Monday, January 31, 2005

Just Say Duh

Told you so. Seems that abstinence-only education leads to fucking like bunnies.

Toxically Distracted

I'm having one of those days: too much to do, so what am I doing? Not what I'm supposed to. At the moment, I'm listening to the version of "Toxic" that should have been a hit. Britney Spears' version was just too nice. Local H just seems to be having a lot more fun with it. Enough fun anyway that I keep jumping up from my seat and dancing around my office. Luckily, students haven't shown up in the middle of my little party.
Shit. Back to work.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Control Freaks

Well, the Anti-Choice forces are at it again. They're trying to push through the Senate a bill that would make driving a teenaged girl across state lines to get an abortion punishable by up to a year in jail. Never mind the fact that there are entire states now where it's impossible to have an abortion performed; what's important to the anti-choice forces is that the teenaged girl who dares to get pregnant needs to be punished. And if she enlists the aid of an adult who wants to help her, well, that adult should be punished, too.

It's being couched in terms of parental notification laws. I'm sorry, but speaking as a mother, I still say my teenager is entitled to her right to privacy. Do I hope that if she finds herself in a difficult situation she'll talk to me about it? Of course. But she also knows that I've never laid a hand on her, and am not likely to hit her no matter what she has to tell me. That's not the case for many children in this country.

Forcing someone to remain pregnant when she does not want to be is an act of terrorism.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Are Women More Moral than Men?

This was the discussion I wound up getting into with someone on a leftist blog. The poster had argued that the eight Democratic women senators who voted for Condi Rice might have done so as an act of "gender politics." I took umbrage with the suggestions, especially since he was careful to completely omit the idea that Obama might have voted for Rice as an act of "racial politics." Let me say immediately that I don't buy either argument, but I used Obama to try to get this guy to agree that his argument was specious and, well, lazy. He refused to acknowledge my point, and in fact, argued that women should have held Rice more accountable. Another person joined in the fray and argued that people voted women into politics because they thought women were going to bring a new moral vision into the mess that men had made.

At which point I threw up my hands and left the building.

I tried an experiment on google today. Barbara Boxer is called a "cunt," "harridan," and "harpie," in a lot of entries out there. I didn't have the stomach to put in other words, but I'm sure we could find every epithet for angry woman out there.

The woman who opposed Rice gets singled out; the women who didn't oppose Rice get singled out, and in the meantime, all those men in the Democratic party who acted on her nomination just get to be members of the Democratic party. The spineless Democratic party, but no one is out there suggesting that as men they had a moral duty to oppose Rice.

Elevating women to a position of moral superiority to men is still sexist. If we are still operating in a culture that argues that man is "normal", and woman is outside the norm, true equality will never be possible. Ceding the high moral ground to women is just another form of chivalry, something that Sarah Grimke characterized as "practicable contempt." If women are more moral than men, then we're not going to be equipped to deal with the realities of war, which is not a moral playground, and thus, we'll have to be spared it. If politics is immoral, well, you see the pattern. It just becomes another way to shut us out, unless, of course, we're needed to lend our moral voice to voting against something.

The Democratic party is already splintering into a bickering mess of "it's your fault we lost the election," with white males arguing that they need to dump gays, racial and religious minorities overboard in order to take control. I see this argument for the innate morality of women as part of this pernicious trend. Putting us up on thrones still keeps us out of the action.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Gift of Grief

God knows I'm not the first writer to write about the profound gift that grief brings into our lives. I can name writers who've all addressed this issue--dozens in fact, so why do I need to write about it? Christopher Tilghman once said in a writing seminar I attended that all stories were either about leaving home or coming home, or, as I chipped in, The Illiad or The Odyssey. So the fact that I am writing about a topic that has been written about before doesn't make my own experience of it any less profound. And if the prospect of reading something like what's about to follow makes you uncomfortable, there's always your back button to take you elsewhere.

Wow. That was an amazingly defensive way to begin this post, but having been bitten by readers who have criticized me for being spoiled or whiny when I post personal things, I guess I'm just clearing a space for me to make myself comfortable.

The past 48 hours of my life have been profoundly unsettling, exhausting, and have involved crying tears to the point of leaving my face chapped. (Do you know how much it stings to have salt water on chapped skin? Ouch.) I don't want to talk about the specific incident(s) that led to the grief; grief is ultimately about letting go of something, even something dark and evil, and thus to talk about the specifics would remove me from the thing I'm trying to articulate.

The thing about the grief was that I didn't want to feel it. It began to cast its shadow earlier in the week, this awareness that something was crawling out of the primeval depths and that I could no longer run from it. Over the years, I've developed an entire kitchen cupboard's worth of ways of avoiding grief, and as the chill moved up through me, I was digging through the damn cupboard as fast as I could looking for something to distract myself with. The distractions are all my various addictions--and they all had their moment in my line of sight as I turned the Lazy Susan. I was so aware of what was happening, this impending sense of disaster and this watching myself try to cope in all my usual ways. The power of being centered enough to observe it all and not react was magic--like watching your toddler take their first steps without your help or someone reading for the first time--suddenly cracking a code that had baffled you for years and realizing that now that you knew how to do it, you weren't going to forget what you needed to do.

And so I sat and waited. And the monster came. It wasn't the monster I was expecting, actually, it turned out that the monster that was before me had eaten the other monster, the one I thought I was afraid of, and now the biggest monster of them all was in the room. And I saw it for what it was--all of it--every wart and hairy eyeball and talon, and I cried and cried and cried. And as I cried, the monster got smaller and smaller and smaller.

I've been so afraid of that monster for so long that I've done everything in my power to avoid it. And everything I've done to avoid it has taken me farther and farther from myself. It took me years to get back to me. And it was that me that faced down my grief, allowed it to move through me, tear me in two, and squeeze every last drop of tears out of me, that me finally shrank that grief down to a bit puddle. Eventually, I expect, that puddle will dry up.

I feel so grateful for the experience I've been through. It sucked while I was going through it. Really sucked. But do you know how much it sucked for so long trying to hide from it? I don't have to hide anymore. The monster's been reduced to a toothless little bug, and I can choose to step on it and kill it, or I can let it go and hope that having been reduced to its proper size, the bug can morph into something useful and lovely.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Modest Proposal

This made me snort coffee this morning.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Lie Down with Dogs, Wake Up with Fleas

Today's NY Times has one of those panicked editorials written by a Democrat who is convinced that the only way the left can win elections is if we realize the error of our views and get in lock-step with the "majority" of Americans, who, it turns out, hate gays, affirmative action, abortion, and Hollywood. If we come around to that way of thinking, the reasoning goes, we'll start winning elections again.

As if.

To say I was offended by the editorial is an understatement. I fired off a letter to the editors, but in keeping with their sound-bite policy for letters, focused solely on the Wilson presidency, which Starr holds up as one of the exemplars of "Democratic liberalism." Wilson, the man who brought you World War I, the rounding up of those who opposed conscription, and the exile of naturalized American citizens who differed with US government policy. But what's a little denial of Constitutional rights among friends?

The editorial smacks of a breathtaking cowardice. In order to preserve the Democratic party, Starr essentially advocates tossing women, racial minorities, and gays overboard, in order to concentrate on the larger issues. Once you've abandoned human rights, I'm not sure what else is left, since I'm one of those stupid leftists who believes that human rights comes first; it's the foundation of everything else. If your economic security is built upon the denial of basic human rights to the other members of your culture, well fuck you. Eventually, you'll lose your human rights, too. Your gilded cage will just look nicer.

Sub Pop Shout-Out

Jonathan Poneman is coming to SUNY Cortland on February 10 as a guest of NeoVox. He'll be talking about the renaissance of indy music. It's very exciting to see Seattle back in the news as a locus of great music.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What Condi Rice hath wrought

If you can look at the images posted by Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist in Baghdad, you have a stronger stomach than I. This is what a disastrous foreign policy looks like. Not dead American soldiers, although we've got well over a thousand of those to show for it, but these images of dead Iraqis. The dead, or what's left of them.

This is why we cannot be silent today while the Senate debates confirming her. Please contact your senators; tell them that this administration, full of chicken hawks who refused to serve in the armed forces, which has no compunction using the poor as cannon fodder and Iraqi children as target practice, that this administration needs someone to say "no" to it. And goddamnit, it's my senators' jobs to do that. Yours, too.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Campus Nazis

Today, I was on my way out to lunch with a colleague. As we approached the outside door, he said, "Is that a swastika?"
Someone had stickered the building door with a bright red sticker with hate speech and a big swastika. It looked like a bloody wound. It made me ill. I removed it from the door, walked immediately to the university president's office, handed it in. There was a police report filed.
My humanity feels assaulted. I feel icky. I struggle with wanting to throw up, knowing that someone felt bold enough to post that. The day's significance is not lost. Today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The hate speech was directed at African Americans, but it doesn't really matter. I'm a white woman and I felt as if it was directed at me. Because it was.
The coward who posted the swastika didn't have the guts to sign his or her name to the handiwork. Cockroaches always retreat back to the dark.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

James Dobson is a Butt Plug

I'm sure by now you've all heard the news. SpongeBob is promoting that damned homosexual agenda. (I keep asking the local homosexual club for a copy of its agenda, but I've been told it's super-secret and I have to pass some sort of initiation to get one.)

In Focus on the Family's hometown of Colorado Springs, the reporter who was asked to cover the controversy either has a keenly developed sense of irony and double entendre, or he's flat-footed. Either way, there are enough great moments in the article to call some to your attention.

Standing firm in a swirl of controversy, James Dobson and Focus on the Family reiterated their belief Friday that dozens of childhood icons are, perhaps unwittingly, pushing the acceptance of homosexuality.
Just how firmly was Dobson standing? Fully erect? Watching SpongeBob will do that to a guy.

But Focus officials say that no one from their organization, including Dobson, questions SpongeBob’s sexuality or the integrity of the popular show.
Okay. Try to read that sentence again--they're questioning an animated sponge's sexuality. Um. Porifera reproduce asexually.

Focus, in fact, likes Sponge-Bob, even though the sponge sometimes holds hands with his best friend, Patrick — a habit that has caused some cultural commentators to speculate that SpongeBob is gay.
Boys do not touch each other--ever. If they hold hands, then the next time some athlete slaps another one on the ass after a touchdown, the shit will hit the fan. (Or perhaps the Santorum.)

In Focus’ review of “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” located on www.,
Wait. Wait. Wait. Plugged in online? Sounds like code words for homosexuality to me. Could it be that Focus on the Family is a homosexual group?

But like some other conservative groups, including the American Family Association, Focus does have a problem with a video SpongeBob appears in — or rather, what they perceive is the motivation behind the video.
The four-minute music video, sponsored by the New York-based We Are Family Foundation, will be distributed to 61,000 elementary schools March 11 to foster a sense of respect and understanding, its creators say.
Focus believes the characters in the video have been coopted to further what it says is the group’s pro-homosexual agenda.

Cause, you know, respect and understanding is faggy.

Although the content of the video is fine, Batura said, he’s concerned that an accompanying booklet, which he had not seen, may make reference to sexual orientation.
He hasn't seen the booklet, but it MAY make reference to sexual orientation. So, why is anyone talking to this asswipe?

The booklet, according to a We Are Family Foundation press release, contains lessons to help teachers “put the video’s themes of respect, understanding and appreciation of diversity into practice.”
“You take a 6- or 7-year-old child, it’s hard for them to understand” sexual orientation, Batura said. He says parents, not teachers, should get the first opportunity to talk about the issue of sexual orientation.
But Christine Kaculis, who coordinates publicity for the We Are Family Foundation, said the manuals make no reference to sexual orientation, and she flatly denies that the group promotes homosexual lifestyles.
The group’s mission statement, found online at www., says it supports “programs that inspire and educate individuals of all ages about diversity, understanding, respect and multiculturalism.”
The Web site makes one reference to sexual orientation: a “tolerance pledge” that reads, in part, “I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.”
The pledge was created by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s National Campaign for Tolerance.

So, there you have it. Based on a booklet he hasn't read and speculation about an asexual animal's sexuality, James Dobson has managed to get lots of press. And journalists wonder why so many of us think that they're right-wing dupes.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Idiot

This is too good not to print in its entirety:

Burning Bush brandishes Dostoevsky

Given the Biblical language in which George Bush and his speechwriters are steeped, it is not surprising that the US president should invoke the imagery of fire, writes James Meek
James Meek
Friday January 21, 2005

One of the models of American leadership is that of Moses, leading God's chosen people - then the Jews, now the Americans - towards a promised land, following a pillar of fire. At one point, according to the Bible, Moses was shown a sign: "Behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed."

But the key fire passage in the Burning Bush speech - "We have lit a fire as well; a fire in the minds of men" - actually has its origins in a novel by the 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky,
The Devils, about a group of terrorists' ineffectual struggle to bring down the tyrannical Tsarist regime.

One of the characters declares that it is pointless to try to put out a fire started by terrorists: "The fire is in the minds of men and not in the roofs of houses," he says.

The novel belongs to a period in Dostoevsky's life which the White House might find attractive, after he had been sent by the Tsar to a kind of Russian Guantánamo and emerged a deeply religious conservative.

Nonetheless, it is not clear whether Bush is identifying here with the terrorists - or the tyrants.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Blood Libel

The expert in this field is Jo Miller, who wrote her master's thesis on the ritual murder/blood libel accusation against Jews in the Middle Ages. But the story of Jumana Hannaso closely resembles folklore that I shake my head that not one of our government officials ever questioned her story. Wednesday, the Washington Post retracted its earlier story about Jumana, the ones in which she claimed that Uday Hussein rimmed his margarita glasses with the blood of virgins. Our government, and many people in this country, have so fully subscribed to the idea that Muslims are anti-human, they are willing to believe that Muslims are cannibals. These were the same people who believed in the entirely fallacious claims that when Iraqi soldiers invaded Kuwait, they dumped premature infants out of incubators. Those stories were false then. And yet, there is no learning curve. Blood libel, ritual murder, killing of infants--it's all part and parcel of the folklore of the Other, our enemies. And in 2005, just as in 1105, we hear the stories and then use them to perpetrate evil against those we have dehumanized.

Day of Shame

The world hates him.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

When Irony Kills

I'm having a near-death experience. I'm in this state after reading about Rush Limbaugh. Seems old Rush thinks his privacy has been invaded.
Um. Rush. You don't believe in the right to privacy, remember? That's the invention of those judges who legislate from the bench.
But it gets even better. 'Cause you know who Rush enlisted in his cause to help him out with his suit?
Wait for it...
Wait for it...
The American Civil Liberties Union.

That's it. I'm dead now.

Gotta love those AP writers

Headline from AP:

Hundreds Mark Inauguration With Protests

Hundreds. Can you imagine? Hundreds oppose the president. And people say there's no independent media in this country. Why those brave souls at AP ventured that perhaps hundreds had protested.

Oy gewalt.

Let America be America Again

I'm not feeling much like words today. So I thought I'd sing. Below are two songs and a poem that I would like to offer to the Inauguration Committee as representative of the real America.


Long haired preachers come out ev'ry night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked, how 'bout something to eat, (Let us eat)
They will answer with voices so sweet; (Oh so sweet)
You will eat, (You will eat)
Bye and bye, (Bye and bye) in that glorious land above the sky;
(way up high)
work and pray, (work and pray) live on hay, (Live on hay)
you'll get pie in the sky when you die. (That's a lie)
And the starvation army they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray.
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:
Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out,
And they holler, they jump and they shout
"Give your money to Jesus," they say,
"He will cure all diseases today."
If you fight hard for children and wife-
Try to get something good in this life-
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.
Workingmen of all countries unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight!
When the world and its wealth we have gained,
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:
You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye.
--Joe Hill


As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!
-- James Oppenheim and Caroline Kohlsaat

Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

What was Obama thinking?

Senate Foreign Relations committee rubber-stamped Condi Rice today. Only Senators Kerry and Boxer opposed her. (I hope Boxer runs for president in 2008.)
Democrats who voted for Rice:
Paul Sarbanes
Chris Dodd
Russ Feingold
Bill Nelson
Barack Obama

So much for a party of opposition. It's never too early to roll onto your back and offer up your belly. I'm most surprised by Obama and Feingold. Feingold, because he has taken some courageous stands in the past, and Obama, because he's supposed to be the "great hope" of the party. Below is the short note I sent to Obama via his Senate Web contact page.

Dear Senator Obama,
My hope for the Democratic party is that it will finally learn to stand up for those of us who don't have financial interests in Iraq, and who want to bring home our sons and daughters from a disastrous war. Your vote today to confirm Condi Rice as Secretary of State is an enormous disappointment. I am hopeful that you will take courageous stands. This, alas, was not one of those moments.
Lorraine Berry

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Female Sexuality and the Christian Nation

So, for those of you who are interested and who have asked before, my novel is about the early 20th century labor movement and about the incredibly busy intersection of sexuality and politics. It's one of the reasons that I constantly turn to these issues in this blog. It's why all of these revivals of restrictions on sexual behaviour are eerily familiar and give me the creeps.

Because I'm at work and I'm awaiting word from the Dean as to whether I can proceed on some publicity for an upcoming event in which the F-bomb is dropped in the publicity (guess what his answer is going to be), I'm cooling my heels and blogging. And I was looking through one of my favourite theoretical books about race, sexuality, and religion. The book, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexualityand the Colonial Order of Things, by Ann Laura Stoler, is brilliant. I was looking through to see the passages that I had marked when I was reading it for my diss. This passage sums up some of the things I've been thinking about lately:

from pp. 41-42
"Rabinow and Dreyfus note that Foucault linked individual sexualities and the security of the social body as nineteenth-century inventions when 'appeals to the very fate of the race and the nation seemed to turn in large part on its sexual practices.' But the 'fate of the race and the nation' were also tied in colonial discourses to individual sexual practices in Africa, Asia, and the Americas at an earlier date. Maryland legislators had already made such connections in 1664 when they focused on the sexual inclinations of white women who bedded with 'non-white' men as targets of concern, accusing them, as in the Indies, of causing a 'disgrace not only to the English but also of many other Christian nations.' Male sexual anxiety focused on more than suitable Christian marriage partners for European women and on the transmission of property, but on the unmanaged desires of women themselves. Thus, the Maryland law of 1681 regulating interracial unions justified its injunctions by the fact that white women were giving in to their 'lascivious and lustful desires' whith 'negroes and slaves.' In both the Dutch and British accounts, the sexual choices of white women were at issue; they are desired objects, but unruly desiring subjects as well. While the notion of 'Christian nation' in the seventeenth century and the bourgeois nation of the nineteenth century were clearly not the same, in both contexts unmanaged sexuality was considered a threat to these different social bodies. The pointed control over women's sexuality, as well as over the 'natural inclinations' of men, was a shared effect."

In other words, male sexual anxiety about female sexual behaviour (and, I would argue, the notion of "feminized" sexual behaviour projected on to homosexuals) leads to attempts to regulate desire. Women can't be trusted--they're out fucking around and a man doesn't know who his children are. Female sexuality, with its endless capacity for orgasm, is a threat to the state.

America is turning into a phallocracy. Our government wants to deny women access to birth control, sex toys, domestic violence protection for unmarried women. It would be easy to write this off to some prudery. But it's far, far more sinister.

Trying to Reconcile the Two Sides of Christ

Killing the Buddha is one of the most interesting and provocative religion sites on the Web. While they don't publish as often as I would like, when they do, I'm generally certain to find an article that's going to raise important questions in my head.

Back in August, Steve Almond took a look at George W. Bush's favourite philosopher to try to discern how it was that Bush could seem to be veering so far off message of Christ's love and tolerance. Almond's argument? Christ's message was pretty contradictory.

We could have huge discussions about whether the inconsistency of message lays in the inability of the four public relations guys (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--wonder if they were a rap group if they'd be known as MM, Cool Hand Luke J--to get the words down correctly.

I offer the article up for discussion and invite your posts.

From "The Gospel According to Dubya"

Remember, for the true Christian, the teachings of Jesus are not a personal code of conduct, but a universal prerequisite to salvation. In a sense, he is required to inflict his beliefs on the rest of us. And this is what’s scariest about the New Testament: it offers an object lesson in moral surety. Christ may suffer over his fate, but he never suffers a moment of self-examination. Nor, he suggests, should his followers.

His life has become an inspiration to those who have made a career out of self-righteous bullying, not just Bible-thumping politicians, but the various false prophets of cable news and talk radio, whose lust for damnation finds a waiting home in the heart of the angry.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Happy Birthday, Dr. King


Bring 'em On--an oldie but a goodie



White-Out conditions here in Ithaca--blowing snow. Eight new inches by tomorrow morning. Expected wind chills of minus 20 tonight. Expected high today of 15 with 15-20 mph winds.
So, where's my eldest daughter? Snowboarding.
Where am I? Not at work. Got three miles from home and decided I didn't owe the university my life and I'd be much happier at home, under a blanket, writing. Which is where I'm headed now.

Conscientious Objector

What is the military going to do with men like Kevin Benderman who, having been to Iraq, are convinced that the war is immoral and that it's worth risking a jail term to say "no" to a direct command?

If you'd like to thank Representative Cynthia McKinney, who intervened on Benderman's behalf, here is the contact info:

Washington D.C. Address
320 Cannon House Office Building
Washington DC, 20515

Phone: 202-225-1605
Fax : 202-226-0691
4th District Address
North DeKalb Mall
2050 Lawerenceville Highway, Suite D-46
Decatur, Georgia 30033

Phone: 404-633-0927
Fax : 404-633-0968

Buford Highway Satellite Address
3523 Buford Highway NE
Suite 201
Atlanta, Georgia 30329

Phone: 404-320-2001
Fax : 404-320-3496

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The FDA and CWA

Conservatives claim that making Plan B contraceptives available will encourage teenagers to have sex. Yawn. Same old stupid arguments we've been hearing for years. The FDA is considering, again, whether to make Plan B available without a prescription. Why is this even a debate?

The Waxman Report showed that so-called abstinence education presents misleading information as scientific fact. The US has the the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the Western world. Why? Because we're scared to death of sex and thus refuse to empower young women with the education that could prevent pregnancy.

But it's not just teens. Plan B works. I know this from personal experience. I also know that as with yeast infections, the common cold, and heartburn, most of us know when we need to go to the doctor and when we don't. If I've had sex close to ovulation, it's my fucking prerogative to take a pill and prevent pregnancy. And I shouldn't have to pay for an emergency office visit to get it.

But this is not about teenagers or me, for that matter. This is about those twits who still think that woman's only purpose in life is to be a baby-maker. If a woman can regulate her own fertility, she can control at least one aspect of her life. And I'm sure that's just too dick-shriveling for certain men to think about.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A True Act of Religious Courage

Gay people are not allowed to marry? Well, then neither are straights. I'm overwhelmed with admiration.

NEW HAVEN, Jan. 13 - In a protest against the Episcopal Church's refusal to allow same-sex marriages, the leaders of a church in the stately East Rock section of this city have announced that they will perform no marriage ceremonies at all.

The decision, conveyed on Thursday in a letter from the priest to the 115 families of St. Thomas's Episcopal Church, is a novel challenge to the social and religious barriers to marriage between homosexuals.

Some Episcopal churches have handled the problem by offering gay couples a blessing ceremony that is not legally considered a marriage. Lay leaders at St. Thomas's have decided that the absence of a ritual at the heart of a church's spiritual and social functions is a powerful way to protest what they consider a form of religious discrimination.

Words Have Consequences

You know it's disingenous. He doesn't mean a word of it, because he's as much as admitted here that it has never occurred to him before that words actually mean something. This is a man for whom language is simply the thing that comes out of your mouth when you want your own way. It is the crap that crawls out of your larynx when you're trying to wheedle something, or sound presidential, but this is not a "word" man. He doesn't read. He doesn't listen. He only speaks and repeats and regurgitates. So, I'm sorry. It's way too little and much too late. And I mean every word I say.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Let me tell ya a story 'bout a man named Jeb

Governor Jeb has defended hiring the plagiarist with an addiction to porn. Apparently, the entire Bush clan is infected with this sort of blind spot to hypocrisy. They create these categories of sin for the rest of us, violate the categories, and don't get held accountable while continuing to insist that everyone else has to live by those rules. As long as one of their own does it, it's okay. Rush couldn't help his addiction to Oxycontin or his multiple divorces; O'Reilly doesn't know a loofah from a falafel; oh crap. I don't even want to go through the list--at this point, there's too many. But goddamnit, why don't they ever get called on their bullshit?


I am the pomegranate today. I am swollen and flushed, close to bursting, my soft pulp protected only by a thin layer of skin. I wear no armour today. I want to feel the cold air on my flesh even as I feel the heat from within.

I love the stories of Ceres and Persephone. I love the story of the mother who brings darkness and cold down upon the earth as she weeps for her daughter. Love that spring and summer are their reunion. I have been both Ceres and Persephone, but today, I am neither. I am the forbidden fruit. The fleshy fruit.

The teeth that skin my flesh are sharp but their tearing at me is pleasurable. Because I allow myself to be eaten, knowing that I contain within me secrets that can only be accessed in this way. I imagine each of my seeds between those teeth, and I burst forth onto a tongue, drops of knowledge the reward for letting me enter the haven of that mouth.

I make myself vulnerable to being ripped apart, knowing that the prize is the unlocking of the mystery of self. To see my ruby seeds against my peach flesh, to feel the scrape as they are lifted one by one, and to trust that within the ritual is a path to the divine.

The Pomegranate
Eavan Boland

The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.

It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate! How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.
The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world. But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.
She will enter it. As I have.
She will wake up. She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips. I will say nothing.

From In a Time of Violence, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.,
1994. Copyright © 1994 by Eavan Boland. All rights reserved. Used with

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Not One Damn Dime Day--January 20

Not One Damn Dime Day -- next Thursday, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2005. Keep your wallet in your pocket.
Sent to me by a friend. Please feel free to circulate widely:

Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, and since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005, is Not One Damn Dime Day in the United States.

During Not One Damn Dime Day those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer

During Not One Damn Dime Day please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On Not One Damn Dime Day please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

Please do what shopping you must gon Wednesday the 19th, and for 24 hours, do what you can to shut the retail economy down.

The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it, and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

Not One Damn Dime Day is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.

Not One Damn Dime Day is about supporting the troops. The politicians are the ones who put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200 of these Americans and as many as 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan.

There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On Not One Damn Dime Day you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed. For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.


"Intense Scrutiny" works!

The asstards in Mississippi got embarrassed by the national attention paid to the book ban.
Damn, and I had so been looking forward to that car ride with Jon Stewart.

Torture is moral equivalent of cheerleading

Farce is part of the defense being offered in the Graner court martial. The defendant's lawyer has to be quoted to be believed:
The lawyer defending him at the court martial in Texas, Guy Womack, said: "Don't cheerleaders all over America make pyramids every day?" He added: "It's not torture."

Mr Womack said photos showing detainees in degrading acts at Abu Ghraib were part of a plan to force information from prisoners and that government officials blamed his client only after the pictures set off outrage around the world.

This is really special:
Defense attorney Womack, a retired Marine, said using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees, especially those who might be soiled with feces.
"You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," he said. "In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there." He compared the leash to the tethers that some parents place on their toddlers while in shopping malls.

I've spoken at length in previous posts about torture. I can't say another word right now.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Supreme Court fails to do its job

The US Supreme Court refused to rule on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that upheld a Florida law that precludes gay people from adopting children. Now, given that I had just once again, in the previous post, been making fun of the Eleventh Circuit, which argued back in October that using a vibrator could lead to assisted suicide and duels, perhaps this is my comeuppance. Because even back then, Jo and I had a serious discussion about how banning sex toys was really an assault on the right to privacy. I had hopes that when the Eleventh Circuit's asstard decisions got to the US Supreme Court, they would be overturned by the majority that still buys that right to privacy stuff. Apparently not.

Mississippi gets in on the fun

Not content to let Alabama have all the book-burning, book-banning fun, Mississippi staked its claim to asstard status today when two public librarians went on record saying that Jon Stewart's America should be banned.

"I've been a librarian for 40 years and this is the only book I've objected to so strongly that I wouldn't allow it to circulate," said Robert Willits, director of the Jackson-George Regional Library System of eight libraries in Jackson and George counties.

The objection seems to be to the cut-out figures of the nine Supreme Court justices. Apparently, the idea that Antonin Scalia could be naked under that robe was too sickening to contemplate. (okay. That's an image I am going to try to scrub out of my brain pronto. Eww.)

Back in October, Jo and I tried to organize an airlift of vibrators to residents of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' jurisdiction. At the time, Toys in Babeland declined to participate in our plans. I still have dreams of getting arrested on the state border with a trunk full of dildoes--now I'll have to make sure I've got plenty of copies of America with me. In fact, maybe I could talk Jon Stewart into riding shotgun with us.

What Jesus Would Do

Seattle First Baptist offers a version of Christianity that I can get behind: welcoming, progressive, aware of injustice and willing to do something about it.

When I lived in Seattle, the church just a few blocks away from my house was in regular trouble with the U.S. government. Why? Because the church was part of the Sanctuary movement. It hid Salvadoran refugees who would otherwise have been murdered by the U.S.-backed terrorist government in El Salvador. Catholic Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen refused to pay half his taxes on the basis that he would not support the military, and while I disagreed with him on his anti-abortion stance, I respected him because he was consistent in his message that all life was sacred--and therefore, the death penalty and war were wrong, too.

Today, it is good to be reminded that there is more to Christianity than the hate mongers who preach messages of intolerance and fanaticism. Sometimes, I lose track of that because those are the people who are shouting the loudest right now.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I need to tell on myself

Okay. I'm supposed to be writing. What am I doing instead? Well, blogging for one thing. But what I'm really doing, and I'm telling on myself because maybe if I see it online, I'll shut the fuck up about it, is obsessing. This summer, through a combination of stress and the miles and miles of walking I did to combat the stress, I got down to a size "O". Now that I'm less stressed, it's winter, and I'm lazy, my small clothes are tight. And I'm having apoplexy about it. Even as I'm having apoplexy, I'm beating myself up for becoming obsessed over size issues. I hate this culture. I hate that, desite my feminist principles, I've bought into the notion of smaller being better. Someone please slap me.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Ms. Enya

Ms. Enya is starting to heat up the cold winter months with a story about dinner in a restaurant in which there is surreptitious sex going on. I'm fascinated. We could all use a little cold-weather fantasy right now.

Bush Family Moral Values

No comment.

Amen, Pastor Dyson

A Call to Religious Progressives

Clearly there is much work to do around message, language and even vision. I have confidence that a new generation of energized religious progressives will create a compassionate, inclusive and intelligible call to faithfulness. What is not in place is the delivery system to inspire, activate, mobilize and deliver our base. Not yet.

The Politics of Masculinity

I'm beginning to believe we live in a phallocracy, ruled by a leader who believes only his own phallacies.

I'm not big on notions of "difference." I don't believe that men and women have essential natures that make them different from one another. Rule by women doesn't strike me as being somehow better than rule by men. Condi Rice is not exactly an example of the type of leadership that I want to see coming from women. Or anyone, for that matter.

But I think that we are currently seeing a culture of masculinist politics, not dissimilar to what was seen in Nazi Germany. The social history of Germany in the 1930s is rife with images of hyper-masculinized men, women as caregivers and mothers, the destruction of gay culture, the disavowal of all that was "decadent."

We see similar things going on in our own culture. Even Jesus, that most peaceful of men, has been transformed back into the warrior-Christ, hyper-masculine, willing to lead an army against the infidel. When I was down south, I saw several bumper stickers that declared, "real men love Jesus." What does it mean to be a real man? I'm not sure how men in our culture negotiate the tensions these days. I know that for women, it's difficult, and our constant assault to be what we are not leads to everything from eating disorders to self-mutilation, etc, all symptoms of a perfectionism that keeps us enslaved and unable to function. But what kinds of messages are men getting these days?

Part of this was sparked by the fact that the New York Times referrred to Barbara Boxer's objections to the electoral college certification yesterday as "tart." What a loaded term. And I wonder if it was accidental. Because women who won't shut up are frequently perceived as sexually intimidating. There is something to the Lacanian notion that language is the substitute for the phallus, although, as usual, I think that males who argue for their dicks as the universal signifier are a little small ... minded.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this post. I think that George Bush's view of himself as a man and the ascendance within the Republican party of a hypermasculinized cult of warrior worship is a troubling sign of creeping fascism in our culture. And I intend to explore it in the days to come.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Tsunamis only strike fools

The Tsunami was God's spanking of fools. I need to go be ill.

Time to Discuss the Dry Drunk in the WH

Great entry today over at The Left Coaster about Bush's refusal to hear bad news. It seems that he only wants to hear what's going right, and everything else be damned.

I'm in dangerous territory here. There are certain traditions that I need to be careful not to violate, but my guess is that GWB, if he is in fact not still drinking, is attempting to stay sober by either not working any program at all, or by thinking that the second and third steps means that he gets to turn it all over to God and he doesn't have to do any work at all. I'm not sure which is worse.

The Twelve Steps is a program of recovery. It doesn't simply mean to quit drinking. If the addict works through these steps, he or she eventually realizes that life has to be accepted on its own terms--the good and the bad--and that we have a spiritual obligation to own our own shit and not blame others for it. Nowhere in the 12 Steps does it say that my god can beat up your god. Nowhere does it say that the way you deal with reality by denying it. And one thing's for damn sure. George is not working a tenth step. Proof? Remember the debates? He couldn't come up with a single mistake he's made during this presidency.

I have more to say about this....

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What do women want?

I want it to be hot enough to wear my red dress. I want to feel the film of perspiration on my skin that comes when it's a sultry day. I want heat on my flesh, the tickle of air on my bare belly. I want there to be life around me, things thrusting themselves into the air, soaking up the sun.

"What Do Women Want?"
Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


From Tell Me by Kim Addonizio. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.

A new Intifada? Or Fundamentalism Strikes Again

Fundamentalism is, I'm convinced, the scourge of the earth. Ha'aretz reports that fundamentalist Jews are attacking Israeli soldiers who are attempting to keep peace in the Occupied Territories. The fundamentalists believe that the land they occupy was given to them by G*d, and it is their sacred duty to defend that land. The article argues that civil war in Israel is a distinct possibility.

And, of course, the IDF was attacked by the other side's fundamentalists, too. All in all, a perfect day to be an Israeli soldier.

In an article in January's Harper's, Bernard Avishai, an Israeli, argues that Israelis must make a decision about whether they will live in an apartheid state or a binational state.

This is where the demographic argument gets you. You put West Bank Palestinians behind a wall where economic life is virtually impossible, and you hive off another hundred thousand Arab Israelis and put them behind the wall too. Meanwhile, you expand your border to include new Jewish settlements and maintain existing political economic barriers for Arab Israelis, a barrier of institutional practice and law, a barrier of land and common ideology. You say Jews and Arabs must be separated because even if Israel's Arab citizens will make the most of what liberties Israel gives them, they could not possibly want to be absorbed into Israel. And after all of this, you suppose yourself a democracy because you represent the general will of the "Jewish majority." But is the choice really apartheid or binationalism?

Make no mistake about it. Israel has the right to exist, deserves our full support, and in a Middle East chock o'block full of despotic theocracies and dictatorships, they are a light unto the world. But the insane connection between American Christian fundamentalists, who believe that the Second Coming won't happen until the Jews are all reunited in their Home Land, and the Jewish fundamentalists, who believe that they were promised a piece of land thousands of years ago, means that we're in a heap of trouble. We need to have a political policy toward Israel and the entire Middle East that is not predicated on Biblical prophecy. We need to have a policy toward tyrannies such as in Saudi Arabia that is not predicated on our rapacious need to drive our SUVs.

What we really need is an American electorate that gets its news from some other source than Fox or from the pulpit on Sunday.

But getting back to fundamentalism. Why do so many people believe that the words of those written in the past carry weight over words written now? Why do we attribute wisdom to the long-dead, and denigrate the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, in some areas of human life, we're making progress and need new paradigms?

Strict adherence to scripture--whether it be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu, has bought us millions of deaths in religious wars. Isn't it about time we think that we should get a rewrite on the script?

Snow Day

Okay, so technically, today is not a snow day. (Here in Central New York, it's a point of pride that only wusses have snow days.) But:



Which all means that I'm not driving the 25 miles to work only to turn around again early this afternoon to try to get back before it gets bad.

I have a grant application to get finished. That's what I'm supposed to be working on. But I have two novels that I got over Solstice that I haven't read, I've been thinking about Pablo Neruda poetry, and Enya needs some help on her story.

If you had a snow day, what would you be doing? And yes, I know what the optimal thing to do today is.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Political Compass

This is an interesting little test. I have my students take it, and I re-take it every six months or so. I seem to be slipping off even further into anarchist territory, but that's not surprising.


Hanson is back. I know Alanis Morrisette transformed herself from pop princess to serious rock star, but Hanson? And the "shaggin' wagon?"
I'm in hell. Shoot me.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Supporting an erotic entrepeneur

So, a friend of mine on the west coast finally took my advice and has joined the blogging world. She has a business where she writes erotica--amazing erotica that fills me with envy at her ability to make words have texture--and has decided to be more public. So, I'm giving her a shout-out here.
Welcome to blogging, Enya.

Poet Envy

I envy poets their ability to make language sing. I'm just a clunky writer of prose. This morning, looking out on a grey, dreary Monday morning that signals a return to work, I went looking for a poem that would express that odd regret that comes over one in vulnerable moments. Not something I feel all the time, but that's the beauty of poetry. Later today, I may go looking for a joyful poem. But for now, I have this one, one of my favorites, by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.


From Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, published by Harper & Brothers Publishers. Copyright © 1956 by Norma Millay Ellis.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Letter from Sri Lanka

This letter is from my daughters' next-door neighbor (who is currently in Sri Lanka). If you'd like to help, she has tons of suggestions. Here is her letter in full.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Many of you have asked how to best support tsunami recovery work in Sri
Lanka. If you have not yet given, or are able to give again, you may
wish to consider the two appeals below. Both are directed toward local
action on the East Coast, which has been very severely affected. For a
variety of reasons, reconstruction efforts are likely to proceed more slowly on the East Coast unless they occur through organizations already active
in the area, with substantial local leadership.

These appeals come from reliable people, with information about
small-scale projects in Batticaloa and Ampara Districts. You may wish to
forward this information to your own contacts.

With all good wishes,
Anne Blackburn


Dear Friends and Family:

Our heartfelt thanks for your generous response to our request for
donations to aid those affected from the Tsunami in Sri Lanka and

We have decided to support work in the Batticaloa district as it is one
of the worst hit districts and because we can vouch for the organizations
and persons that we have decided to support, both in terms of the integrity
of the work and their capability to do the work.

1. St. John's Church (Rev. Jeyanesan - Church of South India)
2. Manresa (Fr. Paul Satkunanayagan - Jesuits) and The Butterfly
3. Individuals known to us personally who are able to provide
immediate assistance to those in need

For those of you wishing to forward funds directly to these

St. John's Church
Uranee, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
Hatton National Bank Ltd.
Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
Acct. #01-0196601-8

Fr. Paul Satkunanayagam
1 Jesuit Residence
Jesuit Road
Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
Hatton National Bank Ltd.
Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
Acct. #02-0306001-3

If you would prefer to send the money to us to forward:

Marilyn Weaver
c/o Tsunami Disaster Relief
580 Indian Road, Apt. 2
Toronto, Ontario
Canada. M6P 2C2

For those wishing to obtain charitable donation receipts for tax
purposes the only option we can offer is that you send donations to St. John's Church via the UCC (United Church in the US)

If you live in the US and plan to send US chequest to us, please note
that there is a fee here for US cheques to be cashed. So it would be better
for you to send it directly to Batticaloa or via UCC.
If you do send something in response to our request though, please do
inform us so we can keep track of it.

The way to make the donation is via the UCC website:

Church website: UCC
Click on icon to find out more about UCC. Next page, second column is
for Tsunami Relief. Click on contribute. Fill out forms. On
second page of form, in box In Honour Of, state Tsunami Relief Sri
Lanka/Batticaloa. Give St. John's Church address for UCC to inform St.
John's that a donation is being made.

Alternatively, you may contribute to larger international NGO's such as
Oxfam and World University Services of Canada, both working in
the region, and able to provide charitable donation receipts.
Websites: Oxfam and WUSC

Thank you all again for your generosity. We will keep you updated with
news from the region and how your contributions were utilized.



Dear friends,

You have all seen the pictures in the media about the devastating
impact of the tsunami and are aware of the daily rising death tolls.

As you probably know, I am currently working with Volunteer Services
Overseas in Sri Lanka. John, my colleague, and I witnessed the massive
waves of the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka at Aragum Bay, a small resort
on the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka, from where we were rescued by

John and I have lost friends. Our VSO counterpart has lost 20 family
members in his village in Ampara district, where more than 15,000
people have been evacuated and are kept at many refugee camps in and around
the area. People need food and clothes immediately. Rains have started and
shelter is a severe problem for them. Almost everyone we work with has
suffered deaths in their families.

As in all these tragedies it is the poor that suffer the most. In
Akkaraipattu and other villages in the Ampara District where I live,
the poor village people living in palm thatch shacks that have suffered the
deaths and totally lost the little they had before.

Food and clothes are immediate needs that have been addressed to some
extend with the help of local communities. Within another couple of
weeks time people will need more supports for the reconstruction of their
shelters. As I understand the situation, this huge task has to be started
by the government. This process will take decades for government.

Since we are at the spot, we work with local organisations that are
very well known by the community, we can directly help the survivors. John
and I are appealing to our friends overseas for financial help. We will
personally make sure that every penny we receive goes directly to those in
need that have been hit by this disaster. Remember that over here,
goods are very cheap, so even small amounts can make a real difference.

We will use all the money to address the needs in the Ampara District,
the most affected area by the tsunami with 9000 bodies recovered and
180.000 displaced. This area, already the least developed in the country, has now suffered even more devastation.

Please forward this appeal to friends, business colleagues, clubs,
associations etc. that you think can help. If you feel like it, you can
include an introduction saying that you know me and that the appeal is
genuine and not a scam.

Any support will be most appreciated.



Volunteer Service Overseas - Tsunami Relief Fund

VSO has set up a dedicated fund for local distribution to affected
peoples in Sri Lanka and the Maldives initially. You can vehicle the donations to us through the fund. There are a number of ways that are listed below.

IMPORTANT. Please mark all donations with the following
FUND CODE: QS338 – Sri Lanka John & Nazza
This will ensure that the money is directed to our project and relief

1. Telephone Debit or Credit Card payment: (++44 20 8780 7314)
To make a debit or credit card payment over the phone, please call ++
20 8780 7314. This phone line will be manned between:
9.30 - 5.30 GMT (29th & 30th Dec)
9.30 - 2.00 GMT (31st Dec)
9.30 - 5.30 GMT (4th Jan onwards)
Don’t forget to quote our fund code.

2. Web Site Debit or Credit Card Payment: VSO
Donations can be made on line. If people want to make online donations
specifically for the Tsunami relief effort could they please quote
Sri Lanka John & Nazza in the section ‘What brought you to our
website?’ –on the “make a donation” page. Each web donation is checked and we will make sure that all specific donations will be set-aside for this

3. Bank-to-Bank Transfer:
There is a dedicated project bank account for this purpose. The details
of this bank account are as follows.
Don’t forget to quote our fund code.

Account Title: Voluntary Service Overseas (Project Account
No. 4) Account Address:
HSBC Bank Plc, 19 Grosvenor Place,
Hyde Park Corner, London, SW1X 7HT

For UK Donors:
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Torture Unmakes the World (Again)

I originally put up the post below on December 16. This morning, while reading The Guardian, I came across a word I haven't seen in print in a long, long time. Strappado. It seems that we are using a version of this form of torture at Guantanamo. Our soldiers are suspending men from their handcuffed wrists for hours at a time.

Some of this is coming to light because four of those in custody are British citizens. Not that lap-dog Blair will do anything about it, but his citizens are being tortured by us.

Anyway, I'm re-posting what I wrote earlier on torture. It still unmakes the world. And it still leaves me speechless.
Stregoneria is the Italian word for witchcraft. I am not a witch, nor do I believe that witches ever existed. I am not a Wiccan, although if people want to honor the earth by worshipping it, I find nothing to condemn such practices.

For years, I read accounts of those who were tortured into confessing to witchcraft. These confessions entailed fantastical stories of diabolical pacts and the killing of infants. I wanted desperately to redeem those who had suffered at the hands of their torturers, to try to find the "real" story behind what happened, but alas, their words are lost to us. That's one of the effects of torture: it deprives one of language. Pain unmakes the world as Elaine Scarry so brilliantly argued in The Body in Pain. She writes:
"World, self, and voice are lost, or nearly lost, through the intense pain of torture and not through the confession as is wrongly suggested by its connotations of betrayal. The prisoner's confession merely objectifies the fact of their being almost lost, makes their invisible absence, or nearly absence, visible to the torturers. To assent to words that through the thick agony of the body can be only dimly heard, or to reach aimlessly for the name of a person or a place that has barely enough cohesion to hold its shape as a word and none to bond it to its worldly referent, is a way of saying, yes, all is almost gone now, there is almost nothing left now, even this voice, the sounds I am making, no longer form my words but the words of another."

I have been sick since Abu Ghraib. It is that sickness that comes when one knows that great evil is being perpetrated and one is helpless, powerless, to effect a change that will make it stop. As more and more details by eyewitnesses emerge, I wait for my fellow citizens to rise up in one voice and say "not in our name." But all is silence. The way it is silent in the torture chamber, except for the screams and the groans and the meaningless words that are offered to the torturers to make them stop their unholy violence.
The ACLU has released a spate of documents obtained under the FOIA. If you can read them in their entirety, you have a stronger stomach than I do. Each detail is like a blow to my personhood, but it is so remarkably reminiscent of the transcripts I read in archives, struggling to hear the long-dead voices of those who had been killed in the name of a religion that would brook no competition.

One of the most haunting of voices comes to us from Johannes Junius, who was executed for witchcraft in Bamberg. Junius managed to bribe the guards and get a letter out to his daughter. In his letter, Junius mentions two particular forms of torture: the strappado and thumbscrews. Thumbscrews apply tremendous pressure to the nailbeds. Try putting a nail shot out of a nail gun through your thumb nail and you'll get the idea. The strappado was a method in which the victim's hands were tied behind his or her back. A rope was attached to the ceiling and then the rope was attached to the hands. The victim was then hoisted up to the ceiling. Put your hands behind your back and imagine being lifted by those same hands. The effect was to tear the muscles and pull the joints from their sockets. A "jolt" refers to dropping the rope suddenly, so the prisoner's weight would bounce the already destroyed body and inflict more pain.
The letter was printed in Kors and Peters collection of witchcraft documents. I have posted most of the letter below. I think that if the Iraqi and Afghan prisoners that we have tortured could speak, they, too, might write similar things to their loved ones. Torture does not produce truth: it produces noises in response to pain.
Many hundred thousand good-nights, dearly beloved daughter Veronica. Innocent have I come into prison, innocent have I been tortured, innocent must I die. For whoever comes into the witch prison must become a witch or be tortured until he invents something out of his head and -- God pity him -- bethinks him of something. I will tell you how it has gone with me. When I was first time put to the torture, Dr. Braun, Dr. Kötzendörffer, and two strange doctors were there. Then Dr. Braun asks me, "Kinsman, how come you here?" I answer, "Through falsehood, through misfortune." "Hear, you," he says, "you are a witch; will you confess it voluntarily?  If not, we'll bring in witnesses and the executioner for you." I said, "I am no witch, I have a pure conscience in the matter; if there are a thousand witnesses, I am not anxious, but I'll gladly hear the witnesses." Now the chancellor's son was set before me ... and afterward Hoppfens Elsse. She had seen me dance on Haupts-moor. . . . I answered: "I have never renounced God, and will never do it -- God graciously keep me from it. I'll rather bear whatever I must." And then came also -- God in highest Heaven have mercy -- the executioner, and put the thumb-screws on me, both hands bound together, so that the blood ran out at the nails and everywhere, so that for four weeks I could not use my hands, as you can see from the writing. . . . Thereafter they first stripped me, bound my hands behind me, and drew me up in the torture. Then I though heaven and earth were at an end; eight times did they draw me up and let me fall again, so that I suffered terrible agony. . . .

And this happened on Friday, June 30, and with God's help I had to bear the torture. . . . When at last the executioner led me back into the prison, he said to me: "Sir, I beg you, for God's sake confess something, where it be true or not.  Invent something, for you cannot endure the torture you will be put to; and, even if you bear it all, yet you will not escape, not even if you were an earl, but one torture will follow after another until you say you are a witch. Not before that," he said, "will they let you go, as you may see by all their trials, for one is just like another. . . ."

And so I begged, since I was in wretched plight, to be given one day for thought and a priest. The priest was refused me, but the time for thought was given. Now, my dear child, see in what hazard I stood and still stand. I must say that I am a witch, though I am not, -- must now renounce God, though I have never done it before. Day and night I was deeply troubled, but at last there came to me a new idea. I would not be anxious, but, since I had been given no priest with whom I could take counsel, I would myself think of something and say it. If were surely better that I just say it with mouth and words, even though I had not really done it; and afterwards I would confess it to the priest, and let those answer for it who compel me to do it. . . . And so I made my confession, as follows; but it was all a lie.

Now follows, dear child, what I confessed in order to escape the great anguish and bitter torture, which it was impossible for me longer to bear. . . .

Then I had to tell what people I had seen [at the witch-sabbath]. I said that I had not recognized them. "You old rascal, I must set the executioner at you. Say -- was not the Chancellor there?" So I said yes. "Who besides?" I had not recognized anybody. So he said: "Take one street after another; begin at the market, go outon one street and back on the next." I had to name several persons there. Then the Zinkenwert -- one person more. Then over the upper bridge to the Georgthor, on both sides. Knew nobody again. Did I know nobody in the castle -- whoever it might be, I should speak without fear. And thus continuously they asked me on all the streets, though I could not and would not say more. So they gave me to the executioner, told him to stip me, shave me all over, and put me to the torture. "The rascal knows one on the market-place, is with him daily, and yet won't name him."  By that they meant Dietmayer: so I had to name him too.

Then I had to tell what crimes I had committed. I said nothing. . . . "Draw the rascal up!" So I said that I was to kill my children,but I had killed a horse instead.  It did not help. I had also taken a sacred wafer, and had desecrated it. When I had said this, they left me in peace.

Now, dear child, here you have all my confession, for which I must die. And they are sheer lies and made-up things, so help me God. For all this I was forced to say through fear of the torture which was threatened beyond what I had already endured. For they never leave off with the torture till one confesses something; be he never so good, he must be a witch. Nobody escapes, though he were an earl. . . .

Dear child, keep this letter secret so that people do not find it, else I shall be tortured most piteously and the jailers will be beheaded. So strictly is it forbidden. . . . Dear child, pay this man a dollar. . . . I have taken several days to write this: my hands are both lame. I am in a sad plight. . . .

Rest in Peace, dear Junius.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Sister Helen on George W.

This article is a must read. Sister Helen Prejean writes about the application of the death penalty during the years when Bush was governor and our new attorney general presented the death warrants.

Pregnant? Abused? Stay Married.

A Spokane judge has ruled that a pregnant woman seeking a divorce from her estranged husband, who beat her, cannot have the divorce because it would make her child a bastard .

The case pits a first-year attorney who argues that state law allows any couple to divorce if neither spouse challenges it against a longtime family-law judge who says the rights of the unborn child in this type of case trump a woman's right to divorce.
"There's a lot of case law that says it is important in this state that children not be illegitimized," Spokane County Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine told The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Amazing how those "unborn children" have rights that the rest of us don't have. Judge Bastine obviously believes that it is better for a child to grow up watching its mother being abused by the child's father than it is to grow up with a mother who is not married. Family values. Obey the father, even when he's an abusive jerk.

Ironically, the woman, who has been estranged from her husband for two years, is pregnant with another man's child and has sought the divorce so that she can marry the baby's father.

"It's not the child's fault that mom got pregnant," Bastine said. "The answer is, you don't go around doing that when you're not divorced."

So, the single woman's real crime was that she was a fornicator, or in this case, an adultress. Judge Bastine might prefer the biblical remedy for this sin, a remedy shared in the Koran. Perhaps the Spokane downtown area might be cordoned off for a good old-fashioned rock-throwing party, with Judge Bastine casting the first stone.

Great Map

This map, courtesy of Paul's blog, shows the red state/blue state divide and the so-called "right to work" states. Interesting how the states where workers' rights are trampled are also the states that voted for Bush. Once again, we're back to noticing how people voted against their own economic self interests in this election because they were distracted by the war and the hijacking of the political discourse.