May 2, 2008 archive

Four at Four

  1. The New York Times reports Congress passes bill to bar bias based on genes. “A bill that would prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information that people carry in their genes won final approval in Congress on Thursday by an overwhelming vote.” Bush has suggested he will sign the legislation and if he doesn’t the bill, which “passed the House on Thursday by a 414-to-1 vote, and the Senate by 95-to-0 a week earlier” likely has the votes to override his veto.

    The legislation is a start, but doesn’t prohibit the government from using genetic discrimination. And according to the NY Times story, “as genetic tests provide ever more information at lower costs, the entire notion of insuring against unknown risk that has long defined the industry may be upended.” This may “give ammunition to those who argue for universal health care”.

  2. The Washington Post reports White House plans proactive cyber-Security role for spy agencies. “America’s spy agencies for the first time would be tasked with gathering intelligence on threats to the nation’s computer networks under a policy set to be detailed by the White House next week… The [anonymous] official said the president’s new cyber-security directive will share the intelligence gleaned through monitoring threats across the government space with the private sector, which experts say is being hit with the same types of attacks that the federal dot-gov space is battling… Most of the 18 strategic goals laid out in the cyber initiative are currently classified, and few within the government have been fully briefed on the the plan.”

    Alan Paller, director of research at the Bethesda based SANS Institute, which tracks hacking trends, said few federal civilian agencies or private sector companies have the analysts or computer power to spot the most stealthy cyber attacks. Agencies like the NSA, he said, are in a bit of a tight spot in sharing new threat information with allies and the private sector, because spy agencies very often glean intelligence by exploiting the very same security vulnerabilities in hardware and software used by enemies of the United States.

    “This is the oldest conflict in security, because if we give away our best exploits, we lose the ability to use them offensively,” Paller said. “That’s a conflict the guys at NSA deal with every day. When you find good ones, how long do you wait before you tell the vendors and people defending our own networks?”

    On the surface, does this government-private partnership seems similar to the collusion between the telcos and the Bush Administraion?

Four at Four continues below the fold with the expanding ocean’s hypoxic zones, the collapse of the west coast salmon fishery, and fungal doom for Pacific Northwest amphibians.

Raw In The Writing, Vegetables

What Does America Think About America….. Now? An Interactive Essay

Just after Earth Day, Robyn (using her best ‘stern’ teacher voice!) gave an assignment in The Morning Muse

Is there a Universe Day?  If not, why not?  Write a five-paragraph essay on the topic.

(Important note! I am not asking for five paragraphs!)

I would like to develop that sort of interactivity more, it is an intriguing little shift on (hahaha!) “traditional” blogging. Doing something similar would also be very useful to me, as a blogger. I have lived in Hawaii and then Mexico for the last two years, (soon to be returning to the States, btw) and though Hawaii is technically part of America, the small town in which I lived was …not.

So I am out of touch, even more than usual (!)… with what ‘The Typical American’ is thinking. A LOT has happened in those two years! And though I don’t think anyone here at DD would think of themselves as a ‘typical’ American, ALL of you have your finger on the pulse so to speak, more than I do!

This was also inspired by reading a piece on Think Progress in which one of our favorite people, Karl Rove was quoted as saying…

ROVE: The American people are prospective. They’re always looking forward. So if you try and say John McCain is George Bush, that simply lacks credibility with a wide number of Americans. All they know about John McCain is that he’s the maverick Republican senator who has often crossed swords with Bush and in fact ran against him in 2000. So I’m not certain claiming that McCain is Bush and therefore you ought to vote against McCain because he is Bush is a very credible argument.

(video at the link)

For Eli

We’ve all felt it…the rage followed by the exhaustion and the fear that our souls will be deadened by the overwhelming pain and destruction that is being reigned on human beings by our occupation of Iraq. Its why so many really don’t want to know and numb themselves with distractions.

So many times, that is where the artists come to the fore…the writers, painters, musicians, poets, and yes, even the comedians. They can reach down past all the numbness to remind us that we still feel and we’re still human, even though at times we’d rather not be. But if there is any hope for the world, we have to keep in touch with our humanity.

In a difficult way, that’s what this poetry did for me yesterday when a friend sent it to me. Here’s Andrea Gibson’s “For Eli.”  

Mission Accompli; the Rock Opera


The US takes the Missionary position to the World

(Cross-posted from the Wild Wild Left, and to One Wing Left, and Station Charon)

Its been five years.

Tommy can you hear me?  Tommy? Tommy?

It was over, wasn’t it? Is that not what we read, heard, saw?

Can I help to cheer you?

The surge, its working isn’t it? Are you relieved?

Tommy can you hear me?

Can you feel me near you?

Were we this near them?

Seal our eyes, our ears, our mouths.

This cannot be us.

Pony Party, Phone it in Friday

This is one of the most amazing pieces of video i’ve seen in a while.  If you dont like modern dance you may not enjoy the routine…but the dancers themselves are beyond belief….a dance team where the female lost an arm, the male lost a leg…

Docudharma Times Friday May 2

Though his mind is not for rent,

Don’t put him down as arrogant.

His reserve, a quiet defense,

Riding out the days events.

The river

Friday’s Headlines: As Gas Costs Soar, Buyers Are Flocking to Small Cars: Fed to Pursue Aggressive Checks on Credit Cards:  Call to Arabs on Palestinian aid: Turkey launches intensive air strikes in north Iraq: Mugabe invents coup plot as poll chaos continues: Diamond miners strike gold with wreck: The Litvinenko files: Was he really murdered?: Income tax secrets go up online – and promptly come down amid fury: Tibetans shot officer ‘to avenge killing of monk’: Ecuador leader shakes up military

Police remove Hong Kong torch protesters ‘for own protection’

Police removed human rights protesters from the streets of Hong Kong this morning as the anger of pro-China supporters flared on the first day of the Olympic torch’s domestic journey.

Several activists were bundled into a van and driven away after furious pro-Olympic demonstrators waving Chinese flags tried to break through the police line protecting them, haranguing them and attempting to seize their placards and Tibetan flag – which is banned in China.

Around 50,000 spectators gathered to celebrate the approach of the games and set the flame on the road to Beijing. Most were in upbeat mood despite the rain.

“It is a great and solemn honour for Hong Kong, Asia’s world city, to welcome back the Olympic flame on behalf of our proud nation,” the region’s chief executive, Donald Tsang, said at the relay’s start.

Teacher fired for refusing to sign loyalty oath

Cal State system ousts another instructor who objects on religious grounds to a pledge adopted by California in 1952 to root out communists.

When Wendy Gonaver was offered a job teaching American studies at Cal State Fullerton this academic year, she was pleased to be headed back to the classroom to talk about one of her favorite themes: protecting constitutional freedoms.

But the day before class was scheduled to begin, her appointment as a lecturer abruptly ended over just the kind of issue that might have figured in her course. She lost the job because she did not sign a loyalty oath swearing to “defend” the U.S. and California constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Muse in the Morning


Toxic Raindrops

Spitter, spatter – dribble, drip

eroding the soul

The sizzle of acidic water

dissolving resolution

Hard hail pellets

hammering the identity

Cold shards of sleet

penetrating the heart

Invisible tears

damaging the interior

where the scars

are mostly not visible

except in the

resulting behavior

which can be

so terribly bizarre


roughly scoured

forcibly removed

from internal corridors

while outside

there was a smile

and a helping hand

for those less fortunate

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–February 21, 2008

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…


I love the subway. Even when it’s crowded. I love the solitude in the crowd. I like the act of faith of hundreds of bodies pressing into a machine so far underground. I like that it has mostly served us well for over a hundred years. I love it when it’s empty. I even probably love it when I’m cursing it, when it’s letting me down. It’s like family. Or it feels like home. Familiar.

I remember riding the subway as a child. My mother holding my hand on the platform. The train literally covered in fantastic, colorful graffiti. I remember one rush hour when I was a young girl, mom clutching me as we squeezed in (or out)–and my shoe, one shoe, was left behind–on the platform, or in the car. I don’t remember what happened after that. I loved falling asleep on mom’s shoulder when we were riding the subway on the way home. Yes, I loved the subway as a child, but I was also taught that it was dangerous, and sometimes, late at night, I have felt that fear.

I love watching people on the subway. I like the sociality. But I like the solitude you can also find in that intimate, public space. I like reading and writing and knitting on the subway. I like doing mindfulness meditation on the subway. My mind often blooms on the subway. Poems or ideas or things to be written bubble up. I take them down. Revisit them later. Leave some as is, subway artifacts, and take others up, tinker, expand.

What is it about the subway that stirs creativity? The noise-cancelling, rhythmic whoosh and rocking–is it like being in the womb? Being underground, in the subway, does it tap the unconscious in a distinctive way?

It’s not just that creativity breeds there. Violence too. I have seen the spontaneous eruption of hatred, racism, burst into physical violence. I have seen teenagers fighting. Children being spanked and hit. Women too. I have sometimes tried to intervene with one sentence, as if to bring someone to their senses. I have then wondered if this didn’t make things worse later.

I’ve seen and been involved in acts of kindness on the subway, too. And moments of shared humor. Or just shared moments. A smile. A conversation. A performance. It’s all there. In the subway. What racist pitcher John Rocker hated about the subway–the mixture and mass of humanity in all of its difference, and glory, and failing, and rage, and vulnerability–I love.

What kind of song of himself, of our world, would Whitman have penned on the subway?

Do you have a subway story? Or an unexpected place that tickles your creative bone? I’ll close out this ditty and turn it over to you with a poem that sprouted up on the subway.


By what right do I

conjure you,

stir you from sleep,

snag your attention,

turn you around?

Would an invitation

blunt the blow

reduce the weight

the freight

of solitude?

Oh, unintended companions,

by rude strokes,

I pray to you on this downtown C.

Tired man, pants rumpled,

I worry for your shoe untied.

I thank you, woman and child,

holding hands, blinking,

silent in the crushing rush

of our wondrous speed.

I see you, young man, opposite corner,

steady in the shelter of a book.

And you and you and you –

all signposts of everything else there is.

Like this, I come to my stop.

The Stars Hollow Gazette

Glenn Greenwald

Brian Williams’ "response" to the military analyst story

After I wrote about Williams’ blog item yesterday, his blog was deluged with commenters angrily demanding to know why he has failed to address the NYT expose. In response, Williams wrote a new blog item last night in which he purports — finally — to respond to the story, and I can’t recommend highly enough that it be read by anyone wanting to understand how our establishment journalist class thinks and acts.

What makes all of this even more astounding — and what makes Williams’ glib dismissal of these issues yesterday all the more indefensible — is that all of these conflicts and all of this deceit was well-known long before the NYT article added more details. As I’ve repeatedly noted, concerns over the use by news networks of retired Generals masquerading as “independent analysts” were raised for years in multiple venues — including by the NYT and by the astoundingly prescient Colman McCarthy in The Washington Post, and the networks simply ignored those concerns, marching along with their pro-war parade of military analysts.

But far worse, the specific, undisclosed conflicts of both McCaffrey and Downing — the two Generals cited by Williams to prove NBC did nothing wrong — were disclosed more than four years ago by The Nation. And there is no way that NBC and Williams can claim not to have known about them, since The Nation described those ties as specifically as could be. Did NBC ask the Generals about these ties? Did they consider disclosing them to their viewers? Did the undislcosed ties violate NBC News policy? Does NBC have policies now to prevent this from happening again? Who knows? NBC refuses to comment on any of this.

Just consider what is going on here. The core credibility of war reporting by Brian Williams and NBC News has been severely undermined by a major NYT expose. That story involves likely illegal behavior by the Pentagon, in which NBC News appears to have been complicit, resulting in the deceitful presentation of highly biased and conflicted individuals as “independent” news analysts. Yet they refuse to tell their viewers about any of this, and refuse to address any of the questions that have been raised.

More amazingly still, when Brian Williams is forced by a virtual mob on his blog yesterday finally to address this issue — something he really couldn’t avoid doing given that, the day before, he found time to analyze seven other NYT articles — Williams cited McCaffrey and Downing as proof that they did nothing wrong, and insists that his and their credibility simply ought to be beyond reproach because they are good, patriotic men. But those two individuals in particular had all kinds of ties to the Government, the defense industry, and ideological groups which gave them vested interests in vigorous pro-war advocacy — ties which NBC News knew about and failed to disclose, all while presenting these individuals to their millions of viewers as “independent.” Is there anyone who thinks that behavior is anything other than deeply corrupt?

Writing In The Raw, Meat



writing in the raw: home again

I am back in Flemington NJ. I left home when I was 31 to come here and live with my boyfriend. I think they thought I would never leave. And I never really wanted to leave. They were right about that. I liked being a child. I liked that I could always got to my mom’s house when I was sick. Or that I could always knock on my dad’s door for pasta at midnight after a wild night out…

No. I wasn’t looking for a mate. I was happy with a boyfriend.

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