Tuesday, March 30, 2010

GOP Pays For Topless Girls In Bondage Bridles

One of Rush Limbaugh’s favorite cracks is to deride Nancy Pelosi because she uses a lot of jet fuel. This, apparently, makes her a hypocrite, even though she lives in San Francisco and, being one of the most influential people in our government, has to travel to Washington DC and other places.

Limbaugh’s point is especially absurd because it is offered without good evidence or good faith. His supporters still stoke false rumors that Pelosi demanded a big jet:


http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/queen-nancy-pelosi-private-jet-tax-payers-paying-for-her-fuel/blog-48177/

http://raymondpronk.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/pelosis-plane-costing-the-american-taxpayers-millions-per-year-ground-the-stupid-socialists/


But in fact she did no such thing. For security purposes, the House Sergeant at Arms, Bill Livingood, requested for the Speaker access to a plane that could go from San Francisco to DC without stopping to refuel. Livingood, by the way, was appointed by Newt Gingrich to his position over a decade ago.

Pelosi was absolutely fine with using the smallest possible jet given restrictions imposed by the House Sergeant:

http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/did_nancy_pelosi_order_up_a_200-seat.html

http://www.snopes.com/politics/pelosi/jet.asp


Basically, Limbaugh spews mistruths to rile up his hate-filled followers. It’s not about reason, but rather rhetoric and mind control. His followers are ready to accept the conclusion of his ‘arguments’ even before the faulty evidence is provided. It feeds their bias and their precious anger.

Real arguments based on solid research and sound logic are anathema to zombie overlords like Limbaugh.

However, there is a powerful Republican organization which reeks of waste and unethical expenditure. I challenge Limbaugh to speak about its squandering of millions of dollars and, get this, paying party members for a night out at a topless dance club with bondage themes.

Don’t believe it? Here’s the front page article on Republican misuse of funds from the Washington Post:

“Steele Under Fire For Expenses”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/29/AR2010032903822.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR

The first paragraph says it all:

“The Republican National Committee and its chairman, Michael S. Steele, were engulfed in controversy again Monday after new financial reports showed that the party used tens of thousands of donor dollars for luxe hotels, private jets and other questionable expenditures.”

The juicy details are astounding. Ugly and prime grist for tabloid mills. The RNC paid just under $2000 dollars for “meals” at Voyeur, a nightclub in West Hollywood which “features topless dancers wearing horse bridles and other bondage gear while mimicking sex acts.”

Here’s one patron, Jennifer M., describing her recent experience at Voyeur on Yelp.com:

“Oh. Wow.

Rolled up here with 6 girls around midnight on a Saturday night after we realized that the crowd at Crown Bar had gone drastically downhill.

The girl at the door sent us in right away and told us to go to a table by the bar and get some free Champagne. Seriously. This club is amazing. There are topless "dancers" acting out S&M scenes throughout the night on one of the side stages, there's a half-naked girl hanging from a net across the ceiling and at one point I walked to the bathroom and pretty much just stopped dead in my tracks to watch two girls simulating oral sex in a glass case.” (3/22/10)

http://www.yelp.com/biz/voyeur-los-angeles


How did this happen? Apparent someone named Erik Brown, who has contributed thousands of dollars to the GOP (and whose business, Dynamic Marketing, Inc, has done about $19,000 of business with them) was able to bill the party on behalf of the attendees at Voyeur. These attendees are referred to as Republican “Young Eagles,” but maybe a better name would be Slavering Sex Hounds:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/29/gop-fires-staffer-topless-club-visit/

The malfeasance doesn’t stop there. Under Steele’s leadership the GOP coffers have shrunk from %22 million to below $10 million in the last year, despite raising $96 million. No one seems to know exactly how or why.

There’s also tens of thousands of dollars for private jets, upscale hotels and a resort trip to Hawaii. (“Steele Under Fire ...”)

How does the Democratic National Committee fare in comparison? Their Chairman “usually travels on commercial flights and does not generally use limousine or town-car services,” said spokesman Brad Woodhouse.

If Rush Limbaugh wants to talk about egregious misuse of funds, here it is. The RNC is sending Young Eagles, that is, would-be major donors, to sex bars and paying for them to watch topless bondage games.

It’s not just the money. It’s the reviling and sleazy way RNC representatives carried out their duties as political leaders. What kind of message does this send? I have nothing against sexual fantasy, but to carelessly and brazenly mix kinky nude sadomasochism with the business of running and managing a country is degenerate.

Okay, Rush, I am waiting for your next radio show. I want to see if you shift your attention away from the false problem of Pelosi’s jet fuel to the real problem of the GOP wasting millions and living it up in anti-Christian sin.


OWL

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Poem: Cereal Box Parade

Here's one of my better early poems, from 2003. It was originally published in The Barbaric Yawp. I also read it when I was invited to present at the University of Maine at Machias.

-----------------------------



Cereal Box Parade

hawaiian shirts
rammed through a blender
and stacked on the shelves,
prettier than birthdays,
prettier than christmas,
wrapped around various modes of sugar
and sanitized proteins.

some of them
have been playing with a syringe,
getting high on those injected vitamins,
minerals culled from a marketer’s
mine. some of them are laughing
at how zany they can be
in an aisle of quiet people
whose hands peck the shelves
like drugged birds.

here live flamboyant toons,
lazy corporate shills,
who never had their own show,
never worked more than a
thirty-second day, never did anything
but prance and babble and make
goo goo eyes at glazed wheat—

and yet still children beg for them
with fond whines.

little Johnny hates his parents
but adores colonel crispy flake.
little Elsie learns the ropes
from outrageous cardboard.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Maine's Snowe and Collins Fail Dismally On Health Reform

It is a real shame to see our Maine state senators Olympia Snowe (R.)and Susan Collins (R.) make the greatest mistake of their political careers by attacking the recent healthcare law, which I refer to as the Health Freedom Law.

This is legislation that saves lives, prevents unfair bankruptcies, and promotes decency and caring. The pursuit of happiness entails that everyone should have access to affordable medical treatment. No one should be chained to fear because they can’t get the cure for their illness, especially if it's available right up the street.

And how many of us stay at a job we hate, instead of pursuing our dreams, because it is the only way to get to a doctor?

To be trapped in a soul-killing rat race is one of the most horrid restrictions on freedom I can think of. Following in the great tradition of Social Security, Medicare, and Civil Rights, the new Health Freedom Law is a major victory for ethics over brute selfishness.

Snowe and Collins will never again get a chance to be part of something this monumental. Something this fundamentally good. If either of them had jumped their party, it would have been heroic enough to get them into heaven (if there is such a place). But they are timid moderates in a red-state gang of pols that has become deplorably stained by shameless tactics.

Snowe and Collins do not fit the extremist profile of the GOP, the party of bullying, fear, and gun-talk. The GOP wears the thinnest veil of manners, while spewing messages of brimstone.

As Paul Krugman writes in his latest op-ed (“Going To Extreme”) Republican leaders are now using metaphors that appeal to the mindset of snipers, assassins and end-of-time fanatics:

“John Boehner, the House minority leader, declared that the passage of health reform was “Armageddon.” The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the committee’s chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on “the firing line.” And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/opinion/26krugman.html?src=me&ref=homepage


These bullies are the LEADERS of Snowe and Collins’ party, not the fringe. Based on the tact I have seen from these two strong women (Snowe, of course, actually voted FOR pressing ahead on healthcare not long ago, the only Republican to do so), perhaps they are torn up inside about having to lock stride with windbags and petty despots. I

Yes, I am guessing that they are sickened by their colleagues’ monstrous rants.

Snowe, especially, I think, could have found it in herself to switch parties and leave behind a fascist GOP. For her, I think, this is a particularly sad failure. She could have been remembered throughout history as someone who eschewed dark conformity. But she has faltered. She has crept back into lame submission to the great demagogues of the far right.

Her objections are meager, as if she is having trouble trotting them out against the protests of her conscience:

“Snowe criticized the reconciliation bill, which would hit employers with more than 50 workers with a $2,000 per employee penalty if they do not offer health insurance.”

(http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/139739.html )


Frightening as it may seem, to Snowe, that business must offer health coverage, there are important mitigating factors: (a) business will get serious tax breaks, (b) there will be caps on insurance costs, (c) healthier, happier employees increase productivity, AND let us not forget:

(d) People are currently dying or going bankrupt because they can’t afford to go to the hospital,

(e) People are living in utter fear that they will lose their policy

(f) Or that they will get sick and lose everything because they don’t have one,

(f) People with insurance are being hit with higher premiums and less effective coverage,

(g) The whole system is sinking fast--very fast--and

(h) Something has to be done NOW, not five or ten years from now.



Every day of delay destroys lives and stokes mountains of pain and stress. How could Snowe and Collins put off what we need immediately to save lives?

Indeed, Snowe’s point is only that the new Health Freedom might adversely affect business owners.

Collins makes the same case. Just as weak and narrow:

“Most Americans will be shocked to learn that Washington wants to slap fines on small businesses that hire more workers,” [Collins] said. “But the new health care law does exactly that. Incredibly, this reconciliation package makes matters worse.”

http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/139739.html



Again, people are dying, people are sick, people are terrified, people are losing everything they worked for. And all our Senators can come up with is ... a possible fine?

So, I am very saddened for our State Senators. They are puppets of a political apparatus of vile fire eaters, and they are not that ugly themselves; but they have made some very bad decisions.

After the Civil Rights Act passed, violence raged. Red-faced southern pols vowed militant opposition. But today, those people are considered the epitome of ignorance.

Twenty years from now, unfortunately, Snowe and Collins will be considered rather forgettable members of the ignorance club.

Why couldn’t they have made the courageous choice. Ugh! Senator Snowe, I feel particularly sorry for you. Wake up!


OWL

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Acceptance: Barnwood Poetry Magazine

Every year I have a very special ritual. I take my three best unpublished poems and send them to Barnwood Poetry Magazine, hoping that they are at least worthy of brief attention.

What I really crave, though, is for at least one poem to be my highest achievement, the result of a perfect storm of passion, creativity, skill, and luck. A poem whose genesis alone is worth the nine years I have been toiling away at my craft, producing a draft almost every day. This is what Barnwood deserves, and even then it would be a small jewel in this magazine's treasure trove of excellence.

The legendary status of this journal is due to Editor Tom Koontz. He is a living embodiment of the archetypal literary sage. He has been immersed in word spells at least since 1978, probably longer. His journal (and the press of the same name) has morphed and branched for so long that it is like the journey of a seed into a tree, now large and indomitable, but also the progenitor of rhizomic offshoots stout in themselves.

Accordingly, there are various websites associated with Barnwood. This is partially due to a computer crash in 2007, and yet also the fitful metamorphosis of technology, which at some point crossed the rubicon of paper into the ethereal realm of the internet.

Perhaps the best place to start is the fruit of recent years:

http://web.mac.com/tomkoontz/Site_3/Mag.html

But don’t stop here. Koontz’s philosophy and wisdom have spread over multiple sites (accessible from the above).

For example, if you go back to the 1982 entry, you get a letter from Angela Peckinpaugh describing her study of charms and spells in the forms of poems; and also some early work by that great novelist and poet Marge Piercy.

( http://www.bsu.edu/classes/koontz/barnwood/mag/paper/sum82.html )

Admittedly, some if the information is hard to find; but the search itself is wonderful, as if winding through labyrinthian shelves in a timeless bookstore. A place of shadowy mystique, yet hale with the luster of brilliant writing.

If you go to Barnwood Press, you find out that:

“The ‘Barnwood’ Press is sponsored by The Barnwood Press Cooperative, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation, founded in 1978 for the purpose of supporting the contemporary art of poetry through publishing and educational activities.”

And that the founding editors are : Sheila Coghill, Tom Koontz, Thom Tammaro, and Michael Tate.


( http://www.bsu.edu/classes/koontz/barnwood/index.html )


If you go to the 2002-2007 site, you find out that Koontz is Professor Emeritus of Ball State University in Washington, where he taught Creative Writing.


( http://web.mac.com/tomkoontz/Site_3/Contents.html )


What you really don’t want to miss out on are Koontz’s invigorating thoughts. Below are some links. These essay-like excursions deserve front-page honor in the very first official encyclopedia of online poetry (which has yet to be created--but when it is, Koontz should be up front):

http://www.bsu.edu/classes/koontz/barnwood/mag/edit.html
http://bsu.edu/classes/koontz/barnwood/mag/art/art.html


There are other caches of knowledge stashed around various Barnwood sites; and it is well worth the time to ferret them out. With a history in the arts going back to at least 1978, the lore of Koontz is almost preternatural. Not because he has been around the block, but because he has amassed one of the greatest collections of modern poetry, period.

The poems he includes in Barnwood are eclectic and testify to the versatility of his poetic third eye, his ability to sense power in timbres of all kinds. He publishes mostly free verse that displays furious language-skill and verbal dexterity; but also word-art of the visual kind; and experiments in-between that dare traipse beyond a standard deviation--or two or three--from readability.

I’m going to end this entry with an excerpt from the cover letter I sent him. This cover, spontaneously babbled, heaps further praise and relevance my tired brain can’t surpass right now.

Thank you for reading. Now go to Barnwood and THANK Tom Koontz for decades and decades of caring, toil, and quest.

-------------------------------------

Dear Editor Koontz,
>
>Please find a bio and also a trio of hopefuls below. They really don't like
>me anymore, because I've badgered them for months to get them in shape. I
>told them they'd be lucky to be worthy your of consideration, but they're as
>willful as teenage divas. I apologize if they get snobby. You know how to
>put them in their place.
>
>You've done startling and impressive things this year. The poems of
>Pagnotto ...Yowza and Wow!! The best "figure" wordplay I've ever seen. And
>yet right next door lives the lyrical simplicity of Holly Day's
>"Unencumbered." Schiffman immerses us in a tempestuous flow of phrases that
>somehow reminded me of a Beethoven's piano sonata. And then there's
>Popielaski's "End Times," a swift dash of spice.
>
>So, I admire you for being daring and personal; and for the broad
>circumference of your prerogative, and its many levels of discernment.
>
>Honestly, you're one of the great editors of our time. There's no way you
>will ever be thanked enough. I've decided that we all live in purgatory.
>Miracles everywhere, waiting to be enjoyed, as well as a handful of great
>editors to fully appreciate--and yet most of us bog down in the banal and
>perfunctory.
>
>Thank you for your time. I truly mean that. And thank you for all you have
>done for the poetry world.
>
>Most Sincerely and Humbly,

[OWL]

Monday, March 22, 2010

House Passes Health Reform Over Republican Evil

It is a truly great day for the advance of human dignity. The House of Representatives passed healthcare reform that will prevent 19,000 deaths a year and eliminate 45,000 bankruptcies a year.

Where did I get these numbers? From listening to C-Span coverage of the debate on the House floor. Over and over, Democrats took to the rostrum and spoke of people senselessly dying because they simply couldn’t afford medical treatment. The treatment exists, sometimes right up the street; but for 19,000 people a year, it is a cruel taunt. Like starving to death while watching a chocolate cake placed out of reach behind iron bars.

Similarly, whole families are going bankrupt because one member gets sick. Savings, houses, the trappings of a lifetime--all gone just because fate strikes. Imagine getting a hospital bill for $200,000 and having to sell your family’s house and go into debt the rest of your life. You can no longer afford college for your kids, or even a decent birthday gift. Your dreams crash and burn. Why do you deserve this? What did you do?

The above scenarios are hideous and absolutely intolerable in a country that claims to be a great bastion of freedom. It nauseated me to see angry flushed Republicans get up and rail about how the reform was taking away “freedom” from the “American people.” They must mean the freedom to die while treatment is across the street; or the freedom to be forced into bankruptcy through no fault of your own.

I want to see these disgusting Republicans go to the bedside of a mother wasting away from lack of affordable treatment and explain how they are defending her freedom.

I want to see these disgusting Republicans go to the foreclosure sale of a father who lost everything to medical bills and explain how they are defending his freedom.

I want to see these disgusting Republicans go up to a woman who can’t get coverage for her child with diabetes and explain how they are defending her freedom and her child’s freedom.

Apparently for Republicans, the “American people” do not include those Americans who are dying and penniless at the doorstep of callous insurance companies.

Nancy Pelosi said it best in the final speech of the night, wielding The Declaration of Independence with passion and skill. We have a right to life, liberty and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. You can’t pursue happiness if hospitals refuse to cure your illness unless you become a slave to debt. You can't pursue happiness if you live in terror of losing your job, even if you hate it, because it provides insurance.

The insurance companies have our freedom by the testicles and ovaries and are crushing tight.

Pelosi emphasized that this bill would free up the entrepreneurial spirit of the people. With health insurance guaranteed, we can unlock potentials of our souls to flourish.

This is the true essence of the pursuit of happiness.

The repulsive Republicans have a malignant conception of freedom. Freedom to be cruel, callous and corrupt. To support evil. For it is indeed evil to let human beings waste away for corporate profit. You are effectively looking in the eyes of a dying person--someone who could be saved by your actions as a leader of a wealthy nation--and saying, “Your freedom doesn't count."

Let me end with a telling article in today’s Washington Post, “Republican Leaders Stir Up The Tea Party Crowd” by Dana Milbank.

During the debate in the House, dozens of Republican lawmakers walked out onto the balcony and “proceeded to incite an unruly crowd.” This is a crowd that earlier had hurled racist and anti-gay epithets at Democrats. They screamed insults at Pelosi and others, “You communists! You socialists! You hate America!”

This angry ignorant vicious crowd is the antithesis of decency; and yet Republican leaders fanned their hatred:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

The tea-party demonstrators chanted "Nancy! Nancy!" and held signs saying such things as "Red Queen Nancy -- Joseph Stalin Was Not a Saint."

That would have been the end of it, had Republican lawmakers not stirred things up. First Reps. Buck McKeon (Calif.), Rob Bishop (Utah) and Mike Turner (Ohio) came out waving signs saying "KILL THE BILL." The crowd went wild. Reps. Mary Fallin (Okla.), Geoff Davis (Ky.) and Bill Posey (Fla.) held the "Don't Tread on Me" flag, and Rep. Pete Sessions (Tex.), head of the House Republicans' 2010 campaign committee, came out with half a dozen colleagues and more kill-the-bill signs. Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) dangled an American flag from the balcony.

"That's kind of fun," Fallin said cheerfully after a turn at riling the crowd with signs saying "No" in red letters.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/21/AR2010032103484.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Is this the GOP mentality that controls a large portion of our government? If so, it is a far greater menace than anything the Republicans target.

This is even worse than Rep. Ed Markey's (D-Mass.) accusation that the GOP now stands for "Grandstand, Oppose, and Postone." It means that GOP stands for Grand Old Pogrom.


In the spirit of true healing, we must say to these hate-mongering despicable leaders of surly mobs:

Physician, heal thyself.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Nigger" Used By Angry Vicious Mob

Today marks one of those rarest moments in national government when historic legislation, saved heroically from the jaws of ignorance, could be achieved. For a hundred years, a political battle has been fought in the United States to gain universal healthcare, and now we are on the precipice of a monumental breakthrough. It comes down to a clutch of conservative democrats who are still on the fence because they are fixated on a conjecture: that the new system could somehow advance their bête noire, abortion rights.

Rendering this moment all the more intense, hundreds of reactionaries, many affiliated with the Tea Party movement, have gathered outside the Capitol, jeering and hurling racist and anti-gay epithets at Democratic Representatives. One black lawmaker, Emanuel Cleaver, was spit on. James E. Clyburn, Majority Whip, had this to say:

“I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus."

Rep. Barney Frank was “heckled with anti-gay chants.” (Washington Post, ref. below)

This is not just a few oddballs in an otherwise decent gathering. This is a tinderbox of fury eager to erupt:

“At one point, when Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) wanted to walk across the street to an office building, he was ushered into a car by his security detail and driven a couple hundred feet through the screaming crowd.” (Washington Post)


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/20/AR2010032002556.html?nav=hcmodule


This ugly vitriol reveals the sick face of the impediment to reform. A puerile mob scary to anyone who believes in intelligent discourse and deplores fuehrer-quality furor. Crowds like this are the reason we need more and better education on the perils of agglomerate rage. The prevalence of Tea Party hatemongers, the dregs of citizenry, is a symptom of the illness of dumbed-down dogma that has blighted this land far too long.

But the most garish symptom of all is the Republican Party itself. With goosestep GOP conformity, down to the last member of Congress, they have refused support. Not a single yea vote. So much for individualism and self-expression.

Not only that, they have ceaseless worked to torpedo the bill, maligning it and its supporters with the most vehement rhetoric. "This is not over. They do not have the votes yet. We've got to keep working to make sure that they never, ever, ever, ever get the votes to pass this bill," says Minority Leader John A Beohner (R-Ohio).

Republicans even stoked the vile herd of Tea Party protesters:

“Saturday evening, more than a handful of House Republicans held an impromptu rally on the Capitol steps. Using a megaphone, the lawmakers urged on the crowd. Shortly after 6 p.m., Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) dared Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to come out onto the House steps and address the more than 1,000 people who were gathered at the foot of the Capitol, prompting a loud and angry chant of "Nancy, Nancy, Nancy." (Washington Post)


Long ago, the philosopher Plato said in The Republic that a city-state was like a human soul, with different factions reflecting different traits. Carrying this metaphor to the present, the blind GOP represents that part of the mind which turns childish as catastrophe looms, blaming everyone else and fuming with red cheeks--all the while serving the shadowy interests of the rich and greedy, and denying that eight years of George W Bush tunneled us into a terrible mess.

The Democrats, led by Obama, represent the rational part of the mind, accompanied by its most noble passions. The goal is fairness and equality. To end the suffering of millions who currently have no access to healthcare. If the bill passes, the result will be flawed, but it is our only chance to break out of the stagnant muck of partisanship crippling the USA.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Millions Sick or Dying In the US Without Treatment

Paul Krugman’s latest op-ed, “Why We Reform” sums up my feelings on the stupidity of humanity.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/19/opinion/19krugman.html

This article on healthcare reform in the United States starts out by saying that the fate of reform currently lies in hands of a few conservative Democrats. This handful of folks will decide if we get a flawed yet significant improvement or whether we have to wait perhaps a decade for another chance.

That little bit alone is AMAZING. What the F$*#@ kind of screwed-up sclerotic bureaucracy is so constipated that it can’t make the obvious decision to provide medical treatment for tens of millions of people who currently have no access?

And it’s almost equally ridiculous that if the current plan doesn’t pass, we’ll have to wait ten more years for another chance. What does this say about the moral fabric of the so-called wealthiest nation on Earth?

We pour more money into medicine, per capita, than any other nation, and our system is ridiculous and pathetic. Not only are many people uninsured, those that are insured are paying massive “deductibles” and being horribly gouged.

Here is one commentator’s remarks on the Krugman piece:


“I have an Assurant Health Insurance Policy with a $5,100 deductible. I have had the policy for almost three years, and I have never come close to the deductible limit. Effectively, I am paying for all of my health care, plus the premiums. Despite never having a claim which required payment... my premiums were increased by 50% in one year. If I do become seriously ill, I do not want to have my insurance ‘rescinded’”.


The reason so much money does so little is simple: greed. Greedy insurance companies that terminate people’s policies when they get sick. Greedy insurance companies that can deny policies based on absurd pre-existing conditions like acne and being beat up by your spouse.

Krugman’s case of the insurer Fortis (now part of Assurant Health) dropping people with HIV “for any excuse, no matter how flimsy” does indeed, as he says, illustrate “the vileness of our current system.”

And get this: Although Assurant’s systemic cancellation of HIV policyholders was found to be illegal, the fine imposed was not enough to negate the profit of the wrongdoing:


“The truth, widely documented, is that behavior like Assurant Health’s is widespread for a simple reason: it pays. A House committee estimated that Assurant made $150 million in profits between 2003 and 2007 by canceling coverage of people who thought they had insurance, a sum that dwarfs the fine the court imposed in this particular case.”

(Krugman, “Why We Reform”)


The US Empire got rich after WWII and yet within several decades that wealth was securely in the hands of 10% of the population, most of it in the bloated piggybanks of the top 1%. So much money and so little kindness. So much acrimony and selfishness.

A mean horde--a large vocal faction of the citizenry--is thoroughly and disgustingly against what they call “handouts” for those without insurance, which is to say, those who cannot get serious medical treatment without going into massive debt that will dog them all their lives.

Cases of people losing their entire life savings when they get cancer or have a heart attack are not uncommon. Poof. All gone to pay for bloated bills ramped up by a dysfunctional system where hospitals bleed insurance companies and insurance companies bleed the public.

I want to end this rant with one of Krugman’s best lines ever:

“This is a story that could happen only in America. In every other advanced nation, insurance coverage is available to everyone regardless of medical history. Our system is unique in its cruelty.”

I SCREAM out to the gods: Why do you let so many people suffer under the ignorance of so many other people?

Poem: Late Night Block

Here’s a poem of mine that was very recently published in Yes, Poetry! It captures my sad and dour mood quite well; for at the moment I feel absolutely powerless in the face of human ignorance. I am so sick of greed and selfishness ruling the world.

If you like this poem, there are two more of mine at: yespoetry.com (scroll down to March 10)

Thanks for stopping by.

OWL

---------------------------------------------------


Late Night Block

my hands folded, boney.
corpse-still on my lap.
the fingers not
clog dancing over keys.
only a still ridge
announcing
the dark side of the moon.

at two a.m., the dim lamp
is hitting them that way.
shading the bulk of the skin
to pale the knuckles.
each round bump
a bloodless face
of a solider lying near the Marne,
late september.

if they moved now,
it would be sweet magic.
make their fiancées
in distant homelands cry.
but the lamp is heavy.
cold as a gibbous sky
soon to cast sleet.

it’s hard to think under its siege
of anything the dead
want to say.


----------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Acceptance: Ex Cathedra Literary Magazine

I may be violating a high level ecclesiastic code just by mentioning my acceptance. After all, the email arriving with the good news contained this ominous footer:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This email, including any attachments, contains information from Ex Cathedra Literary Magazine, which may be confidential or privileged. The information is intended to be for the use of the individual or entity named above. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this information is prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify the sender immediately by "reply to sender only" message and destroy all electronic and hard copies of the communication, including attachments.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------


But I am so ebullient that I am willing to risk excommunication by the Pope, which is to say the editors. Ah, I’m not making any sense! Well, the situation is this: Ex Cathedra dares to be satirical right down to the attitudes and proclamations of the staff. They’ve obviously endured a good dose of catechism, for they wield their croziers and triregnums with superb sanctimony and grace.

All this would be too much and too ridiculous if it were not carried off with just the right amount of sarcasm and derring-do, balanced with careful writing and a fig leaf of tact. So far, the powers behind the scenes at Ex Cathedra have done it. Judging by the quality of poetry they publish and the very low acceptance rate (2% for the latest issue), they are handling an increasing flood of submissions. This wouldn’t surprise me at all, given the originality and charisma of their very unique and comical approach. Indeed, there is a touch of genius in the genesis of this project. The serious sort that draws attention on a wide scale.

I’m going to risk further papal sanctions by quoting from my privileged acceptance letter once more, despite the above CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE, which specifically applies to entities such as Owl Who Laughs (usually I can ignore contracts because they only apply to individuals and not entities--but these editors are smart!):

--------------------------------------------

The Editors of Ex Cathedra Literary Magazine have thoroughly read your poetry submission. They are pleased to welcome [your poems] into the crisp, new pages of the third issue of Ex Cathedra Literary Magazine: The Third Doctrine, which will appear in its digital form on 27 March 2010. Congratulations!


The Editors are very excited to have found a home for your work and cannot wait to display it to an international audience, alongside some of the greatest writers of the Twenty-First Century. The acceptance rate for this particular issue is projected to be below 2%, with thousands of submissions from outstanding authors around the world.

---------------------------------------------


At this rate of accelerative popularity the editors of Ex Cathedra might someday surpass the real Pope in influence; and then we will have true lovers of great poetry where they should be--holding the keys to paradise.

Thank you Ex Cathedra and especially Arton Gjonbalaj, Editor-in-Chief (I hope I haven’t committed yet another heresy by mentioning this hallowed name).


OWL

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

De profundis clamo ad te, domine

Monday, March 15, 2010

Acceptance: The Linnet's Wings

http://www.thelinnetswings.net/


I was contacted a few days ago by Nonnie Augustine, one of the Review Editors for The Linnet's Wings, and informed that they had taken my poem, "Sea Party." This broke up the miasma that had settled on my day and encouraged me to keep on writing, despite the doldrums and pitfalls of both the creation and submission process.

The Linnet's Wings
has a very low acceptance rate (around 7% on Duotrope) and more importantly cleaves onto very high standards of eloquence. In other words, I am extremely honored and feel, for the moment, exceptionally validated by the poetry world.

THANK YOU, Linnet Editors! You even overlooked the fact that I am a cantankerous owl.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poem of Love: Rebirth

Note: If you are looking for my poem titled "Owl" go here:

Owl Poem



The last stanza of this love poem, written for my talented and beautiful wife, contains some of the most haunting words I have ever penned. It was originally published in Lily Literary Review. The editor of that journal, Susan Culver, now runs an amazing site called Poetry Friends (poetryfriends.blogspot.com).

Thank you for reading.

OWL

PS: You might also enjoy my love poem, "Without You" in the post for October 30, 2009. Here's the link:

Without You

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Rebirth

an old quiet has spit me up
onto the shore of your musical heart.
my hands, which had been dirt,
rekindle around your waist.
my eyes, once glazed,
follow you like infant stars.

skunk-like priests
no longer guard my memory.
my hurt opens its decay,
releasing a boy
whose cuts seal like vindicated lips;
whose flesh retreats
from a city of tombs.

the only thing i fear now
is a life that never died.
i want nothing more
than to touch you softly
until time considers us embers
in the latitudes of Venus.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Problems With The 'Free' Market, Part I: Ethics Follows Profit

It is very hard to do justice to the problems when describing the injustice of the so-called ‘free’ market. There are many layers of deceit. First of all, “free” in this context means freedom of big corporations to pursue wealth and accumulate it. It has nothing to do with civil rights or the well-being and liberty of individuals.

Free market capitalism flourishes just as well in a police state as a democracy, as evidenced by China and the gradual return to dictatorship in Russia. So called “state capitalism” is just free market capitalism where the autocratic government, unimpeded by the bothersome detail of elections, enforces the prerogatives of big business.

The free market should be called what it is: a business tyranny.

Take a few seconds to ponder the implications of putting ‘free’ corporations above the importance of free citizens. This means that society is run by greed, not virtue. That, my friends, is the simple though intransigent essence of our problems in the United States. Ethics is secondary to money-grubbing. Jobs are pared down, people sent unemployed into uncertain futures without a safety net. Why? Because the bankers and buckaroos at the top matter more than the poor and the disenfranchised.

Don’t believe? Try this:

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/business/economy/21unemployed.html?em


Note that “American business” is singled out in the above quote (by a "chief global economist," what a title!). Not all forms of capitalism are ridiculously unethical. The Swedish system of social capitalism is as close as you can get to paradise on Earth today.

Based on history, reason, and a spirituality of love, it is clear that a society whose morals tremble before the quest for gold will deteriorate. The populace will eventually be cleaved. Either seduced by the dark side of materialism or relegated to languish in poverty. When corporations are ‘free’ to reap, they inflict a grim toll; and since they are not accountable like government institutions, they reign doubly perilous.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Defending Abortion, Part IV: Pro-Choice Basics

Previous writing (parts I, II, and III) rebutted certain key arguments offered by the anti-choice faction. Neither the preborn’s potential nor miraculous beauty grant a right to life. Furthermore, the Bible supports pro-choice Christianity. Click the following links:

Defending Abortion, Part III: Dealing With Potential

Defending Abortion, Part II: Pro-Choice Christianity


Defending Abortion, Part I: The Embryo Photo

Here, I am going to make the basic positive case for the legitimacy of abortion in certain situations. First of all, it should be recognized that preborns are not merely lumps of tissue. They are complex and exquisite beings with the capacity to become like you or me, and even foster an entire lineage. The decision to have an abortion should not be taken lightly. Every situation is unique and context always plays a role in this tough decision.

That being said, it still remains true that preborns do not ethically possess a right to life before the third trimester (from here on out I am only talking about the first two trimesters). This hinges on a couple points: (a) a lack of sentience and subconscious, (b) never having had sentience or subconscious.

Here is the key premise of my argument from a commonsense perspective: zygotes, embryos and early fetuses do not have thoughts, memories, loves, hopes, dreams, and sensations. Their minds are incapable.

Here is the key point from a scientific perspective: Until the ‘neural circuitry’ of the brain becomes differentiated and developed, the preborn lacks even the complexity of the simplest mammal.

Not until six months into pregnancy is the basic system in place:

“The cerebral hemispheres now cover the whole top and sides of the brain including the cerebellum. Cerebellar development begins from this moment, but will not be complete until two years after birth. Six distinct layers are now differentiated within the cerebral cortex, and almost all of the neurons within the central nervous system are present by the end of this sixth month of life and neural 'circuitry' continues to develop.”

(http://www.learningdiscoveries.com.au/StagesofBrainDevelopment.htm#TheFoetalStageofDevelopment)


The cerebral hemispheres are the home of the all-important cerebral cortex, which is “largely responsible for higher brain functions, including sensation, voluntary muscle movement, thought, reasoning, and memory.” (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.)

It is not until the seventh month of pregnancy that the sulci and gyri, the ridges and deep grooves on the cortex, start to elaborate. Keep in mind that the outermost layer of the cortex is the most richly populated in brain cells (neurons) and is the last to form:

“The cortex develops in an inside-out pattern in which the earliest born neurons are found in the deepest cortical layers while the later born neurons move to the more superficial layers.”

( http://www.med.yale.edu/chldstdy/plomdevelop/development/january.html )


The following diagram shows the cortex of a six-month old preborn. Note that the first layer (I) is the topmost layer and barely has any dendrites (the connecting ‘wires’ that form between brain cells).

diagram source:

http://www.learningdiscoveries.com.au/StagesofBrainDevelopment.htm#TheFoetalStageofDevelopment








Compare the above to the following cross-section from the Wikipedia entry on “cerebral cortex.” The relevant cross-section is the one on the FAR RIGHT, which shows the cortex of a one-and-half-month-old infant (the others are shots of adults using a totally different scale and technique). Note how incredibly different the infant’s first layer is from that of the six-month-old preborn.





The two cortices are clearly disparate. The layer I of the infant teems with connections. The layer I of the preborn is hardly touched, a couple tentative dendrites at the edge. The other five layers (II-VI) aren't very populous either.


Both the common sense and scientific perspective show a major difference between the infant and the preborn. If your neurons are not differentiated and connected, your brain is the equivalent of a computer without functioning circuitry.

In practical terms, this plays out in many ways. For example, you might ask if the preborn can feel pain. The lack of brain development is highly pertinent:

“Many pro-life groups emphasize that embryos start to develop pain sensors a few weeks after conception. Many readers of their literature then assume that embryos can feel pain from this point in pregnancy onwards. However all available evidence shows that even though these sensors develop early in pregnancy, human embryos cannot actually sense pain. Certain major components of the central nervous system that are necessary to feel pain are not present and functioning.”

(http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_pain.htm )


In conclusion, preborns and infants are radically dissimilar, and this fuels a solid argument for a legitimate pro-choice stance. In another blog entry (coming soon), I will complete the case.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Medulla Review Releases Second Issue

As usual, time is fretting on my ankle, forcing me move quickly and irritability from one insanely bland task to the next. However, I am sneaking away from my chores to offer a brief suggestion: go check out the second issue of The Medulla Review.

http://www.themedullareview.com/Poetry__Issue_Two.html

You'll get classic great poets like Hugh Fox, and some emerging geniuses like Changming Yuan, and then there is a new fresh bold voice, Mellissa Browne, full of irreverence and talent, who curses graphically about bios in her bio, one of the most honest statements around!

You'll also find a couple of my poems in the mix, about which the editor, Jennifer Hollie Bowles, remarks, "This poet wields powerful verse with amazing control."

This issue is eclectic, unpredictable, daring and nonconformist. I love it!

A very happy moment for me in the long road of rejection and struggle. So I offer now a big

HOOOOOOOOOOOT of Happiness to the world.

But time is gnawing on my ankle again, and so off I go, patting my tormentor on the head as if it were a willful chihuahua.


OWL

Friday, March 5, 2010

Homeless Story of J, Part II

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This is the fictional testimony of a hypothetical homeless person named J, who could be you or me.
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I perch on the lip of the gutter, as if it were an anaconda of scum about to attack, and the world seems grotesquely unfair.

The car people, robotic and bored, get to live for many more stressed-out decades, and yet I am going to die soon, I who feels fully alive and free. Part of me wants to embrace my new motto--There Are Worse Fates Than Death--and part of me is just sad and sick and crying. I could go to the shelter and get a cot but I’d be among the snore noises and fart smells of ugly people I don’t know, many of them mentally destroyed. I’d have to chant prayers at night to earn my beans and chant again in the morning to beg my cornflakes.

What is the price of nonconformity? Loneliness. Destitution. And that horrible question that comes over and over like a nightmare whenever I doze or let my mind wander: Can there be meaning in a struggle that will never perceived except by the one who struggles?

Would Beethoven’s 9th Symphony mean anything if it sat forever, unread, at the bottom of the sea?

Surrounded by people, I am the Hermit. Aimlessly walking, I am the Hanged Man. I pay dearly for the prophet aura of my dirty clothes. I wear an invisible pillory of social condemnation that has reduced my existence to shame or nothing, whichever hurts more.

My mind is keen, now that I’ve been let go--from my job and then my country. I stood on my backpack this morning and shouted out to the scurrying workers rushing by: “Busyness is the enemy of hard work!”

Some of them even laughed. One guy applauded. And there were a few dollars.

Burger time at McD’s. Ever been in line for the take-out window without a car?



J

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Acceptance: Yes, Poetry!

http://yespoetry.tumblr.com/


Three poems accepted in Yes, Poetry!


I usually don’t submit poems to brand new journals, but when I went to the site of Yes, Poetry! It was beyond easy to see that editor Joanna Valente has intelligence, vivacity, magnetism, and most important of all, a real itch for poetry and poetic culture. Although most new journals falter quickly and fade, this one has a good chance of becoming an important venue in New York City, the point of origin, and far beyond.

Tumblr.com offers a versatile blog format plus a cool archive system; and Valente has already provided many great entries, an effective prelude to the first issue, better than any I have seen before. For instance, I was struck right away by a video of Allen Ginsberg reading at Carl Solomon’s funeral. This warmly chilling video alone is a good reason to visit the site, but there’s more. It’s pretty astounding, so I’m just going to list some of the recent topics:


March 4, Upcoming poetry readings in NYC

March 3, Looking Back: Billy Collins’ Picnic

March 1, Watch: Allen Ginsberg reading at Carl Solomon’s funeral

February 27, Chapbook Writer Stephanie Adams-Santos

February 26, Time and Memory: A Look at Ilya Kaminsky

February 23, On Our Radar: Elegant Thorn Review

February 17, Ten Writing Prompts


I find it amazing that Valente is writing reviews and poetics in addition to taking submissions. Honestly, I don’t know if she’ll be able to keep it all going without cutting back, or finding some volunteer editors to assist. The writing is clear and informative, too. Here’s an excerpt from her review of Collins:

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In the poem “Picnic, Lightning” many of Collins’ techniques and styles are represented, giving the reader a clear indication of where the work as a whole stands. For example, the poem is in a structure which Collins uses frequently: one long, thin stanza. Many of the lines flow into each other, creating drawn out sentence. However, the length of the sentences does not hinder the work, in fact it plays to its strengths. The images in “Picnic, Lightning” are often beautiful images of nature, and while they are numerous, they work together in such a way that weaves the reader throughout the poem, rather than being overwhelming.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Bottom-line: Yes, Poetry! (I think the abbreviation should be YeP!) has a chance of becoming an important watering hole for NYC poets and others as well. Valente states as part of her mission that she welcomes emerging writers, and THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY for such folks to submit.

This precocious editor has style, depth, appeal and panache. I really hope she succeeds, not just because she took some of my favorite poems (one of which I’ve been working on for over a year), but because YeP! deserves it. This could be the face of the next generation of great zines in New York.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fixing The US, Part IV: The Tillikum Syndrome

The Tillikum Syndrome

The horrific incident at Sea World Orlando, in which Tillikum the killer whale lived up to his name by clenching Dawn Brancheau in his teeth for thirty minutes, indicates a much larger problem, which can be referred to as The Tillikum Syndrome.

The basic situation is simple enough. A blinkered corporation sets up an unhealthy situation with terrible consequences, and a paying public ignores the disgusting wrongdoing for its own purposes.

We can pull four main ingredients from this unenviable picture: (1) a money-hungry corporation, (2) an unhealthy situation, (3) terrible consequences, and (4) a willfully ignorant public.

These four together define the Tillikum Syndrome. In the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, it runs like this:

(1) The money-hungry corporation is Sea World. Making a buck is the number one priority. Doing what’s right is ancillary to profit.

(2) The unhealthy situation is putting a huge apex predator, an orca, in a tiny tub compared to its natural habitat, the ocean, where it is ogled by tourists who chew popcorn and moan, “Oooooooh.”

(3) The terrible consequences are of course the death of human beings (Tillikum has been involved in three deaths), but also a not-so-subtle scummy message: that it is absolutely fine to treat animals and ecosystems as nothing but props for the needs of spoiled consumers. To hell with harmony and spirituality and reverence for life. Let’s have fun and make cash.

(sidebar: Don’t you just love the way business refers to us as “consumers”? Not partners with Nature, not caretakers of the Earth, but devouring bottomless pits of need)

(4) The spoiled US citizens don’t bother to think deeply about the virtue of putting an orca in a tub, the death that results from it, the horrible message it sends, or the stigma inflicted on the nation’s reputation.


The Tillikum Syndrome (TTS) doesn’t just apply to Sea World. There are many applications . What about a chemical company that pollutes while producing? All you have to do is fill in the blanks:


(1) Money hungry corporation: a chemical company

(2) Unhealthy situation: an icky factory plopped down where the buffalo used to roam, an ugly smear on the landscape.

(3) Terrible consequences: environmental pollution and of course that little side effect called cancer.

(4) Willfully ignorant public: the people who buy the cheap products made at the plant, which could be all kinds of nifty things from epoxy to fake rubber shit to hairspray.


See how easy it is to find instances of TTS? The problem is everywhere, riddling the essence of North American society. We have a big problem on our hands, even bigger than a five ton killer whale.

Let me leave you with one more example of The Tillikum Syndrome.

Subject: Wal-Mart

(1) Money-hungry corporation: Wal-Mart

(2) Unhealthy situation: big ugly boxes speckling a continent like a national case of acne, where humans are herded into aisles and check-out lines like cattle. What E.O. Wilson refers to as “glorified feed lots.”

(3) Terrible consequences: Too many to count. Here are some: (a) goods Made in China support the CCP, a police nation without a bill of rights; (b) environmental destruction caused by acquiring “raw materials” to make products, which are produced in nasty factories without proper oversight; (c) mistreatment of the workers in sweatshops around the globe who make the cheap products that spoiled US citizens buy.

(4) Willfully ignorant public: All of us who shop at Wal-Mart, which includes me from time to time. UGH!!! It really is hard to stop. But if we can’t stop completely, at least we can

S L O W D O W N


OWL out

Monday, March 1, 2010

Acceptance: Wilderness House Literary Review

Wilderness House Literary Review has taken four of my poems, all to appear in the April issue. This is a great source of joy, for I love this journal, the various memories it stimulates.

For instance, I often find the poems of Robert K. Johnson in its pages. For a long while, he edited Ibbetson Street Press, and accepted some of my earlier work. He was immediately encouraging and friendly, a much needed buoy in the oft-gloomy world of submissions. I will always be grateful to him for this. I keep up with his most recent publications by reading WHL. Decades of experience have honed his craft.

He has never seemed bitter or worn, even when writing darkly. For example, his latest chapbook (that I know of) is From Mist To Shadow. If any title suggests a sad soul, it is this one--but no. Somehow Johnson makes us cry while we learn from him, and even grow warm from his great wisdom and courage, reveling all the while in his precise lines. With a bard's fluent throat, he poignantly confronts the journey of his life from youth to late middle age. PoetryPorch, reviewing this chapbook, speaks well:

“These exquisitely cadenced poems, with their iambic and anapestic rhythms that seem to breathe so naturally within the speaking voice of the lines, remain open to a wide range of experiences even as they keep their distance, sometimes with wry humor, in the face of sickness and loss.”

(http://www.poetryporch.com/kalogerisonjohnson.html)

A great poet and an extraordinary person.

The current issue of WHL (4.4) also contains familiar names I have long savored to read: Lynn Lyfshin, Christopher Barnes, Mike Amado, Howie Good, and Simon Perchik. All these folks are pushed to their intrepid edge by poetry editor Irene Koronas, a well-accomplished poet who is a true votary of stormy passion. Her latest chapbook, Pentakomo Cyprus, conjures a gamut of feelings. She is mercurially unveiled in her wonder, awe, and angst as she confronts the monstrous beauty of human/nature, using an obscure village as a philosopher's stone.

There is much more to be said about WHL, including its affiliation with the Wilderness House Retreat and the Bagel Bards; but tempus fugit for me, as always, and I am left regretting my weak mind and pathetic stamina.

OWL