Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

sábado, mayo 29, 2010

Mahna Mahna

"Mahna Mahna" doesn't seem to be the right transliteration. "Muhnummina" seems better to me. But it doesn't matter. Not after all of these years. Apparently, Wikipedia thinks it should be written, "Mah Nà Mah Nà:"

On 30 November, 1969, "Mahna Mahna" was performed on the The Ed Sullivan Show by a Muppet also known as Mahna Mahna, and the Snowths. Also in 1969, "Mahna Mahna" was performed on Sesame Street by a character that was later known as Bip Bipadotta, along with two Anything Muppet girls.


BP: Wounding My Mother, Wounding Pachamama

It begins as helplessness. Nothing more, nothing less. I watch as oil spews from BP's well into the Gulf of Mexico, killing sea life, destroying the ocean, ruining the breeding grounds near the shore. The Gulf of Mexico is becoming a vast petroleum gumbo garnished with oil soaked sea birds and drowned turtles. I watch this. I wish that all of the wise men and women of the world could find a solution, could stop the flow. But as the time elapses, and the 48 hour periods to know whether the flow can be stemmed mount up, it should be obvious to me. There may be no solution. At least not for the foreseeable future. And by then, by then what even BP is calling a "catastrophe" will be that much more enormous. That much more irremediable. The leak will have killed much of the Gulf of Mexico, and unchecked, it will continue to kill.

Keith Olbermann thinks that Obama should show more anger about this. That, he thinks, will show people that Obama is with them. Or something. Personally, I have more than enough unproductive anger about BP. I don't need it to be mirrored. Or extended. No. What I want is internal. I want to understand what BP is doing and has done to my interior landscape. I want to come to terms with that. And to comprehend it in this way, I use what I know: I look at the mythic, and I look at myself. It's Shamanism 101.

Please join me on this voyage.

Have I ever seen anything like this before? Have I ever seen my Mother Earth, Pachamama, Santa Madre Tierra so wounded and killed by one of her children? I've been thinking about the BP leak as a wound that will lead to matricide, the death of our Mother.

I've found two myths that seem to apply. There are doubtless others. I offer these two as a beginning point.

In Babylonian mythology, Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the salt water ocean, mating with the god Abzû to produce younger gods. ... Later when Ea's son Marduk creates problems for her yet sleeping god youngsters by playing with sand storms and tornadoes, she conspires to retaliate by creating eleven frightening monsters and erecting her son Kingu as their general, but this plot fails when Marduk slays them all including Tiamat herself. From Tiamat's body the world is formed, land and sea.

Marduk kills his mother. Marduk, who plays with things that should not be played with, sandstorms and tornadoes and deep sea drilling, kills the primordial goddess of the salt water ocean. And the world is far different because of her death; it then has both land and sea. Marduk's killing his mother is a cosmos shifting, future changing event:

Tiamat possessed the Tablets of Destiny and in the primordial battle she gave them to Kingu, the god she had chosen as her lover and the leader of her host. The deities gathered in terror, but [Marduk], first extracting a promise that he would be revered as "king of the gods", overcame her, armed with the arrows of the winds, a net, a club, and an invincible spear.

And the lord stood upon Tiamat's hinder parts,
And with his merciless club he smashed her skull.
He cut through the channels of her blood,
And he made the North wind bear it away into secret places.

Slicing Tiamat in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth. Her weeping eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates. With the approval of the elder deities, he took from Kingu the Tablets of Destiny, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon.

Is that what we have done? Has the BP leak changed the Gulf of Mexico, the oceans, and the entire world in ways that cannot yet be comprehended? Is that what we are watching and are helpless to change? Put another way, are we Marduk?

Another myth. If you think of the Earth, Mother Earth, Pachamama, Santa Madre Tierra as a living, moving, thinking, conscious being, our planet, our Mother, what is this horrible gaping wound that has been done to her? What is this deep puncture to her insides, to her womb, to her intestines that is now leaking her precious blood and bodily fluids into the Gulf of Mexico? What kind of grave injury have we given to our Mother that is now spurting her life force, her blood into the ocean, creating huge plumes of oil and death as it flows?

How do I confront the bleeding out of our Mother? Bleeding I am unable to staunch.

And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.

I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field...
Ezekiel 16:6 - 7

It's an ancient prayer. Some call it the Bleeding Prayer. "When I came upon you polluted in your own blood, I said, 'Live. Live, like the plants in the field.'" It seems to fit the present disaster: uncontrollable bleeding of our Mother that is beyond our ability to check. Our engineering and governmental resources just aren't up to the task. If there's a solution, it's obviously in another realm, of Spirit.

For the past month, I have written extensively about BP and this disaster. What I notice about my writing is that it's angry and I have been making a sharp, bright line between BP and the rest of us, including myself. On reflection I now think that one of the reasons we are so ineffective in handling this disaster is our shadow and the degree to which we have tried to suppress and disown our inner BP. My inner BP: my tyrannical, know-it-all, powerful, greedy, reckless, patriarchal, secretive, dishonest inner BP. As I write this sentence, I think, "Wait. BP is the fourth largest corporation in the world. It's not even a person. You're not like that, at all. You love the Earth." A thought that to me is first rate evidence of my own shadow and of the existence of an inner BP that has neither been acknowledged nor honored.

So what, as Lenin said, is to be done? I invite you to join me a small ceremony. I will make a small altar to my inner BP. I will put on it things that remind me of BP or that I identify as BP or that have something to do with my inner BP and drilling and oil and accidents and destruction and recklessness. I will acknowledge these many things, and I will consider how it is that they have helped me live and exist in the world, in my life, the benefits they have given me in the past. And then, when I understand and can feel how that is, I will honor each of these aspects of BP that I find in me. I will thank them for being of assistance to me, for helping me survive, for helping me grow and succeed. And then I will commit them to the fire and release them.

I invite you to join me in this.

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viernes, mayo 28, 2010

BP Now Admits It's A "Catastrophe"

Well, that sure didn't take long. We've had more than a month of watching oil gush from a broken pipe a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. We've watched BP, which has Ken Salazar's foot on it's hydra-headed neck, take every possible step to save oil it could sell while it dithered about blocking the leak and invented sci-fi machines to capture oil. And we've watched in horror while enormous amounts of oil flow into the sea and onto beaches and through marshes, and we're seeing pelicans covered in oil and drowned turtles and fishing bans and devastation in the tourist industry. And now, after all of that, as if we don't already know that we're watching something that foreshadows the impending death of the Gulf of Mexico, BP has revised its characterization of the spill from having a "modest" environmental impact to being an "environmental catastrophe."

What a sickening development.

CNN has the story and video.

And the result is that while the Gulf of Mexico is being ruined everyone is now officially "frustrated." The President. You. Me. We're frustrated because all of the smart people in the world in convocation apparently cannot put this Humpty Dumpty together again. Or haven't. So at long last, according to TPM, DFA is now calling for a boycott of BP. What else, I ask, can we do to express ourselves?

There are really two issues. The first is the leak. But the second, and over time it might be the more important, is collecting, containing and then cleaning up the mess. That process is sadly long overdue and it does not depend on stemming the flow. It depends on the government mobilizing the resources necessary to contain and clean up the oil. And if you think that blocking the leak is/was a challenge, the clean up is a far larger one.

Can we please get going on that? Every day that we wait on this is a day of more suffering and death in the Gulf.

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martes, mayo 25, 2010

BP And Obama And The World's Largest Man Made Environmental Disaster

We've all had a month to stew about this. The Gulf of Mexico is slowly turning into a petroleum gumbo laced with oil coated pelicans and dead dolphins. We've been watching a slow motion train wreck. Except it's not just two colliding steam engines. No. No such luck. It's the Gulf of Mexico, teaming with life, and its currents are moving the spilled oil around. Eventually it will be everywhere. And while we're watching that unfold, and seeing clumps of tar and oil all over the beaches, we are beginning to suspect that, hard as it is to believe, maybe nobody, that's right nobody, knows how to plug the leak. And stop the spill. So we're going to have to watch a colossal ecological disaster we are utterly helpless to stop. Or mitigate. The signs are already everywhere, preparing us for a spectacle of wildlife and oceanic death, slowly breaking to us the very bad news we really don't want to hear.

Just look at this from AP:

Oil spill frustration is rampant.

The White House is being pounded for not acting more aggressively in the month-old oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration is hitting back, mostly at BP. Louisiana is threatening to take matters into its own hands. The truth is, the government has little direct experience at either the national or state level at stopping deepwater oil leaks — and few realistic options.

With the oil flowing and spreading at a furious rate, President Barack Obama has accused BP of a "breakdown of responsibility." He named a special independent commission to review what happened.

But the administration seems to want to have it both ways — insisting it's in charge while also insisting that BP do the heavy lifting. The White House is arguing that government officials aren't just watching from the sidelines, but also acknowledging there's just so much the government can do directly.

"They are 5,000 feet down. BP or the private sector alone have the means to deal with that problem down there. It's not government equipment that is going to be used to do that," Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen told a White House briefing on Monday.

This is a recipe for a most horrible outcome. Our frustration today is absolutely nothing compared to what is coming. What is coming is the largest man made environmental disaster in history. This is going to make Chernobyl look like Three Mile Island. This is going to make Exxon Valdez and Santa Barbara look like a joke.

The administration has stated that it is going to have "a special independent commission" "review what happened." But I don't need no stinking commission to know what happened. We've been over it and over it and over it. That's all back story anyway. If the Gulf of Mexico dies, as surely it will from enough oil, "what happened" is going to be the least of anyone's concerns. It's going to be a footnote in a narration of the extensive misery and suffering that the spill has caused.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Interior supposedly has his foot on the throat of BP. And the government continues to rely on oil company "expertise" to deal with the spill. But the Interior Department was still apparently granting permits for underwater drilling even after he declared a moratorium on that. And we're already being told that the feds can supervise and direct BP, but that they aren't capable to doing anything on their own. Look at this. The Coast Guard's guy who's in charge of this federal emergency response is saying that it's BP or the private sector that has "the means to deal with that problem", not the government. If you kick them out of the way, who will take over? Nobody, he claims. I asked before and I ask again, whether this is the first time that a claimed foot on the throat has been confused with fellatio.

No, the administration isn't going to elbow sweet BP aside. Ever. Absolutely not. No matter what. We're already being told that BP, the fourth largest corporation in the world, has all the "means to deal with that problem," and that the rest of us can just sit here and watch the largest man made ecological disaster in history slowly, but inexorably unfold. And the expertise, we're being told, is all in the hands of the oil companies. They're doing, so we're told, all they can do.

There are some very, very smart people in the United States. I'd like to tell you that they can be quickly called together to solve this problem. That it's that big a disaster that unconventional approaches are required. But I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think the administration will take over the efforts to close the spill. I don't think anything will change in the way this disaster is being handled until much later. Until we've been made physically and emotionally sick by the condition of the Gulf of Mexico. Then maybe things will change. If it's not too late.

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lunes, mayo 24, 2010

Sea Turttle Swimming Through BP Spill

Some things require no words.

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domingo, mayo 23, 2010

Is This Obama's Katrina? Nice Work, Kenny.

Exactly how far does BP have to go, how many times does it have to blunder and fail and make excuses while it tries to preserve its investment in the leaking well, before the US pushes BP out of the way and stops the leak that is now destroying the Gulf of Mexico? Apparently, pretty damn far. Long story short, the US isn't going to take over the problem at this point. You know we're in big, big trouble when the intervention of the US Army Corps of Engineers looks like an improvement in disaster management.

This from Reuters makes the US government's intentions less than perfectly clear:

The U.S. government will move aside BP (BP.L) from the operation to try to halt the Gulf of Mexico oil spill if it decides the company is not performing as required in its response to the well leak, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Sunday.

"I am angry and I am frustrated that BP has been unable to stop this oil from leaking and to stop the pollution from spreading," Salazar told reporters after visiting BP's U.S. headquarters in Houston.

"We are 33 days into this effort and deadline after deadline has been missed," Salazar added, referring to the failure of containment efforts attempted so far by London-based BP to control the gushing undersea well one mile (1.6 km) down on the ocean floor.

President Barack Obama's administration is facing growing public and political pressure to take full charge of the oil spill containment operation as criticism against BP grows.

Yeah, Ken, we're all angry and frustrated. But, guess what? We're not the Secretary of the Interior or of anything else. We're not in the cabinet. We're sitting here watching the Gulf of Mexico turn into a petrol gumbo laced with oil coated pelicans.

And what exactly do you mean when you say, "if" the company isn't performing as required? Performing as required means that the leak is stopped. Closed up. That there's no more oil. Running a straw into the leak so that BP can sell it and make money on it isn't exactly "performing as required."

"If we find they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing, we'll push them out of the way appropriately," Salazar said, but he did not specify at what point this would occur or what might be the trigger for it.

"This is an existential crisis for one of the world's largest companies," he said, in a reference to the billions of dollars of cleanup and damages costs that BP faces.

Give me a f*cking break. That last paragraph has to be some kind of sick joke. "An existential crisis for one of the world's largest companies?" Dude, it's an existential crisis for the Gulf of Mexico, its inhabitants, and its wild life if not the oceans generally and the planet. You think I or anybody else gives a rat's ass whether BP fails?

If you know how to stop the leak, it's really time to stop it. This sitting and watching as BP diddles and tries to harmonize stopping the leak with preserving its investment in the well is going to kill the Gulf, if it hasn't done so already. 33 days is more than enough time to stop the leak.

The federal response, described in your brilliant statements today, is what I call feckless. And that's the nicest term I can find to describe it. This is a disgrace. The only thing we're lacking at the moment is the icing. That would be Obama telling Ken Salazar what a great job he's doing. I wish I didn't think that was next up.

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martes, mayo 18, 2010

Deepwater Horizon: The Mess After One Month

This video is a compilation of the 27 images in the oil spill trajectory ensemble forecast from four different numerical models animation produced by OCG/CMS/USF, plus a google earth satellite view from May 17 of the Gulf with the oil visible moving into the loop current.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill trajectory ensemble forecast from four different numerical models - modeling includes a West Florida Shelf version of ROMS nested in the Navy's operational HYCOM. We are also diagnosing model output from the Navy's HYCOM, from NCSU's SABGOM ROMS, and also from the NOAA RTOFS.

h/t to Edger and docuDharma

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lunes, mayo 17, 2010

Join My Spontaneous BP Boycott: How To

As you can see, I've gotten tired of just typing and complaining about this. That just didn't seem to be enough, especially because BP is now collecting oil from the spill that it can sell, their stock is still traded, they're still doing business. No, I wanted to do something else. So here's an invitation to join me in creating a leaderless, spontaneous national boycott of BP.

viernes, mayo 14, 2010

John McCain's Arizona

miércoles, mayo 12, 2010

Arisona: I Haven't Forgotten You, I Will Get Back To You

I promise.

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Taking Care Of Old Mom Earth

The oddest thoughts.

If I lived in suburbia and my dog ran out and pooped on my neighbor's lawn, my neighbor would be angry. My neighbor might tell me to clean it up. S/he'd be much angrier if I spilled a truck full of chemical fertilizer or garbage on the lawn, something that would be hard to clean up and looked and smelled bad.

I live in the country. I go for a walk in the fields with my dog. On my own land I come upon an enormous horse poop. Later, I see my neighbor and ask if she's been riding on my land. I shake my head, no, at her. She says she'll clean it up. I think, well, what if she had left instead a few leaking barrels of hazardous material or poison. What if she left behind baited leg traps so my dog and pets could be injured. I'd be much angrier.

If BP were pouring its oil on my roof, or in my yard, or in my street, I'd tell them to cut it out and to clean it up. I'd probably also get angry at BP. I would plot ways of having my sweet revenge on them for making a mess of my house, or land, or street. I'd think about all of the demonstrations, lawsuits, administrative actions, and so on I could instigate against them.

But BP's not pouring it directly on me, or my family, or my house, or my land. No. They're spilling it, lots and lots of it in the Gulf of Mexico. I notice that I'm less angry about this than if they were filling my basement with crude oil. I notice that nobody's really picketing BP gas stations or their corporate headquarters. I notice that people are not screaming at them to cut it out and clear it up. I notice that people are not asking that they be nationalized or seized or confiscated. I notice that their gas stations are still open for business. Same for their refineries. I notice that their bank accounts still work, their stock is still traded. I notice business as usual. I notice that I can turn away from them and do other things. Like go to work. And sleep.

Why is that? Is it because the Gulf of Mexico isn't my physical backyard? Or my fields? Or my street? Is it because it seems farther away from me? Is it because we're just beginning to see the devastation that this will bring to the Gulf Coast? Is it because we don't believe that it is destroying the Gulf and our planet? Is it because the oil isn't going directly into my basement and disrupting my life at this second and befouling my every breath and making me sick?

I like to think that we humans are stewards for mother earth. That we take care of her. It's like the old song, "The earth is my mother/I must take care of her." I like to think that we belong to the earth, that she does not belong to us. I like to think that our precious, small, blue planet will support and nurture us and give us all we need. And all she needs in exchange is that we take good care of her. But I don't think we're taking good car of her right now. I think we're destroying her. It's not just the oil in the Gulf, not by a long shot, but the oil in the Gulf is the latest, quickest, more egregious example of the failure of our husbandry.

If somebody insulted my mother, or harmed her, I would be outraged. I would protect her. I would do whatever was in my power to keep her from harm. Goodness. Some people will actually fight if somebody even says something bad about their mother. Well, this is worse than saying something bad. This is actually harming, defiling, injuring the planet and the creatures that live on it. Here we are, our mother is actually being harmed. And somehow, somehow we sit idly by.

We think about the situation. While we think, the oil is still flowing. Out of control. We hope that some new contraption will stop the leak. The last one didn't but maybe this one will. Or the well that arrives in July. We hope the damage won't be too great. We hope BP will stop the damage, the spill. We hope the government will get involved. We sit on our hands. We stare at the ceiling. We hope this isn't the beginning of our planet's death rattle.

And, of course, we make arguments about policies we will need in the future. And we talk about how it's our fault that there is a gigantic oil leak in the sea because we're addicted to oil. We blame ourselves in some regard for this rapidly expanding injury to our planet. But we still stare at the ceiling. And we hope this isn't the beginning of our planet's death rattle. And that something will save our pearly blue planet from harm.

The truth, I'm afraid, is that we're in a trance. We've been drugged by darts. We're immobilized. We sit and stare. We think. We talk. We type. But until the end we won't do anything to respond to this, to embody our fury, to protect ourselves and our planet and our oceans. We'll wait and hope that the damage stops. And we'll talk about our planet's remarkable capacity to stabilize itself and heal itself and repair itself.

I wonder. Are we trying to kill our planet? Is this a slow form of attempted planetary suicide?

Why are we letting our mother down like this? Where is our gratitude for all she does for us?

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domingo, mayo 09, 2010

BP Needs And Deserves Your Attention

Here's an idea for the upcoming week.

Why doesn't every single BP gas station in the US have somebody picketing it with a sign saying, "BP Is Killing the Gulf; Don't Patronize BP"? Or some other sign you compose. All you need is markers and poster board.

Enough really is enough. I know that the BP Station in Pittsfield, MA, right down the road to Lenox from Guido's needs some attention. Ditto Rhinebeck, NY.

Let's just do it. Forget organization. Let's be spontaneous! Let's go for it.

Holder: Let's "Modify" Miranda, Weaken It

I awoke this morning to Eric Holder's concession on ABC about "modifying" Miranda in terrorism cases. I am really unhappy that the Administration is willing to give ground on this Constitutional principle, especially when in the most recent terror case the Pathfinder Bomber, who was twice given his Miranda warnings, is being such a conversationalist with the authorities.

An attack on Miranda, a precedent that has weathered 42 turbulent years, even a concession as mild as Holder made today, is usually an offering to certain kinds of voters, voters who are afraid, who are "law and order," who are ready to sacrifice the Constitution for "safety." So I see today's remarks as a dog whistle. But I don't know why Holder is calling these particular stray dogs.

Apparently, the Attorney General had this to say:

"The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective," Holder told host Jake Tapper. "I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility -- whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. ... We're now dealing with international terrorism. ... I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda protections]. And that's one of the things that I think we're going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face."

So, in response to Republican screams that the Pathfinder Bomber, who parenthetically is talking and confessing his brains out as I write, shouldn't have been given Miranda warnings, the AG is agreeing. This is tough to understand. Instead of pointing out that Miranda didn't hurt anything in this case and in many others, and in fact, there is no case where giving Miranda seems to have hurt a terrorism investigation, the Attorney General is offering some red meat to the howling canines.

If you think about Miranda and terrorism, there are some obvious points that seem to have been missed. First, Miranda has been on television around the world numerous times daily since 1968, when the decision was announced. You can probably recite most of the warning from memory. We all know that it applies when someone in custody is being questioned by cops. Do we really think that after all this time terrorists, whether or not they are read the Miranda warnings from a crumpled, little yellow card, don't know they have a right to remain silent? That they've not been told that there is Miranda if you get arrested in the US? So that reading them their rights will be a revelation to them and spur them to sudden silence?

And what if you don't give warnings, what happens then? Then the police aren't allowed to use the confession in their direct case at the trial of the person who didn't get warnings. It doesn't stop them from using the evidence you give against somebody else. It doesn't stop them from trying the person they are questioning. It just stops the use of the confession. That's suppressed. Just that. And everything that they derive from that about the accused. Does that ruin the case? Maybe. Maybe not. But giving Miranda is not equivalent to finding the accused not guilty. Far from it.

Even more preposterous in today's concession is the lack of history brought to the table.

In 1968, two years after the Miranda decision, Congress passed a law that purported to overrule it. This statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3501, directed federal trial judges to admit statements of criminal defendants if they were made voluntarily, without regard to whether he had received the Miranda warnings. Under § 3501, voluntariness depended on such things as (1) the time between arrest and arraignment, (2) whether the defendant knew the crime for which he had been arrested, (3) whether he had been told that he did not have to talk to the police and that any statement could be used against him, (4) whether the defendant knew prior to questioning that he had the right to the assistance of counsel, and (5) whether he actually had the assistance of counsel during questioning. But the "presence or absence of any of" these factors "need not be conclusive on the issue of voluntariness of the confession." Because § 3501 was an act of Congress, it applied only to federal criminal proceedings and criminal proceedings in the District of Columbia.


And in Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428 (2000), the Supreme Court held the requirement that the Miranda warning be read to federal criminal suspects, and struck down this federal statute that purported to overrule Miranda v. Arizona in a 7-2 decision written by Rehnquist with Scalia and Thomas dissenting. So, to make a long story short, a decade ago the question of whether Congress could modify or overrule Miranda was already dead letter.

Sure, that was before 9/11. Sure, the Court has changed. Sure, the original majority in Dickerson has left the Court. But there is no case in the pipeline that even tangentially approaches the issue. Because there is no such legislation. Holder's remarks aren't about a repeal or modification of Miranda by the Court. They're directed toward an eventual statute that will seek to modify Miranda.

Holder's remarks are a sop for the whining republicans. And their perceived constituencies. These remarks are directed exclusively at the extremely fearful, those who are ready to give up Constitutional rights for their perception of their safety, who might think at some future time that the administration is "soft on terrorism." That's just pitiful.

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sábado, mayo 08, 2010

Mothers' Day In Stir

Albion Correctional Facility

Almost three quarters of the 2,422 women in New York state prisons are mothers.

So City Limits reminds us.

Women in New York State are imprisoned primarily at Bedford Hills and Albion.

Maybe we can pause for a second this weekend and think about some of these families in which the mother is behind bars and the children would like to visit. This is particularly hard if the children are in, say, Brooklyn, and the mom is in Albion, some 400 miles away, a distance Google says you can drive in under 7 hours. One way.

Mothers' Day had its origins in the U.S. in the mid-19th century as a day to bring together the opposite sides of the civil war. It doesn't seem to have focused on re-connecting families separated by prison walls. Maybe this would be a time to begin envisioning precisely that.

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The Arthur Kill Debate

Today's NY Times has a story about the victorious Arthur Kill Correctional Facility Debate Team. Writes the Times:

The two debate teams sat across a large room on Thursday night waiting for their face-off to begin. On one side were the visitors, four undergraduates at the New School, and their equally young coach poring over documents and comparing last-minute notes. Across the room the home team, four men in their 30s and 40s, leaned back in their seats, pictures of poise, their neatly arranged index cards at the ready but untouched.

The students from the Eugene Lang College of the New School were nervous because their team had lost here the previous year; in fact, the opposing team was undefeated in its two-year history, besting opponents like St. John’s University and New York Law School. The students were nervous because they were young and earnest and, as one of them put it, “afraid of offending someone.”

And they were, as one put it, “meta-nervous,” perhaps because they had to argue that the government should not finance higher education in prisons, right there at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, against a team of incarcerated men who could be seen as Exhibit A for the opposing view.

So the Arthur Kill team had the home-turf advantage, plus passion, not to mention direct personal experience — of the four debaters, three are currently special students at the New School, as are many of the two dozen inmates who were on hand to watch. Then there’s the advantage of general life experience, on the outside and in.

A spoiler: Arthur Kill won the debate. One wonders, how could they not? The prisoners clearly know a lot more about the need for education in prison than the undergrads they debated. And the undergrads had spiraled off into the world of Foucault, a world so ethereal, so theoretical that they couldn't have the resources to use it effectively. But I digress.

Arthur Kill is holding more than the four members of the debate team. In fact, it is a remote corner of Staten Island and has about 900 prisoners, who are classified "medium security." It's a prison. And it's not an educational institution. It has no aspirations to become an educational institution. How could it? New York claims to be in its worst budget crisis in decades, and despite the shortsightedness of it, cutting prison programs is a way to save money that does not create instant street demonstrations. Or angry lobbyists. Or strong public relations campaigns and denunciations. If New York can propose cutting funds from schools, how much easier is it to cut from prison programs?

Prisoners, lest one forget, are disenfranchised. They don't have an alumni association. Their loss won't be front page news. The front page is reserved for the corners of the prison gulag that succeed not because of programs, but despite the stringency of captivity.

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viernes, mayo 07, 2010

Get Out Of There

El Tri

This year's Mexican entry in the World Cup in South Africa is going to be really exciting. And the team's fan base in the US is enormous. It includes me.

Today's New York Times in an article called, "Most Popular Soccer Team In the U.S.: Mexico," writes:

Mexico’s trips to the United States, including Friday night’s sold-out exhibition against Ecuador at the new 75,000-seat stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey, are big business.

Mexico will play Senegal at Soldier Field in Chicago on Monday and Angola at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Thursday. By the end of the tour, which is to prepare Mexico’s players for the World Cup, the team known as El Tricolor will have played six games in the United States in less than three months, almost all before capacity crowds.

When Mexico played New Zealand at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in March, the only game in which European-based players performed, 90,000 packed the Rose Bowl on a Wednesday night. It was easy to see what brings Mexico back.

Not just the sheer numbers of fans, many of whom paid more than $40 for tickets — about double what tickets would cost in Mexico — but also in the hours leading up to the game, the bustling fiesta that surrounded the stadium had the air of a carnival with face painting, lucha libre acts, bands and games.

Of course. What can be more fun than watching Mexico's first rate national team play other not so first rate national teams so close to home? I'm delighted that Mexico has started doing this. I hope they continue. I only wish I had a ticket for tonight's fiesta in New Jersey.

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jueves, mayo 06, 2010

Do I Look Illegal??