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17 March 2008

rocks and hard places

by: astraea

St Paddy's day. Blessed green. May I offer a brief review...

THE FIELD never forgets the Irish famine which took perhaps a million lives and cast its people across the seas, their population dropping from 8 to 5 million. As a class, the McCabes, farm labourers, were all but wiped out. What is the field, but their bodies, a people so poor, so exploited, and abandoned that many were left were they fell. In other ways, it was an awakening. It was a blight that destroyed the major food crop of the people -- a blight precipitated by destructive farming methods, concentration of landholding, dehumanizing racial and religious prejudice; in sum, the general economic rape of a land and people by an imperial overlord.

Please see this movie. See it as a tale for our own time. Bull McCabe is indeed a man between a rock and hard place. How do we forgive? How can we find a way to peace, to justice? How to serve the dead and the living? So many rocks and hard places in The Field. Like the Irish, it has the complexity and fatalism of the ancient Greeks.

Did I mention the acting? Richard Harris is perfect. Amazing. Sean Bean too, as ever. But to watch John Hurt eat that sandwich is worth dying for. It's a heartbreaker -- and a joy knowing that such creatures exist to break our hearts.

Monday Morning Blues

by: Debra

Help the little people? Not on your life. But help a company that produces nothing but paper that says it is worth something, the candle burns all weekend until there is a solution. Even a bad one. Our tax dollars at work, doing everything but provide services to the citizens.Remember when they refused to bail out New York City?
The Fed will provide special financing to JPMorgan Chase for the deal, JPMorgan Chase said. The central bank has agreed to fund up to $30 billion of Bear Stearns' less liquid assets. Risky bets on securities tied to subprime mortgages -- loans given to customers with poor credit history -- crippled Bear Stearns, the nations' fifth-largest investment bank.
Hell, no. $30,000,000,000 of our money goes to guarantee the purchase of Bear Stearns because they were incompetent greedy bastards and have 'less liquid assets'? That's just outrageous. Why are we providing our money to help one business acquire one grossly incompetent business?

We can't fund programs helping our veterans.

We can't fund programs that give children insurance.

But over one damn weekend, we find $30 billion to fund greed. It's ridiculous. Pathetic enabling crap.

And it's money wasted, completely wasted. Just like the billions poured down the gullet of Detroit. Because you pull the Band-Aid off slowly or quickly, we're trying to allow these people to feel no pain, when pain is exactly what they deserve.
When you are poor and have financial problems, it's always your fault and it's up to you to figure your way out. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is willing to help someone who already can't pay their bills. Something about not being a good risk. If it only worked like that for the people at the top, maybe a little more thinking (such as simple arithmetic instead of compound interest) would have provided a few level heads and prevented what looks like the second Depression in my mother's lifetime.

On a really sad note, Tom and Steve Hilton from If I Ran The Zoo are experiencing the physical loss of their father after the recent loss of their mother. My heart goes out to the guys (we've shared a few beers, which was cool because one of them lives on the other side of the country) and hope that this next few days and months eases the pain and returns the happy memories of childhood. And Steve per one of our conversations, another good one is "when you get to the dead skunk, turn right. Quickly."

Oh no, it's that green drinking day. Again. Just without the music, Guiness or soda bread but I am making the non-tradtional Corned Beef and Cabbage, otherwise known as a New England Boiled Dinner.

Don't you wish you owned gold instead of dollars? I own neither, but I can dream. This is going to be a really bad roller coaster ride. Like one of the ones where the majority of riders gets killed. It took a lot for me to ride Revolution at Six Flags after watching that movie.

Speaking of movies, I watched Waitress a few weeks ago, I had put it off because I knew it was going to be painful to see all that talent go to waste. What a great movie and what a supreme loss of talent. Adrienne Shelly definitely had a lot to contribute. Nathan Fillion wasn't bad either.



Spring Almost Here

by: blackdog

Used to live in a place with a well drained sandy loam soil that existed just downstream where the Arkieville River comes out of it's trellis drainage pattern, slowly eroding bits of the Ouachita Mountains and the Ozark Dome and becomes a meandering river that deposits all that great stuff in regular floods, and as a meandering river over many millennium, not just 6000 years, there are oxbows and canebrakes all over the place, the soil here was simply naturally excellent.

No rocks on the surface, none at all, pea gravel in evidence deeper down, but not to excess (I did work for a geotechnical firm), and a bounty of trees and other native plants that every season added their plethora of mast that was absorbed by that lithosphere, a truly living soil. So I scritched mah head one morning and wondered what to do.

A garden! Yeah! That would be great! Live off the fat of the land! It was still winter, but I marked off my spot, 40'x100' that I would use, drew up a plan, after reading lots of stuff about how to perform this like a General marshaling his forces for an invasion, and started. Laid out stakes and nylon staging to delineate the different sections, kept up on the drawing, which I still have somewhere, it was a good plan.

Borrowed a Troy-Built Horse to break the sod, mostly bermuda which is a real invasive bitch to deal with. But that non-cohesive soil was perfect, all I had to do was set the drag bar, start the motor and sit down and watch this fine tiller work slowly without me behind it, I was watching and doing various things that I will not go into here in detail. Suffice it to say that this was the easiest plot to till that you could imagine.

After several hours the plot was prepared and looked wonderful. I had visions of all sorts of wonderful veggies in my head as i looked at the freshly tilled area, reset the stakes and staging according to the plan and proceeded to wait for the last frost day for some, but the cooler crops I put in immediately.

This was before I had the pleasure to re-meet with my old friend, Farmer Bob, who just happened to live only about a few miles to the north. We had a period of about 8 years where we didn't connect and I didn't know he was there at the time. At this time as well we had goats, dairy goats that is, Nubians and one mix, just 4, and an unusual thing friend goats do as you approach them if they recognize and accept you is to squat and take a leak, wherever they are. Used lots of wheat straw in the goat barn, and it quickly filled up with pills and urine, so we mucked it out regularly and placed it under the plants and on the paths of the garden. Every time it rained, the garden was more than a little bit fertilized. One of the best Christmas gifts I ever bought for my X was a big wheelbarrow. We needed it. That Christmas morning I took her for a ride in it and damn! We had a flat tire! She wasn't that big!

I won't go into all the details of all the different plants we had, there were dozens. It grew like ape and quickly I realized that just like all the books said, allow room for expansion, it became somewhat difficult to negotiate the place, but not impossible. The enormous amount of goat laden wheat straw keep the weeds down to a manageable level and within weeks we were eating fresh radishes, and as the days rolled on so much more. Of course, radishes are really quick.

It was a work of art, I have photos but none are of a digital nature or I'd show them here, you will have to use your imagination for now. My giant sunflowers were at least 10' tall, with flower heads over 1' in diameter, almost like trees. I had tomatoes, several varieties, until November. Okra, squash, zucchini, cantelopes, cabbage, well the list is long. Eggplant, corn, numerous peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelons, onions, and more. Little Man, the Appaloosa really liked the corn stalks, but I was careful not to give him too much. We had catnip for the Saki cat, she liked to roll in it, wish I knew what that must have felt like.

The most amazing thing about this is that I had it made then and wasn't aware of it. We would get up in the morning (mostly the wife), milk the goats, clean up and disinfect everything, take off to work, return after 8 hours, do it again, tend the garden, mow grass, fix dinner with fresh veggies of all kinds and mostly just enjoy the tranquility.

Spring is springing. Sometimes I wish I could go back.

Tunes For St. Patrick's Day

by: Minstrel Boy

From the pen of William Butler Yeats.

The tune is "Maid of the Mourne Shore.

It was down by the Sally Gardens, my love and I did meet.
She crossed the Sally Gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,
But I was young and foolish, and with her did not agree.

In a field down by the river, my love and I did stand
And on my leaning shoulder, she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy , as the grass grows on the weirs
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Down by the Sally Gardens, my love and I did meet.
She crossed the Sally Gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,
But I was young and foolish, and with her did not agree.

This is a lovely tune when played on the harp. Yeats is my favorite of the Irish poets.

For the Irish experience in America, this has always been one of my favorites.

Paddy on the Railway

In eighteen hundred and forty one, I put me corduroy breeches on
I put me cordury breeches on, to work upon the railway.

Fiddle-mee-oh-ree, Areee-ay (3x)
A workin' on the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty two, I left the ould world for the new
Bad cess to luck what brought me through, to work upon the railway.
Fiddle-me-oh-ree etc.

In eighteen hundred and forty three, 'twas then I met Miss Biddy McGee
An iligant wife she's been to me, while workin on the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty four, me hands were hard, me back were sore
Me back were gettin' mighty sore while workin' on the railway.

In eighteen hundred forty five, I found meself more dead than alive
I found meself more dead than alive, while workin' on the railway.

It's "Pat do this!" and "Pat do that!", without a stocking or cravat
Nothing but an ould straw hat while Pat worked on the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty seven, sweet Biddy McGee she went to heaven
She left one child, she left eleven, to work upon the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty eight I learned to drink me whiskey straight
It's an iligant drink what can't be bayte when workin' on the railway.

Here's to the Irish among us. Slainte!

harp and sword

None Of The Above

by: Konagod

Married, single, divorced or widowed.

We've all seen those options on various forms for classifying our status. And while it's not surprising in states like Texas where recognition of same sex relationships is about as likely as a tax on the Southern Baptist Church, I think we expected a bit more from states such as Connecticut which do, in theory, recognize civil unions. It's actually not such a surprise that it is not working. Separate but equal just doesn't cut it.
Eager to celebrate their partnership, Tracy and Katy Weber Tierney were among the first in line when Connecticut created civil unions three years ago as a way to formalize same-sex relationships without using the word “marriage.”

But when Tracy was giving birth to their son, Jake, five months ago, a hospital employee inquired whether she was “married, single, divorced or widowed.”

“I’m in a civil union,” she replied. When the employee checked “single,” Tracy protested. “I’m actually more married than single,” she said, leaving the employee flustered about how to proceed.

And the case made by the states against same sex marriage is infuriating.
The state also argues that the plaintiffs have no case because they are free to marry, just not to someone of the same sex, and that there is no gender discrimination because men and women are equally constrained.

Nice logic. We have the right to marry -- it just can't be the one we love.

Frankly, until the playing field is level and there's full equality, I have no interest whatsoever in participating. I probably can't afford it.
For Jean Csvihinka, 48, who works at a bank in Milford, getting a civil union meant paying tax on an additional $6,000 a year. Ms. Csvihinka said that adding her partner, Gina Bonfietti, 43, a self-employed piano technician, to her health insurance obligated her to pay a federal tax on the value of the additional coverage that married couples would not owe, and that since the civil union she has also had to pay tax on her daughters’ coverage even though the girls were on her plan, tax-free, before. She said she was told that “it’s a systems issue.”

Experts blame some of these problems on the disconnect between state taxes, which civil union couples can file jointly, and federal taxes, which they cannot because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Since we obviously cannot rely on the states or voters to rectify this problem, we are probably at the mercy of the judges.
Amy Pear, a 39-year-old police captain in Middletown, said she was reminded again this month of her own murky legal status when she returned home from an overseas trip with June Lockert, 46, her better half for the last 14 years.

Arriving at Kennedy International Airport, the couple were asked whether they were one household. Captain Pear said she explained that they were, in Connecticut, because of their civil union. She said the customs officer sent them back to be processed separately since the federal government took a different view, and remarked “Welcome home” as she passed.

Welcome home, my ass! If there is one thing I expect (or demand) to see happen during the next administration, it would be to resolve this absurd discrimination and let us have the basic human dignity of our relationship being recognized and putting an end to the second tier status. The current murky waters are completely unacceptable.

Crossposted from konagod

Inner City Blues

by: Debra

The times may have changed but every word still sings true. Especially for the last two weeks of my so called "life". Lately, I've lost the energy that makes me want to have my voice heard.

Way too short, just like his life.



FISA Bill: No Amnesty, No Immunity

by: Foiled Goil

EFF Applauds House Passage of Surveillance Bill with No Telecom Immunity

Bill Would Allow Spying Cases to Proceed Fairly and Securely

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

"We applaud the House for refusing to grant amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, and for passing a bill that would allow our lawsuit against AT&T to proceed fairly and securely," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Amnesty proponents have been claiming on the Hill for months that phone companies like AT&T had a good faith belief that the NSA program was legal. Under this bill, the companies could do what they should have been able to do all along: tell that story to a judge."

"This newly-passed House bill represents a true compromise on the amnesty issue: customers whose privacy was violated would get their day in court, while the companies would be allowed to defend themselves despite the Administration's broad demands for secrecy," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We look forward to assisting the Senate in its consideration of this compromise solution, which EFF believes is the only reasonable response to the White House's attempt to evade court review of its illegal spying program and the phone companies' collaboration in it."

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance. The Hepting case is the leading case aimed at holding telecoms responsible for knowingly violating federal privacy laws with warrantless wiretapping and the illegal transfer of vast amounts of personal data to the government.
EFF vs. AT&T (Extreme linky goodness.)

An overview of the NSA's domestic spying program

Ars Technica:
In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Siobhan Gorman pulled together the disparate threads of reporting on what's known of the NSA's secret domestic spy program, and combined them with some of her own reporting to confirm, once again, that the NSA's program is another incarnation of the Pentagon's erstwhile Total Information Awareness program. Gorman also describes how Carnivore, the SWIFT database snooping program, and basically every other "Big Brother" database and data snooping program that the executive branch has developed over the past two administrations* feed information into the NSA's TIA-like system, which then looks for suspicious patterns in the data.

Gorman's article provides a great overview of how these programs fit together in the architecture of the modern, post-9/11 surveillance state, and it's required reading because it comes at a critical time in our national debate about privacy and the limits of executive power. However, if you've been following this topic closely then you know that most of the information in the article has been public since 2006.

In this post, I'm going to walk back through some of the previous reporting on the topic, both my own work and that of others, and offer corrections and adjustments where necessary based on the WSJ piece. My hope is that readers and reporters who are so inclined can dig through the details and links and follow up on any leads that others may have missed.

(Continue this article here.)

The Intelligence Cover-Up

NYT Editorial
For more than two years now, Congress, the news media, current and former national security officials, think tanks and academic institutions have been engaged in a profound debate over how to modernize the law governing electronic spying to keep pace with technology. We keep hoping President Bush will join in.

Instead, the president offers propaganda intended to scare Americans, expand his powers, and erode civil liberties — and to ensure that no one is held to account for the illegal wiretapping he ordered after 9/11.

What Mr. Bush wants is to be able to listen to your international telephone calls and read your international e-mail whenever he wants, without a court being able to prevent it or judge the legality of his actions.

… Mr. Bush said it was vital to national security to give amnesty to any company that turned over data on Americans without a court order. The purpose of this amnesty is not to protect national secrets — that could be done during a trial — but to make sure that the full damage to Americans’ civil liberties is never revealed. Mr. Bush also objects to a provision that would create a committee to examine his warrantless spying program.

The president will continue to claim the country is in grave danger over this issue, but it is not. The real danger is for Mr. Bush. A good law — like the House bill — would allow Americans to finally see the breathtaking extent of his lawless behavior.

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