line -->
  • Monday, October 31, 2005


    Republic of Vermont

    A friend of mine attended a rally/meeting this past weekend about the possibility of Vermont seceding from the US. Since this is an option enshrined in the state constitution (state's rights anyone?) and since Vermont actually was independent republic between 1777 and 1791, this isn't as far fetched as it might seem. The question remains as to whether the federal government would allow it to happen.

    The Second Vermont Republic website includes these 9 principles:
    1. Political Independence. Our primary objective is to extricate Vermont peacefully from the United States as soon as possible.
    2. Direct Democracy. Vermont's strong democratic tradition is grounded in its town meetings which have served as the state's political mainstay for over two centuries. We favor devolution of power from the federal and state governments back to local communities and the extension of participatory democracy to the workplace and the farm..
    3. Sustainability. We celebrate and support Vermont's small, clean, green, sustainable, socially responsible towns, farms, businesses, schools, and churches. We encourage family owned farms and businesses to produce innovative, premium-quality, high-value added, healthy products. We also believe that energy independence is an essential goal towards which to strive.
    4. Economic Solidarity. We encourage Vermonters to buy locally produced products from small local merchants rather than from giant, out-of-state mega stores. We support trade with nearby states and provinces.
    5. Quality Education. We would return to local Vermont communities the control and financing of small local schools.
    6. Wellness. We encourage small locally controlled health care systems similar to those found in Switzerland in which, unlike the United States, patients, physicians, clinics, hospitals, and insurance providers are all in community with one another.
    7. Nonviolence. Consistent with Vermont's long history of nonviolence, we do not condone state-sponsored violence inflicted either by military or law enforcement officials. However, we do support a voluntary citizens' militia to restore order in the event of political unrest or natural disasters. We are unconditionally opposed to any form of military conscription.
    8. Foreign Policy. We also favor negotiations with Maine, New Hampshire and the four Atlantic provinces of Canada possibly to create a New Atlantic Confederacy - a nation about the size of Denmark. We would not rule out similar negotiations with Quebec, as well as membership in the U.N.
    9. Membership. Second Vermont Republic membership is open to anyone who subscribes to these principles, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
    This is all very interesting to me since I live quite near Vermont. There is a strong streak of independence in Vermonters and I would not discount this effort as a lost cause by any means. Very cool.

    [Update: Second Vermont Republic has a sister site called Vermont Commons which also contains info on this topic.]


    Bush's Iron Dream

    No very serious commentary to go with this image. I just liked the imagery. Anyone who has read the book may also find it amusing. "A legend in his own mind," as the saying goes.

    Well, a little more info: the big object being waved aloft is known as the "Great Truncheon" in the novel. And if you suspect it may be a phallic symbol, you have no idea how correct you are. Add in the detailed, repetitive descriptions of the leather and chrome fetishwear and you've got the perfect metaphor for our current leadership.

    Saturday, October 29, 2005


    Friday Random 10 Songs: Mellow Mind Meld Edition

    These are the sounds of contortion and contention.
    These are contrite condolences offered behind anger.
    These are songs of sorrow and songs of a farrow.
    Do not ask the reasons; their names are legion.

    These random ten songs encapulate this moment,
    This memento mori of the past brought home.
    Don't that make you want to dance?

    Har, har, har! Wassamatter? Why aintcha laughing? Is joke! Laugh, Harlequin, laugh! You too Columbine! Is a secret comedy here tonight for your pleasure. Sing us a song, loud and brash, with a beat worthy of Ole Scratch hisself. (pause) The envelope please...
    1. I heard you looking, Yo La Tengo
    2. Peace, Weezer
    3. Pink Triangle, Weezer
    4. Just a Memory, Elvis Costello & the Attractions
    5. Personality Crisis, New York Dolls
    6. Nemesis, Shriekback
    7. Lament, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
    8. Dengue Woman Blues, Jimmie Vaughan
    9. Oh, Candy, Cheap Trick
    10. Strict Time, Elvis Costello & the Attractions


    Friday, October 28, 2005


    Ann Coulter Visits Her Hero's Grave

    Sometimes I don't need to retouch photos because they speak so well by themselves. Lest you think I'm lying, this photo was taken directly from Ms. Coulter's supposedly "official" web site. OK, I did do something to the photo. I did a little sharpening on the text on the headstone just to make sure it was clear, particularly in the shadows, but that's it.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005


    Halloween Hijinx

    Halloween, beloved of fundamentalist Christians as the holiday of Satan and evil, a signpost indicating the wicked decadence of American society. The non-Christian origins of the holiday are fairly well known and trotted out in "informative" articles in the weeks before Halloween. Mistakes are still made though. These articles still often refer to "Lord Samhain, a Celtic God of the Dead" who only seems to exist in some fevered Christian imaginations rather than in historical fact.

    Isaac Bonewits has a fairly thorough debunking of the popular myths in an article called Halloween Errors and Lies (or, What Fundamentalist Christians don'’t want you to know, revision 4.6.) It may actually be more information than you ever wanted to know about Halloween but Mr. Bonewits research is very good with links to many external sources. As a sample, he mentions that the pre-Christian Celts didn't even have a "God of the Dead," much less that his name was Samhain. A related but separate article by the same author is The Real Origins of Halloween.

    I found a surprising defense of allowing Muslim children to participate in Halloween activities by a Canadian Muslim. While I don't have the knowledge of Islam to either agree or disagree with him, he seems to make some valid points in What's Wrong With Halloween? I suggest checking it out because I think understanding the theological basis of different religions' points of view is important. I'm a comparative religions kind of guy.

    And the scariest thing about Halloween? Our fears about death and how far we'll go to deny the reality of our mortality. "Don't fear the Reaper" indeed.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005


    The Politics of US Torture

    I saw Jennifer Harbury on Book TV, a regular feature on C-SPAN2 every weekend. She has an extraordinary personal story but she's also written a book which sounds worth reading, Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture.

    Ms. Harbury is director of the Stop Torture Permanently (STOP) Campaign. This is her bio over on the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) website:
    Jennifer Harbury, a human rights activist and attorney who has long worked to curb human rights violations by the United States, is director of the STOP Campaign. Ms. Harbury's husband, Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, was secretly detained and tortured to death in Guatemala in the early 1990s. Her long efforts to save his life led to the startling official disclosure that his killers were Guatemalan intelligence officers serving as paid CIA informants or "“assets."” Since then, Ms. Harbury has investigated and reported the links between U.S. intelligence networks and the Latin American death squads.
    This question often comes up for me: Where are the middle order-givers of US torture? We know for a fact that policy for these tactics comes from the highest levels with Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales' so-called "torture memo". We know some of the people at the bottom end of the chain of command, the so-called "bad apples", who we are told are rogues and not officially authorized to perform torture. Yet if we have evidence of intent at the top of the chain of command and evidence of action at the bottom, it seems obvious that orders are being transmitted through someone.


    Richard Heinberg Lecture: Deep Doo-Doo in Our Future

    I went out with a friend of mine to Smith College and attended a lecture by Richard Heinberg, author of The Party's Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies.

    His lecture didn't really contain anything I didn't know about the whole Peak Oil view. He struck me as relatively sober and not prone to exaggeration. He allowed that the actual moment of peak oil is difficult to pinpoint but he obviously thought it would be on the shorter side of ten years rather than 20-30 years in the future. He seemed to have some good reasons to believe this way.

    His advice? Learn practical skills like farming and cultivate your local resources and neighbors.

    He mentioned a report commissioned by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and usually referred to by the lead author's name, "The Hirsch Report." It was released in February, 2005 and was titled Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management by Robert L. Hirsch (PDF). The DOE liked the report so much that they buried it. For over half a year, apparently it could only be found archived on a California High School website. Project Censored now has a copy, which is at the link above. (I eventually did track down a copy of the report on the National Energy Technology Laboratory's (NETL) Office of Technology Impacts and International Coordination (OTIIC) webpage. It seems like a rather obscure corner to me but what do I know?)

    Let me quote a little from the executive summary:
    Prudent risk management requires the planning and implementation of mitigation well before peaking. Early mitigation will almost certainly be less expensive than delayed mitigation. A unique aspect of the world oil peaking problem is that its timing is uncertain, because of inadequate and potentially biased reserves data from elsewhere around the world. In addition, the onset of peaking may be obscured by the volatile nature of oil prices. Since the potential economic impact of peaking is immense and the uncertainties relating to all facets of the problem are large, detailed quantitative studies to address the uncertainties and to explore mitigation strategies are a critical need.

    The purpose of this analysis was to identify the critical issues surrounding the occurrence and mitigation of world oil production peaking. We simplified many of the complexities in an effort to provide a transparent analysis. Nevertheless, our study is neither simple nor brief. We recognize that when oil prices escalate dramatically, there will be demand and economic impacts that will alter our simplified assumptions. Consideration of those feedbacks will be a daunting task but one that should be undertaken.

    Our study required that we make a number of assumptions and estimates. We well recognize that in-depth analyses may yield different numbers. Nevertheless, this analysis clearly demonstrates that the key to mitigation of world oil production peaking will be the construction a large number of substitute fuel production facilities, coupled to significant increases in transportation fuel efficiency. The time required to mitigate world oil production peaking is measured on a decade time-scale. Related production facility size is large and capital intensive. How and when governments decide to address these challenges is yet to be determined.

    Our focus on existing commercial and near-commercial mitigation technologies illustrates that a number of technologies are currently ready for immediate and extensive implementation. Our analysis was not meant to be limiting. We believe that future research will provide additional mitigation options, some possibly superior to those we considered. Indeed, it would be appropriate to greatly accelerate public and private oil peaking mitigation research. However, the reader must recognize that doing the research required to bring new technologies to commercial readiness takes time under the best of circumstances. Thereafter, more than a decade of intense implementation will be required for world scale impact, because of the inherently large scale of world oil consumption.

    In summary, the problem of the peaking of world conventional oil production is unlike any yet faced by modern industrial society. The challenges and uncertainties need to be much better understood. Technologies exist to mitigate the problem. Timely, aggressive risk management will be essential.
    The Hirsch Report is probably the best evaluation available concerning our oil future. It's about ninety pages in the PDF form but highly recommended. A downer? Yeah, maybe, but if we as a society and as individuals don't start planning for transition now, the options are going to narrow to even more. I suspect we're looking at rather a bad shitstorm and will soon yearn fondly for the days of $3.00 a gallon gasoline.

    Richard Heinberg has an online newsletter and website called Museletter. He seems committed to trying to make a positive change with support for The Depletion Protocol Project. He also has a nice list of recommended links.

    A rather bleak, scary and alarmist site is Peak Oil. Just a glimpse of the home page was enough to depress me. It mostly seem to look for the signs of doom without offering much in the way of positive action.

    Monday, October 24, 2005


    Envy: The Heretik Edition

    I've come to the conclusion that the blog I most want to absorb/become is The Heretik. While I haven't quite entered Single White Female territory, I do have a serious case of envy. Let me list a few of the reasons:
    Last night I spent a few hours trying to track down a font the Heretik uses regularly. I could have perhaps written and asked but, oh, no. I had to try and find it on my own. I think it's a very good thing that I'm not prone to cyberstalking. Really. I'm not.

    I'm resisting the urge to slavishly imitate the Heretik because I would undoubtedly do it badly. Still, I am inspired to improve my graphics skills almost entirely due to his influence. That's a good thing, I think?

    Sunday, October 23, 2005


    Last of the He-Blogger Breast Contest

    The competition is over but the viewing is still good. Go here to find links to all the "winners". Go here to see an eye-opening view of the corporeal abode of the Dark Wraith in its barechested glory. Very pleasantly reminiscent of Iggy Pop in my opinion. Hurry up because I am fairly certain he's not going to be leave it up beyond the minimum period ending on October 25. He's already jiggered it in some way that a right click won't allow you to save the picture. I think he's a little protective of his image.


    Wordlackey Man Breast #2

    [See update at the end of the post.]

    To all kind commentators on my previous picture: You have made a mistake (understandably) about my reasons for posting the pics of my pecs. As far as I am aware, I did not raise the required $50 total contribution to Shakes Sis. My threat was to show the pecs constantly/often for a month unless the money was raised for Shakes Sis. Yes, the original terms of the contest were to show one such picture if the money was raised. It was a twist, you see.

    I had hoped people would take this ultimatum in the spirit it was offered: a repetitious sight best avoided. Obviously I failed to impress my readers with my threats. Since I consider my word my bond, I plan to post at least one picture a day of my pasty chest for one month. If, by some miracle, $50 is raised over on Shakes Sis in my name within the next month, I will stop these particular picture posts.

    But thank you all for your compliments.

    [Update: Hey! I can't believe I made it! You love me, you really love me! The pessimist in me assumed I wouldn't raise the money. My faith in humanity (or at least my readers) is restored. A huge "Thank you!" to all who contributed to Shakes Sis.]

    Saturday, October 22, 2005


    Down to the Wire in the CIA Leak Investigation

    If I understand correctly, Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor looking into the leaking of the identity of a CIA agent in 2003, should file charges this week. This assumes he will file any charges at all.

    Common Dreams has a reprint of the modestly titled The Most Important Criminal Case in American History by James Moore. It starts like this:

    If special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald delivers indictments of a few functionaries of the vice president’s office or the White House, we are likely to have on our hands a constitutional crisis. The evidence of widespread wrongdoing and conspiracy is before every American with a cheap laptop and a cable television subscription. And we do not have the same powers of subpoena granted to Fitzgerald.

    We know, however, based upon what we have read and seen and heard that someone created fake documents related to Niger and Iraq and used them as a false pretense to launch America into an invasion of Iraq. And when a former diplomat made an honest effort to find out the facts, a plan was hatched to both discredit and punish him by revealing the identity of his undercover CIA agent wife.

    Patrick Fitzgerald has before him the most important criminal case in American history. Watergate, by comparison, was a random burglary in an age of innocence. The investigator’s prosecutorial authority in this present case is not constrained by any regulation. If he finds a thread connecting the leak to something greater, Fitzgerald has the legal power to follow it to the web in search of the spider. It seems unlikely, then, that he would simply go after the leakers and the people who sought to cover up the leak when it was merely a secondary consequence of the much greater crime of forging evidence to foment war. Fitzgerald did not earn his reputation as an Irish alligator by going after the little guy. Presumably, he is trying to find evidence that Karl Rove launched a covert operation to create the forged documents and then conspired to out Valerie Plame when he learned the fraud was being uncovered by Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. As much as this sounds like the plot of a John le Carre novel, it also comports with the profile of the Karl Rove I have known, watched, traveled with and written about for the past 25 years.

    The New York Times suggests the tactic the GOP will take to discredit any indictments:
    With a decision expected this week on possible indictments in the C.I.A. leak case, allies of the White House suggested Sunday that they intended to pursue a strategy of attacking any criminal charges as a disagreement over legal technicalities or the product of an overzealous prosecutor.
    Right. Overzealous. That's why he's waited until the last week possible before issuing an indictment. While I would dearly love to see some people in this administration jailed on this one, I'm pessimistic. These folks have perfected the art of deniability, of baffling with bullshit and shifting definitions.


    Nota Bene: This is PBU43, my contribution to a collective blogging action done weekly by members of the Progressive Blogger Union (PBU). I do it because it's fun, fun, fun! To find out what other members of PBU are saying about the CIA leak investigation, this link should take you to a page where other PBU member posts are available. is a social bookmark and search engine. It categorizes and links all kinds of things on the web. Or you can go to this PBU page and click on "PBU43 from all users". You can also plug "PBU43" into the Technorati search engine.


    Pres. Bush: Is He Bat-Boy?

    Proof of the link between President Bush and the mythical Bat-Boy. Totally unretouched. I promise.


    Wordlackey Man Breast #1

    Oh, woe is me! Threats did not work and I am left to reap the results of my rash proclamation of a continuing, monthlong onslaught of Wordlackey manbreast if donations to Shakespeare's Sister did not match the $50 goal. Alas, Shakes Soror is attending a wedding but I'm assuming the worst. I may re-evaluate my commitment to this project as time goes on.

    Unlike Our Dear Leader, Pres. Bush, I am able to reassess a given course of action in the light of later events. I'm already modifying my commitment to only one picture a day rather than on every post for the next month. Considering that of late I've been posting more graphic images, it would be, um, unaesthetic to have to include both a manbreast picture as well as another, more primary image. I still think I shall become sick of my own flesh before this is done.

    [Update: Mission Accomplished! For real! But not before I posted another picture. Enjoy.]

    Friday, October 21, 2005


    See My Man Breast

    [Update2: OK, I'm getting serious now. There are only two days left of this challenge and I'm going to resort to threats. If you don't go to the Amazon link below and make a donation to Shakes Sis, you will get more than a single peek at my man-breasts: You'll get a month of them. That's right. Every single post on DemiOrator for a month will have a picture of my manly man chest. All different. Oh, you may think that it will be a thrill, but I assure you the novelty will pale quite quickly. This will surely wreak havoc on what little traffic and good will I've built up for my blog but there it is. Enough of the "good cop". The choice is yours. I hope for your sake you choose wisely.]

    Er, perhaps you don't want to but I've been given the Dark Wraith He-Stuff Challenge to help blogging comrade-in-arms Shakespeare's Sister who needs money and a new job. If $50 or more in total is donated in the name of Wordlackey/DemiOrator, I will be forced to display a picture of my chestal region on this blog. Donations can be of any size but must be submitted by October 21, 2005. This link will take you directly to the Shakes Sis Amazon Honor System payment page. Be sure to mention that it's in DemiOrator's name

    If you want to read more about the rules pertaining to my exhibitionary humiliation, go to this post over on the Dark Wraith Forums.

    I accept the challenge of the Dark Wraith but fear the societal repercussions of showing my manly-man chest. I doubt the world can survive the true nature of my bared chest. "You can't handle the truth!" Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men.

    [Update: I've set this post to stay at the top until the deadline.]


    DeLay Dreams in Red

    I thought DeLay's mug shot needed a little tarting up.


    Google Irregularities

    I don't know if it is a permanent effect or some temporary result of reindexing links but Google is giving some strange results. While tracking back through some of the results of searches which led people to my blog, I could not find my blog listed within a hundred result items returned. An example: if the second page (#s 51-100) of results of a search on cornel west writing style led to my blog, I could not find a link to DemiOrator on that page or the first page (1-50) or the third page (101-150).

    There's nothing earthshaking about this but it seems to indicate some more dynamic process of returning results than in the past. In other words, the order of the results of the search is changing rather significantly from one search to exactly the same search just a little while later. This is very interesting to me. I'm just wondering why. Perhaps it's an attempt by Google to vary or shake up attempts to jigger the ranking of sites, some variation amongst sites of equivalent ranking.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005


    Defining Corporatacracy

    What an ugly and awkward word. Corporatacracy. Basically it means the rule of corporations or government by corporation. Some people use "corporacracy" which gets rid of a syllable but I believe the other form may be more linguistically accurate.

    CorpWatch has a little factsheet from 2001 but I bet it's still pretty accurate:
    A good juxtoposition to the information on corporations above, CorpWatch also has a factsheet on the practice of "greenwashing". You can find numerous examples of this in advertising.

    green*wash: (n) Disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image. Derivatives greenwashing (n). Origin from green on the pattern of whitewash. The Tenth Edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary

    green*wash: (gr~en-wosh) -washers, -washing, -washed 1.) The phenomenon of socially and environmentally destructive corporations attempting to preserve and expand their markets by posing as friends of the environment and leaders in the struggle to eradicate poverty. 2) Environmental whitewash. 3) Any attempt to brainwash consumers or policy makers into believing polluting mega-corporations are the key to environmentally sound sustainable development 4) Hogwash. CorpWatch Definition [...]

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005


    Philobiblon: The Carnival of Feminists No. 1

    Great precis of various feminist linkages at Philobiblon. Go to the Carnival.


    Parody is Good for Your Health

    When in doubt, laugh. It's said in some circles that depression is often caused by inwardly directed anger. I don't know about that, but I do know I like to laugh. That's why I always try to include a few sites of clever wit here. And a few nitwit sites as well.

    So I must mention They've pretty much taken their visual format directly from the "official" site but done the usual twist on the contents. Amusing parody is always worth a look.

    Tip of the mouse to P!


    Ever-Shrinking Privacy

    Three items about ways of fingering you.

    First, the secret code printed on every page emerging from a color laser copier.
    It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn't. The pages coming out of your color printer may contain hidden information that could be used to track you down if you ever cross the U.S. government.

    Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer privacy group, said it had cracked the code used in a widely used line of Xerox printers, an invisible bar code of sorts that contains the serial number of the printer as well as the date and time a document was printed.

    With the Xerox printers, the information appears as a pattern of yellow dots, each only a millimeter wide and visible only with a magnifying glass and a blue light.

    The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from nearly every major printer manufacturer, including Hewlett-Packard Co., though its team has so far cracked the codes for only one type of Xerox printer.

    This CNet article has some good links.

    Then there is the growing use of video cameras in urban environments to "discourage crime." Of course, studies show that the cameras only provide a 2% decrease in crime; better street lights provide a 20% decrease. Hmmm. The Surveillance Camera Players keep track of some these cameras.


    Censored 2006: Fallujah and the Civilian Death Toll

    I always look forward to the annual Censored volume. Despite reading a goodly number of dead tree magazines every month, I know things slip by me. So I am happily reading Censored 2006: The Top 25 Censored Stories by Peter Phillips and Project Censored.

    The stories aren't censored in the strictly traditional sense of the word. No government agency closed down a newspaper or mag, confiscated the documentation, threw the reporters in jail, etc. Yet they are stories which are important and, for whatever reason, they fell through the cracks. Mainstream news organizations ignored them.

    I intend this to be the first of an occasional series highlighting selected stories from the volume. My criteria for including any particular story is nonexistent; I am a haphazard fellow.

    Story #2 in the book is "Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death Toll". Before the second siege of Fallujah, the US forces gave the city two choices: "...leave the city or risk dying as enemy insurgents." 250,000 people left the city but approx. 50,000 remained behind. "The United States military claimed that there were a few thousand enemy insurgents remaining among those who stayed in the city and conducted the invasion as if all the people remaining were enemy combatants."
    Preliminary estimates as of December of 2004 revealed that at least 6,000 Iraqi citizens in Fallujah had been killed, and one-third of the city had been destroyed. [...]

    Marjorie Cohn, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists, has noted that the U.S. invasion of Fallujah is a violation of international law that the U.S. had specifically ratified: "They [U.S. Forces] stormed and occupied the Fallujah General Hospital, and have not agreed to allow doctors and ambulances to go inside the main part of the city to help the wounded, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions."
    There were also numerous reports of U.S. forces very deliberately targeting civilians with snipers.

    This isn't a pleasant story but I prefer knowing this shit than not. Because I just don't buy the "they hate us for our freedom" rationale.


    Bush Waves Farwell to America

    More art therapy and wishful thinking.

    (Oh no! I... must... not... say... it... Damn, I can't help it...)

    Let me just say that there must be a very, very lewd and nasty joke in the juxtaposition of the names of Richard Nixon and George Bush. (pause) Must I draw you a diagram? Oh, forget it.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005


    Cheaper is Not Better

    I bought a dish drainer not too long ago from a nameless chain store whose stock includes various household items, LINENS aNd other THINGS. It seemed much better than the usual cheap plastic ones we usually use, made of shiny steel and pleasing to the eye. My only concern was that the tray/pan used to hold drained water was flimsy. I imagined it would bend or crumple the first time I washed it.

    Imagine my surprise when I noticed rust spots on the pan's surface. I realized it didn't say stainless steel on the box when I bought it. I just assumed that such a pan, which in normal use is in contact with water, would be designed to resist rust. The only way it would last is if you actually dried it immediately after using it.

    Why am I writing about such a minor annoyance, duplicated often in our consumer lives? Because it says something about our society and the "convenience" products sold in it.

    Have you ever bought a product that failed and broke the first time you used it? Has it ever seemed like the effort it would take to return it and receive a refund was more trouble than the cost of the item? Would you feel embarrassed that you bought such a piece of crap in the first place? This is the cost of so-called cheap consumer items. When prices reach a certain point, we accept that disposability becomes an inherent part of the equation. Not when the object wears out, not when it can no longer be repaired, but from the moment the object is bought.

    We are trained to desire things we don't need, to feel unfulfilled by our possessions and yet as if more or different possessions will create contentment and happiness. I always get a grim amusement out of the fact that tuberculosis used to be called consumption. I think: consumers are engaged in consumption and it will eventually kill them with empty desires. This is what I think.

    Monday, October 17, 2005


    Excellent Screeds of Unimaginable Power

    (Don't mind me, I'm exercising my exaggeration muscles.) These loosely linked posts both impressed me with their ability to articulate something I wish I'd said.

    Over on American Regression, Gary speaks to the frustration in dealing with people/parents who seem determined to ignore evidence and rational arguments when it comes to politics. I've decided against quoting it because it's the kind of post best experienced in totality. So go check it out.

    BottleOfBlog is a little too heavy on the sports stuff for me but this post redeems quite a few sports entries in my eyes. And I will quote it, at length, because it is incandescent.

    When are these people going to get it? You can't consistently defend the... um... principles of the modern Republican party because they don't have any. They don't believe in anything--not anything they can tell you, anyway, and still get re-elected. They have no convinctions.

    They have propaganda.

    And if you stupidly adopt one of their "talking points" today as a principle, as a conviction, as a value today, you're going to look like a fucking idiot tomorrow.

    You're outraged that John Kerry said "fuck" today? Tomorrow, Dick Cheney says it on the floor of the Senate. You're appalled at the 82nd Airborne providing security in Kosovo today? Tomorrow, they're directing traffic in Baghdad. You're incensed at governement spending today? Tomorrow, you're going to have to defend the biggest deficits in the history of the world and the unheard of increases in discretionary spending.

    You're pulling your hair out at the unheard of gall of Democrats asking a Supreme Court nominee to disclose his political and judicial positions? Tomorrow, you'll be demanding a Supreme Court nominee to disclose her political and judicial positions.

    Yesterday, you're all for the "rule of law". Today? The world is full of prosecutors out of control!

    Don't these people get it? Or don't they care?

    I don't blame them personally for the fact that they've voted for two entire branches of our government which are entirely full of shit. Well, that's not true. I do blame them for their votes. But I don't personally blame them that the entire modern Republican party is full of shit.

    Though, maybe that's not true, either. I do blame them for being so goddammed gullible and easily manipulated, and so intent on their "team" winning that they haven't noticed the utterly morally and ethically bankrupt individuals they've been sending to Washington for the last twenty years.

    I do blame them for being so reliably and willfully ignorant that the modern Republican party can run people like DeLay and Frist, and Bush, confidently, because they know the rubes will heel like dumb dogs if someone shouts, "abortion!" or "faggots!" or "Darwin!" at them.

    But I just shake my head at people who have adopted ridiculous positions, in writing, on television, amongst their friends, in support of the modern Republican party, and who have, because of their support, been made to look like the dumbest, most hypocritical, most dishonest, most naive fools in the history of the world.

    It just kills me. If someone did that to me, I'd be furious. The rubes, the suckers, the Red Staters? They embarrass themselve more by defending things they denounced before.

    Republicans! Pick a thing and believe in it. Stop believing in people--especially these people. George W. Bush is not a political philosophy. Stop humiliating yourselves for a guy who couldn't care less how stupid he makes you look!

    Nobody voted for Clinton because they thought he had a great marriage. But the rubes all voted for Bush for a bunch of crap that, after five years, we all know he couldn't care less about. Cut your losses. Let's wrap this national turkey up.

    Eighty percent of Republican jokers keep sticking to this clown and they're going to walk away from this administration like the investors of Arbusto and Bush Exploration, and everything else Bush ever ran--broke, embarrassed, and out of bidness.


    A new discovery for me is the search engine/bookmark keeper. I haven't explored it very much but it is a really interesting way of following links.

    Items posted to are given some keyword tags by the poster. Then an interested person can look at all the items on with the same tag. This leads to all sorts of serendipity in the results. Because the person who posts the item decides what keywords to associate with the item rather than, say, Google or Yahoo, the results are both more and less pertinent.

    My current bookmarks are currently only my own blog posts just to test out the system but you can post any URL to the system and assign keywords. In essence, participants decide on the categorization of items.

    This is from their about page: is a social bookmarks manager. It allows you to easily add sites you like to your personal collection of links, to categorize those sites with keywords, and to share your collection not only between your own browsers and machines, but also with others.

    Once you've registered for the service, you add a simple bookmarklet to your browser (see below). When you find a web page you'd like to add to your list, you simply select the bookmarklet, and you'll be prompted for a information about the page. You can add descriptive terms to group similar links together, modify the title of the page, and add extended notes for yourself or for others.

    You can access your list of links from any web browser. By default, your links are shown to you in reverse chronological order, with those you've added most recently at the top. In addition to viewing by date, you can also view all links in a specific category (you define your own categories as you add the links), or search your links for keywords.

    What makes a social system is its ability to let you see the links that others have collected, as well as showing you who else has bookmarked a specific site. You can also view the links collected by others, and subscribe to the links of people whose lists you find interesting.


    Hunger Strike as Political Action

    A large number of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison colony are on a hunger strike to protest their living conditions.

    Hunger strikes are a time-honored method of protest. They are particularly effective for prisoners who have few options for making their grievances known outside of the prison. The downside is possible permanent damage to major internal organs in the later stages of starvation and, of course, death. But when there is no other recourse, it remains effective for bringing attention to a particular situation.

    In a previous post I mentioned the Irish traditon:
    An example is the hunger strike. There has been a long tradition in Ireland of hunger strikes for justice. My understanding is that it was a last resort to attain justice or restitution when you've been wronged. Although we often hear of hunger strikes in prisons due to inhumane conditions, it also used to be a very personal tactic. You went and camped on the doorstep of the person who had wronged you, refusing food (and I think water) until either the person corrected the wrong or you died. Like the albatross around the neck of the ancient mariner, your corpse was the sign to the world of exactly how grievous the injustice done to you by that person. Their honor was forever sullied in that town. Perhaps businesses would no longer allow the person into their shops or do work for them.
    In the film Iron Jawed Angels about the US women's suffrage movement to gain the vote for women, there are scenes of the hunger striking Alice James (Hilary Swank) being forcefed through a tube inserted through the nose and a funnel. This seems to be the common response by authority to the hunger strike. To prevent the hunger striker from dying on your doorstep/prison, forcing I.V. fluids and nutrition on the striker is the course usually taken. This will usually be rationalized publicly by authorities as "protecting" the striker from the results of her/his actions. It is the assertion of control over the prisoner, denying the prisoner any lingering shred of self-determination and dignity.

    A fresh example of this appeared in a Boston Globe reports which says "US military medics have attempted to dissuade Guantanamo Bay detainees from continuing a hunger strike by forcing finger-thick feeding tubes through their noses without painkillers, lawyers for the detainees told a federal judge yesterday."

    The powerful impact of hunger strikes is undeniable. Although many people think it is a form of suicide, it is hardly akin to it. A death by hunger strike is so deliberate in intent, so lengthy a process, it cannot be mistaken for any kind of momentary emotional lapse or impulse. And this is what makes it so frightening to authorities. It's not like these people are becoming despondent and losing their will to live. Often, they are actively taking control of the only resource left to them: their own body and life.

    Some might dismiss a hunger strike as mere headline grabbing antics, not seriously intended to be carried through to a conclusion of death. The number of strikers at Guantanamo is uncertain. The Department of Defense says 76 prisoners are involved but human rights workers estimate the number at between 150 and 200. That would be approximately one third of the total prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. That is not a blip. That is a major act of collective protest.

    Nota Bene: This is PBU42, my contribution to a collective blogging action done weekly by members of the Progressive Blogger Union (PBU). I do it because it's fun. Fun! To find out what other members of PBU are saying about the Guantanamo hunger strike, we are trying a different method this week. is a social bookmark and search engine. It categorizes and links all kinds of things on the web. I'm not completely certain I've got the method down but this link should take you to a page where other PBU member posts are available. Or you can go to this PBU page and click on "PBU42 from all users". You can also plug "PBU42" into the Technorati search engine.

    Friday, October 14, 2005


    Who Will Take Out the Garbage: A Report from New Orleans by Starhawk

    These reports from Starhawk are easily the best I've read from NOLA. While most news reports focus on a mix of official sources and very specific individual stories intended to represent all the affected residents, Starhawk focuses on groups of people you will never see in the mainstream news reports. Anarchists, Greens, Pagans and other people organizing and doing the grunt work on the ground without official support because they see the need expressed by the community. The grassroots level of her perspective is refreshing and empowering. Now if only the "official" reconstruction authorities would find ways of supporting these small scale and local efforts instead of just the big companies.

    (As with my previous post reprinting another of Starhawk's reports, I've done some very slight editing to insert hyperlinks where indicated in the text, corrected a couple of obvious spelling errors, and massaged the paragraph/line breaks.)
    Who Will Take Out the Garbage: A Report from New Orleans
    By Starhawk

    It’s like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie—a crowd of people gathered in the street outside the local tavern in the Bywater district of the Ninth Ward. The lower Ninth Ward, a few blocks away, is the scene of the worst destruction, but this eclectic neighborhood, one of the centers of alternative culture in New Orleans, has fortunately escaped heavy damage. Still, roofs are off, houses are molding away from the inside, and the streets are piled with garbage that, six weeks after the hurricane, has not been picked up.

    The people gathered are black, white, gay, straight, a motley mix of artists and old-time Cajuns and circus performers, all talking madly and hugging each other and drinking beer. Malik, a founder of the Common Ground Collective, calls them to order. He makes me think of an old lion, with his mane of dreadlocks, turning his big head slowly from side to side, surveying an unruly pride. He outlines the work Common Ground has done in Algiers, tells them that if they can organize themselves, Common Ground can provide supplies and volunteers. Everyone is talking at once and interrupting each other, but there’s a lively, charged energy.

    “What do you need here?” Malik asks.

    “Garbage,” people thunder back. There’s a chaotic but unanimous agreement that garbage pickup is their first priority, and several people begin simultaneously to outline their failed attempts to get the city to do something.

    Malik stops them. “If the city won’t do it, you got to do like we did across the river, and do it yourself. Now, who wants to do that? Who will volunteer?”

    Most of the people raise their hands.

    “When do you want to begin?”


    We meet the next morning in Washington Square Park, where a kitchen from the Rainbow Family is providing the best free food in town, far, far better than the Styrofoam-packed chili dogs or military ration MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) available from the official relief organizations. Over eggs and pancakes, we get organized.

    Who will take out the garbage? It’s the question always posed to any vision of utopia. Who will do the dirty work?

    We will. Come on, it’ll be fun, you’ll enjoy it. And if we just start doing what needs to be done, others will join us and the work will go fast and pleasantly.

    About fifteen of us head out, a mix of Common Ground volunteers and far fewer of the local community than raised their hands the night before We start at the corner by the bar where we met the night before, and begin picking up sacks of trash, plastic bags full of rotting food waste, and all the debris ejected from people’s flooded homes and shops. The small corner store has half its roof off and its contents on the street. We sling the bags into the back of pickup trucks, and pile it all on the meridian divider of a main street nearby, where the city can’t easily overlook it. We separate brush from mixed garbage, and stack anything usable separately. It’s hard work, and dirty, physical and sweaty and fun, like going to the gym, but more fun really because we’re working together. And satisfying as only cleaning up a really, really dirty mess can satisfy.

    Tomorrow we will try to get a flat-bed trailor and pick up refrigerators. Almost every house on the block—in the entire area, has a dead refrigerator, some taped shut. People are warned not to open them inside the house, that you can’t get rid of the smell. You can clean them time and again with bleach, leave them baking in the sun for days—and still days later the smell will remain and bugs will be pouring out of the innards. The phenomenal waste of the embodied energy in all these appliances is appalling, but I can’t think of any real good use for them myself except possibly to fill them with cob, cement them shut and stack them for natural building blocks. A refrigerator-block wall—good insulation, poor thermal mass, and really hard to get anything else to attach solidly. And the bugs would still be a problem. But these are the sorts of things the mind ponders while picking up trash.

    Meanwhile Juniper makes a valiant attempt to alert the city agencies that the trash will need to be picked up. She is told to call 211, for Emergency Services. Emergency Services tells her that the Southern Baptist Convention is responsible for solid waste disposal. Huh?? Even in Bush’s new faith-based world, we can’t quite believe this. She tries the local waste management company—they say that the mayor has replaced them the week before with the Army Corps of Engineers. Juniper eventually gets through to some puzzled woman at a phone service in Tennessee from the Corps who has no idea what she’s talking about. After an hour and twenty-five phone calls, she’s back to 211 and the Baptists. Now, the Baptists are a fine religious organization but we had no idea they were experts in solid waste management. Maybe it’s the immersion thing—some deep religious connection to cleanliness? Accept Jesus into your heart, and He will rapture your dead refrigerator into some other dimension? If every Baptist in the south were to suddenly appear in New Orleans and pick up even one sack of garbage, we could get the place clean in a day, but really, a few Bobcats and some big garbage trucks would actually be more to the point. Couldn’t we just go back to the Mafia? Or, what a radical idea, what if everyone in the city and the country regularly tithed some of their income to provide the services everyone needs, so we could pool our money and afford things like bulldozers and regular trash pickup that actually got around to all the neighborhoods where people lived? We used to have such a thing—it was called ‘government’ before Bush and his cronies on the far right began to systematically starve it and convince people that it was better to depend on religious charity to solve all their problems.

    But the Baptists are not all that well schooled in solid waste management—we’re not sure they even know that the City of New Orleans is expecting them to pick up trash in the Ninth Ward. In any case, they are not in evidence here. Instead, it’s a group of neighborhood folks and a few volunteers I know for a fact are Pagans, anarchists, atheists and other undesirables, who have just started doing it.

    Across the street, a battered white house sports a big American flag. The man inside, a big Cajun guy in a baseball cap, comes over and offers us water. He’s an ex-marine who used to train the Contras in Honduras to attack the Sandinistas, I’m told, until he became sickened by what was going on. He’s delighted we’re cleaning up the neighborhood, tells us stories of the hurricane, how after it was over the neighbors all got together and had a big barbecue with the meat that would otherwise rot in their freezers. He tells us how he worried about the older black folks across the street who had diabetes, tried to get them fruit and keep them fed.

    “I don’t understand racism,” he says. “I’ve got six kind of blood in my veins. My people been here for generations, five thousand years. I’m part Chittimacha Indian. The reason I look white—my mother married a German, but my great-grandaddy was a six foot African man.”

    He was one of the snipers, who sat on his roof with his rifle to shoot suspected looters. The area is full of signs that say, “We are home, you are being watched!” “Mean dogs inside.” “This area protected by Smith and Wesson.”

    He put up his flag as soon as the wind stops—but he hates the government. To him, that flag means the American people.

    “This is so great,” he says as he brings us over cold water and hand sanitizer. “And that it’s people doing it, not the government.”

    At the end of the day we go over to BJ’s, the neighborhood bar where everyone hangs out. “This is our living room,” one woman tells me. They are newly back—today is the first day many people have come home, and it is so beautiful to see how happy everyone is to be back. They are running up to each other and hugging their neighbors, laughing and crying. One of them buys beers for everybody on the cleanup crew—we have forty offered to us within half an hour, more than we can drink.

    It’s what’s so wonderful about New Orleans, and so different from most cities in this country—these tight-knit communities, where neighbors know each other and care about each other and have place where people go and meet and hang out together, Cajuns and radicals and artists and circus performers, newcomers and old timers all.

    “Click your heels together three times—we’re home!” says another big guy in a baseball cap, beaming. They all hug us and thank us. They’re dealing with the damage in their own homes, trying to clean up and clear out and make them liveable before they get back to work—if they still have jobs.

    “But will people come back, do you think?” I ask a blond woman who is trying to get me inside to play pool.

    “They’ll be back,” she assures me. “You won’t be able to keep them away. We have a neighborhood blog, and we’ve kept in contact, and everything all over it is all, “when can we go home?’ ‘When will they let us back?’ ‘We want to go home!’

    Then Juniper and Lisa and I head out. We decide to drive through the lower Ninth Ward. Today is the first day that people are being let back in, to all but the very worst-hit neighborhoods. But we talk our way through the checkpoints, and drive through the blasted streets where the levee broke and the homes were assaulted by a mini-tsunami, a twelve-foot high wall of water. It’s a scene of unbelievable devastation. Streets reduced to piles of rubble, houses that are nothing but a roof in a sea of mud. One house has floated off its foundation and rests atop a car. A truck has careened into the side of a house, its front end resting on the lintel of a second story window. Other houses are simply piles of wood and scattered shingles.

    There is no going back here, no happy homecoming for this neighborhood. No bomber, no invading army, could level it more thoroughly. It is Iraq brought home, literally, because the agent of destruction here was not the hurricane, but human neglect and warped priorities. The money that should have maintained the levees, like the National Guard that could have contained the looters, went to Iraq. Homeland Security, brought to you by Bush and neocons. Do you feel safer, now?

    We walk briefly on the street closest to the break in the levee, a sea of churned mud. A room is ripped open, the whole house destroyed, but inside, a chandelier hangs intact. I’m thinking of a story I read somewhere, about a poor Southern family, where the mother’s deepest desire, her symbol of everything that meant comfort and safety and beauty and a good life, was a chandelier. In the story, they finally got one, and then some catastrophe struck, I don’t remember what. But this chandelier, intact among the ruins, seems to symbolize that some hopes and dreams can survive even this devastation. They might not be my hopes, or my dreams, or my vision of what is beautiful, but they are someone’s.

    And that’s my own particular faith—that if we support each others’ dreams, if we deal with the garbage, if we take care of each other and do what needs to be done, some beauty will be born out of all of this mess. Click your heels together. There’s no place like home.


    Feel free to post, forward, and reprint this article for non-commercial purposes. All other rights reserved.

    Starhawk is an activist, organizer, and author of The Earth Path, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, The Fifth Sacred Thing and other books on feminism, politics and earth-based spirituality. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works with the RANT trainer’s collective, that offers training and support for mobilizations around global justice and peace issues. [Wordlackey sez: I got a "403 Forbidden" error message at the "rantcollective" site so I haven't hyperlinked to it.]

    Hundreds of groups are collecting money to aid hurricane victims. If you want to help the efforts of these grassroots groups, you can donate directly to Common Ground at their website:

    Tax deductible donations can also be sent to:

    1405 Hillmount St.
    Austin, Texas

    Come join us! If you have skills to offer, particularly medical training, building skills, child care experience, counseling, or just a general willingness to clean up garbage and do what needs to be done, there is lots of work to do. Volunteers will be needed for months to come, as relief turns to rebuilding. You can come for a short time or the long term.

    For more information:
    An e-mail to will get a response as soon as possible.

    There is also useful and updated information at the following web-sites:


    Kakistocracy Trinity

    A race of mutants cannot fail.

    (tip of my mutant tentacle to Agi T. Prop.)


    The Blood Feast of Miers and Bush

    More nasty art therapy offered for your amusement. It's a good thing I live in the US where I can get away with this sort of thing. At least I didn't put a red thumbtack through Bush's forehead. I could get in big trouble.

    Why do I do these things to pictures of some political figures? Because I feel powerless. Calling it "art therapy" is only half joking. When people feel they no longer have any control over the government, they find ways to compensate. My compensation is poking fun at these powerful people who look normal on the outside but are monstrous in their actions. By extension, I believe there must be monsters within. I want to mark their monstrousness on the outside where it can be seen.

    I'm not really much of a visual artist but by manipulating these photos I'm trying to create a vision of what I see in their actions. Like the old maps, I'm trying to mark these folks with a legend reading "Here be Monsters."

    Thursday, October 13, 2005


    Will Geek for Words, Part 10: M Words Gone Wild

    Being part the 10th of a shambling parade of posts extracting my favorite words and their definitions from the Word Lover’'s Dictionary: Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by Josefa Heifetz (New York: Carol Publishing, 1974, 1994). For beginning entries in this series, please see Part 1 and Part 2. If you want to find all posts in the series, search on the title "Will Geek for Words" on this site. Eventually I add them to the sidebar listing. Part 10 encompasses the letter M words and their definitions. And, yes, I am using "geek" in the older carny definition of a sideshow act. I love words in a very, very special way.

    Amazingly, this is not a promotional stunt. I am not paid to plug this book yet here I am, mentioning it at the top of each of these posts and linking to the Amazon page for it. Someone should give me an award or something. (What I'll probably get is a "cease and desist" letter from their lawyers. As the saying goes: So sue me. I'm sure it's fair use to include excerpted selections in a non-commercial venture. And did I mention that I'm poor?)

    I'm particularly pleased by the insults possible with some of these words. I think calling someone a "dumb fuck" or even "fucktard" is dull and lacking in verve. Let's face it: the word "fuck" as an insult and intensifier has been played into the ground. It is, in my opinion, overused to the point of meaninglessness and now has little shock value. Better terms of derision and insult await. And if the target of your verbal insult doesn't understand what you've said, all the better. That ignorance becomes another level of insult as they look stew-pid. Yes, beneath my seemingly genteel exterior lurks a sly demon of vicious verbal assault. But only in the service of Truth and Justice. Really.


    In a Weblog State of Mind

    I find myself wanting to log a few of the places I'm touching on the web at the moment. What follows is just a list of blogs; I'm not feeling up to commentary at the moment. They are all worthy of a peek. Go on, you know you want to click on one.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005


    Running with the Pack

    Yes, and I'm hanging with some Bad Company. (ouch!) I could call this mid-week madness, a listing of a few sites/blogs I've taken note of. What you do with them is your business. You're a consenting adult. (Er, you are an adult, right? Oh, God, what have I done? Run along, you kids, scat! This isn't meant for you!)

    But first spare a kind thought for Twisty of my favorite patriarchy blaming blog. She recently (Monday) had a mastectomy or entered "uniboobdom" to use her phrasing. No posts yet in the aftermath but she certainly approached it in fine fettle with several scathing posts. I look forward to having her back blogging. [Update: She's posted a picture of herself, post-operation. Not for those with weak stomachs but it's worth looking at. I think it's important to see the reality of breast cancer rather than the Hallmark version on a TV movie of the week. But that might just be me.]

    Over on American Regression I found a bunch of recommended blogs and began seeing where they led me.

    The Theroxylandr in Flame is new-ish but so spunky! I mean that in the best way.

    Oh, and as I've said before, I generally don't add people to my blogroll until I'm sure I'm going to continue to read them. It's a control issue I have. Plus I don't think bigger is better. Most of the time.

    UnSpecified Chatter has political commentary and mentioned one of my favorite movies Near Dark in a post.

    P! has the subtitle/tag line of "Progressive, Populist, Pacifist, Pragmatic". Seems like it's got some real meat in the posts. My kind of blog.

    American Samizdat seems to be a kind of group thing with pool of over 100 bloggers. Politics seems to be the main focus as befits their name. I'm a little unclear about the selection process for members but they say they've been around since 2001.

    I always enjoy reading media girl's blog. I like smart feminists.

    That's enough for now. Check 'em out.


    Reichian Analysis

    I was very impressed by a piece by Robert Reich. I liked it because it precisely delineated a central problem with the Bush administration. Here's the central argument.

    With politics, the Bush administration has shown remarkable discipline -- squelching leaks and keeping Cabinet members on message, reaching down into the bureaucracy to bend analyses in directions that supports what it wants to do, imposing its will on congressional leaders and even making a political imprint on state legislatures. No recent president has got re-elected with controlling majorities in both houses of Congress, or been as successful in repositioning the national debate around his ideological view of the world.

    With governing, it's been almost criminally incompetent -- failing to act on clear predictions of a terrorist attack like 9/11 or a natural disaster like Katrina, botching intelligence over Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, failing to secure order after invading Iraq, allowing prisoners of war to be tortured, losing complete control over the federal budget, creating a bizarre Medicare drug benefit from which the elderly are now fleeing, barely responding to the wave of corporate lootings and running the Federal Emergency Management Agency into the ground. Not since the hapless administration of Warren G. Harding has there been one as stunningly inept as this one.

    The easy answer to the paradox is that Bush cares about winning elections and putting his ideological stamp on the nation, but doesn't give a hoot about governing the place.


    A Happier Report from NOLA

    The following communique from Starhawk cheered me a bit. At least some things seem to be going well.
    Sunshine after Floodwater: a Report from New Orleans

    By Starhawk

    I’m sitting at the block party in front of the Algiers clinic set up by Common Ground, the grassroots organization we’ve come to New Orleans to support in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The clinic is set up in a storefront mosque in this black neighborhood on the West Bank (which oddly enough is on the east side of town) which escaped the flooding. At a table next to me, four people of three or four different races are playing dominoes. Across the street, kids are having their faces painted, and I’ila is helping a group paint prayer flags with their wishes and dreams. A white activist I know as a deeply serious person is intent on getting just the right composition of dish soap to make giant bubbles. Miss Beverly is dishing up red beans and rice from a big pot, and down the street Aaron is barbecueing jerked chicken. Rain is dancing with a boy of about thirteen who just plainly adores her, and a mix of medics and volunteers from all over the country are chatting, relaxing, and enjoying the sunshine.

    The idyllic quality of this scene, like a poster picture of racial harmony and community, is all the more remarkable because a month ago this community was on the verge of a race riot. Immediately after Katrina, when much of the Louisiana National Guard was in Iraq and the police failed to keep order, white vigilante groups were roaming the streets, shooting at any young black man they suspected of being a looter. Black citizens were arming themselves in response, and the neighborhood was on the verge of a race riot.

    Then Malik, a neighborhood organizer, Green Party member and former Black Panther, put out a call to some of his long time allies and the activist community in general, for help and allies. Scott Crow, a young white organizer from Austin, came down and sat on the porch with Malik to defend against the vigilantes. When the immediate threat eased, they turned to meeting other needs—for food distribution, water supplies, medical care. Out of that effort came the Common Ground Collective. And long before the Red Cross, FEMA, or any official aid arrived, they were distributing supplies and helping people to remain and return and resist coercive evacuation.

    I duck inside the clinic for a tetanus shot. A big room is divided into screened cubicles and office spaces. The woman at the desk smiles at me, a young volunteer comes over, takes me aside, and quickly takes my vitals. He’s been here for a month, and looks tired but proud. The clinic is a month old and in that time, with no federal or state assistance, has served over two thousand people, many of whom have no regular medical care because they can’t afford it and there is no permanent clinic that serves this neighborhood. It’s warm and friendly—in contrast to the official clinics which, when they finally did open, are under armed guard.

    I can’t remember when I last had a tetanus shot, and the medic and I joke about the fact that I’ll surely remember this one—my Katrina shot.

    There are two National Guard in camo fatigues wandering through the crowd, and Baruch tells me they are guarding us from the police, who have been systematically harassing clinic personnel along with the general citizenry. Across the river, police arrested three of the young volunteers who were helping Mama D, who is cleaning up her 7th Ward neighborhood so that when people return, they will have something to come back to. Two were white, one was black: they beat the black kid severely, kicking him viciously in the chest, and stole his money. They were in jail with lots of people who were arrested simply sitting on their own front porches. In the French Quarter, someone videotaped a group of cops viciously beating an old man, and this makes the news and provokes outrage. But there are a hundred incidents like it, every day, that no one sees.

    Racism is like the black mold eating away at the long-submerged houses. It permeates everything, and it spreads, corrupting everything in its path. The police, the slow and neglectful response of officials, the differing values placed on human life according to color and class. So often, it’s below the surface, lurking as spores of privilege, a deeply unconscious sense of entitlement, or lack. But the floods have wet everything down, and now it is visible, and growing. Unchecked, it destroys strong foundations and sturdy structures—and that what we’ve seen happen here, some of the basic structures of government, of simple human decency, collapsing.

    And that’s why we’re here, really—to try, at least in a few places, to root it out, to save some of the beauty of the old structures and to make it possible to rebuild anew. Mold abatement.

    Sunlight kills spores. Rain and Joshua are dancing, Miss Beverly presiding over her cauldron of beans and rice, the bubble mixture is finally right, and the bubbles float over the scene, iridescent spheres as ephemeral as a rainbow after a flood. And even if it’s just for this moment, the sun shines down.


    Feel free to post, forward, and reprint this article for non-commercial purposes. All other rights reserved.

    Starhawk is an activist, organizer, and author of The Earth Path, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprisin, The Fifth SacredThing and other books on feminism, politics and earth-based spirituality. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works with the RANT trainer’s collective, that offers training and support for mobilizations around global justice and peace issues.


    Happy National Coming Out Day

    OK, I'm late but I wasn't able to wish anyone a happy National Coming Out Day on the actual day.

    And I want you all to know... to know... that I'm... I... Oh, I'm just confused, right?

    OK: I'm gay.

    Or not. Perhaps I like certain men and certain women. Perhaps I just really like the Ambiguously Gay Duo. Perhaps I'm mondo butch and heterosexual. You just don't know, do you? If only there were some way you could tell...

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005


    We've Got a Story! (facts, not so much)

    Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have come and gone. What remains are the misreported facts. Although most of these corrections have gotten some play in the news, I just thought I'd recap a few of them. (mouse tip to Peek)

    From a Detroit Free Press story dated Sept. 27, 2005:
    Post-Katrina myths/facts

    1. Lots of dead bodies: Rumors and word-of-mouth reports said the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center were sites of dead bodies galore.

    Fact: There were six dead bodies at the Superdome, four at the Convention Center. Only one of the dead may have been slain. One was a suicide; one was an overdose. The remainder died of natural causes.

    2. Killings on the streets: There were widespread reports of shootings and killings across New Orleans in the days after Katrina struck the city.

    Fact: Authorities have confirmed four murders in New Orleans in the days after the storm struck -- about average for the city. [Wordlackey comment: But that's in a city with a much reduced population.]

    3. Shooting at the Superdome: A Louisiana National Guard member was shot and wounded in an altercation with a thug inside the Superdome.

    Fact: He was shot. But he accidentally wounded himself in the commotion after an assailant hit him with a piece of metal.
    From The Buffalo News dated Oct. 3, 2005:
    NEW ORLEANS - Among the rumors that spread as quickly as floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina, reports that gunmen were taking potshots at rescue helicopters stood out for their senselessness.

    On Sept. 1, as patients sweltered in hospitals without power and thousands of people remained stranded on rooftops and in attics, crucial rescue efforts were delayed as word of such attacks spread.

    But more than a month later, representatives from the Air Force, Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and Louisiana Air National Guard say they have yet to confirm a single incident of gunfire at helicopters.

    Likewise, members of several rescue crews who were told to halt operations say there is no evidence they were under fire.

    While I can't find a good refutation of the story that doctors deliberately gave morphine overdoses to critical patients while waiting for rescue, there are a few factual holes. One of the quoted sources, William 'Forest' McQueen, was apparently not in New Orleans at the time. There is a thread on this over on but I didn't see anything definitive in it.

    That's enough for now.

    Monday, October 10, 2005


    Real News and Fake News

    American society is fucked up. But, truly, I think the most fucked up part is America's consumption of and preoccupation with empty news. You know what I'm talking about: entertainment news, sports news, blood news, etc. Oh, and advertising; we can't forget advertising.

    Jon Stewart refers jokingly to the Daily Show as "fake news." And it is. But it's also exceptionally topical social comment and satire. The real fake news saturates our airwaves, newspapers, and magazines. It's the stories about Benifer and a celebrity trial for murder/child molestation/drugs.

    Perhaps I'm just too serious. Perhaps I read too much. Perhaps I just don't understand why these things are important. Bah!


    The Malevolent Roots of Wicca

    From the Landover Baptist Church comes the following chart on the Roots of Wicca. I'm a little worried because I've been involved with almost all of the various groups listed over the course my life. Exceptions: Computer Role Playing Games and I've never been Satan that I recall. Oh, and I've never been involved with Hillary (that I recall).


    Welcome to Cancer Alley

    Plastic is a petroleum product so it follows that where there are oil wells and refineries, there are also plastic and chemical facilities. Since Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico provide a large source of oil, many chemical refineries are located near the coast region and along the lower Mississippi River. The section of the river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana has so many chemical plants it's called "Cancer Alley" or "Chemical Alley".

    Explosions and spills are notoriously common along this strip. The recent explosion at a plant in Texas is typical:
    In an increasingly familiar scene along the Texas coast, black smoke and flames streamed from a Point Comfort industrial plant Thursday, following an explosion that injured at least 11 workers.

    Two workers were taken to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Roger Green, 30, was in serious condition with burns over 36 percent of his body. John Hunt, 45, had burns on his arms and was listed in fair condition.

    The other injured workers were treated and released, according to Rob Thibault, a spokesman for the plant's operator, Formosa Plastics Corp.

    The blast at the Formosa plant was the third to strike a Texas industrial facility this year and the second to hit one of the Taiwan-based company's U.S. facilities in 17 months.

    In March, BP's Texas City refinery burst into flames, killing 15 and injuring 170 people in an accident that recently brought the company a $21 million fine. In July, BP's refinery exploded a second time, forcing local residents to remain indoors but causing no injuries.
    This has been an ongoing problem for over a century. Of course, Hurricane Katrina and the destruction left behind has left additional chemical problems. But this is nothing new. These explosions, worker deaths and maimings have been so common, they barely create a ripple when reported in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    This is the cost of our consumptive culture: All those chemicals and plastics are used to sustain and produce consumer items. Complexity is not a virtue, it's an expensive process.

    Nota Bene: This is PBU41, my small contribution to the Progressive Blogger Union (PBU) for this week. I participate in PBU because, for me, activism is empty without community. Activism isn't just about showing up for a protest or writing a blog or signing a petition. It's about forming and forging alliances and lines of connection between people and groups. "The people united will never be defeated" isn't just a slogan to be chanted at rallies; it should be a way of life. It begins with working together toward common goals. If you want to see what other PBU members have written about plant explosions, you can look under the subject header "PBU41" at the PBU group at Flickr. Or you can plug "PBU41" into the Technorati search engine.

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?