in our battle plan.

Similarly, it took until December 2005, two and a half years after “Mission Accomplished,” for Mr. Bush to feel sufficient public pressure to acknowledge the large number of Iraqi casualties in the war. Even now, despite his repeated declaration that “America will not abandon the Iraqi people,” he has yet to address or intervene decisively in the tragedy of four million-plus Iraqi refugees, a disproportionate number of them children. He feels no pressure from the American public to do so, but hey, he pays lip service to Darfur.

Our moral trajectory over the Bush years could not be better dramatized than it was by a reunion of an elite group of two dozen World War II veterans in Washington this month. They were participants in a top-secret operation to interrogate some 4,000 Nazi prisoners of war. Until now, they have kept silent, but America’s recent record prompted them to talk to The Washington Post.

“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he “never laid hands on anyone” in his many interrogations, adding, “I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.