Poem o’ the Day

I love haiku. I especially love haiku translations that capture the sense of the original: short, sweet and to the point.

Basho

Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers’
imperial dreams

Traveling this high
mountain trail, delighted
by violets
The old pond,
A frog jumps in:
Plop!


Issa

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

Cherry blossom shade
no one an utter
stranger

Spring breeze–
a mouse licking up
Sumida River

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Swine Flu: The Terrarists Diddit

Newest wingnut theory: the swine flu is a terrorist attack:

Larry Klayman and the Worldnutdaily are a perfect match. If Michelle Bachmann is the prom queen at Wingnuttia High School, Klayman is her king. His latest bit of lunacy is in claiming that the outbreak of swine flu is an act of biological warfare. And the Worldnutdaily calls him an “anti-terrorism expert.” No, seriously.

With 40 confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S., an anti-terrorism expert is questioning whether the outbreak is an act of biological warfare.

Freedom Watch, a public interest watchdog, believes that there is a very good possibility that the precipitous outbreak of the virus in Mexico, which has now spread to the United States and other western countries, is not the result of happenstance – but terrorism.

Anti-terrorism expert? Klayman knows as much about anti-terrorism as I know about the art of Origami. He’s a lawyer. A really bad lawyer who loves filing silly lawsuits. He’s what Larry Fafarman would be if he could get the dosages right. And you’re going to love his “evidence” that swine flu is spreading as an act of terrorism:

“What could be more clever than planting the seed in neighboring Mexico and allowing it to spread to the United States?” Freedom Watch asked.

This is the kind of shit that third-rate hack writers dream up, not terrorists. Guess what the Worldnut Daily’s made up of?

So’s the HuffPo’s “health” section. And the swine flu’s got the woo-meisters swarming like starving cockroaches on a dropped dinner:

Take “Dr” Wegmann at that execrable waste of bytes, the Huffington Post. This guy can’t even write a title without lying: 3 Sure-Fire Strategies to Prevent the Swine Flu.

Hey, fuck face: we don’t know enough about this thing yet to use the hack phrase “sure-fire”. Of course, that doesn’t really matter to you, you lying sack of excrement-filled kishkes. The lies pour out of you like pus from a diabetic foot wound (but less bonum et laudum). You actually go on to recommend fucking glorified massage therapy to prevent the fucking flu! That’s not even wrong! You reason that since chiropractic enhances the immune system (according to some dude–what, did you hear that at the bar?), that it is a “sure-fire” way to prevent the flu.

Now, ignoring (if that is humanly possible) the fact that rubbing someone’s back cannot prevent an infectious disease, and ignoring the vacuously meaningless statement of “boosting immunity”, even if we could “boost immunity”, who’s to say that’s a good thing? One theory for why the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 killed so many young people and spared the very young and elderly (unlike the usual flu) is that their relatively more robust immune systems killed them by over-reacting.

I love watching PalMD beat the woo-meisters to death. It’s awesome. And I’m sure plenty of beatings will follow.

Terrorist plots. Massage for swine flu. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.

Pathological Purity

Purity can be pathological. It can also ensure your party is reduced to a pathetic, irrelevant remnant, which seems to be exactly where the frothing fundies now in control of the Cons want to take the GOP:

The 2012 elections are obviously very far away, but Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman certainly seems to be running for president. This week, he’s making campaign stops appearances in three key Michigan counties over five days.

It would have been four counties, but one of them refuses to listen to what Huntsman has to say. He’d already been invited to speak in Kent County, but then local GOP activists learned Huntsman supports civil unions.

Utah Gov. John Huntsman (R), seen by many as a potential top-tier presidential candidate in 2012, has been uninvited from a local Michigan Republican club after announcing his support for civil unions between gay couples.

[snip]

Keep in mind, we’re not talking about an event to deliver an endorsement. Huntsman — a conservative Republican governor from a conservative Republican state — just wanted to stop by and talk to these folks. But since he supports civil unions — not marriage equality, just civil unions — they don’t even want Huntsman to walk in the door.

This really isn’t healthy.

Noper. Let’s just have a look at what that ideological purity’s likely to gain them:

Seems like the vast majority of the country isn’t at all worried about icky gays getting married, or at least having the same legal rights and benefits as married couples. Bigotry aside, if the GOP plans to ever win a national election ever again, looks like they’re going to have to get the rabid right wing under control.

Otherwise, the recent polls showing support for the Cons at 20% might’ve been a tad optimistic, and they’d best get used to being the boil on the ass of America.

Parallel Universe or Time Travel?

Two theories on Michele Bachmann’s dramatic ignorance. Eric Kleefeld thinks she’s reciting history from an alternate Earth:

Make no mistake: When it comes to economics, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) knows her history — even if that history is from another planet.

On Monday night, our friends at Dump Bachmann reported, Bachmann took to the House floor and paid tribute to the economic policies of Calvin Coolidge and the “Roaring 20s” (the era that ended with a massive monetary contraction and the Great Depression). One particular line really does stand out, though — saying Franklin Roosevelt turned a recession into a depression through the “Hoot-Smalley” tariffs:

Here’s what really happened: When Franklin Roosevelt took office, unemployment was already about 25%. And the tariff referred to here was actually the Smoot-Hawley bill, co-authored by Republicans Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah and Rep. Willis Hawley of Oregon, and signed into law by President Herbert Hoover.

So, in Michele Bachmann’s parallel universe, FDR became president much earlier, and some buggers named Hoot and Smalley tariffed the country to death. Oooo-kay. Makes for a lame-ass story, though.

Matt Yglesias thinks it’s time travel:

Kleefeld needs to read Michael Dummett on reverse causation. It’s true that Bachmann is making an unfortunate error about the names of Messrs. Smoot and Hawley. But her contention is simply that Roosevelt, though he took office in March 1933, was actually able to cause events in the past precipitating the very years-long Depression that led to his election. It’s a bit confusing, yes. And somewhat metaphysically controversial. But not at all something she deserves to be mocked for.

(Don’t try this kind of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm at home, kiddies. Poor Matt ended up hospitalized with a severe tongue dislocation.)

Cons seem to be working off of both theories. Hopefully, this will help you understand why they don’t believe they’re just ginormous fucking ignoramuses.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

When the going gets tough, the wingnuts get rabid:

Keith Olbermann, on Countdown last night, brought the whammy down on the wingnut talking heads at Fox (and the rest of the conservative media as well) for their ongoing attempts to blame immigrants for the spread of the swine flu from Mexico:

Well, yes, you are a racist. Exactly how does that apply, though, to the people who the Centers for Disease Control confirmed actually carried the Swine Flu from Mexico to the U.S., a group of Catholic school students from New York City, who spent Spring Break in Cancun. Uncontrolled Catholic immigration, open borders for private school kids reckless?

Anyway, unswayed by the facts, the Republican echo chamber tried to stir the American melting pot with a classic recipe of hate and fear.

[snip]

Tom Allison at Media Matters put together a first-round look at some of the ugliness:

— Savage declaring that Mexicans “are a perfect mule — perfect mules for bringing this virus into America.”

— Michelle Malkin warning that the pandemic was the product of “uncontrolled immigration.”

— Beck warning that the pandemic will create a crush of people trying to flee north across our border.

And that’s just scratching the surface. As Eric Ward at Imagine 2050 observes, some of the nativist right’s more inflammatory figures were saying even uglier things.

I’m sure they are. Their minds just aren’t equipped to treat other people as human beings, or deal with facts vs. their frothing fanatic fantasies.

In case you think they’re just running scared because of the swine flu, and feel moved to give them the benefit of the doubt, you might want to observe that this is merely standard operating procedure:

I’ve read quite a few columns from Byron York over the years, first during his tenure at the National Review, and more recently as the chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner. I’ve seen plenty of commentary I strongly disagree with, but none has offended me quite as much as his latest column.

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are. [emphasis added]

[snip]

The problem, of course, is that damn phrase “than they actually are.” York argues that we can see polls gauging public opinion, but if we want to really understand the popularity of the president’s positions, and not be fooled by “appearances,” then we have to exclude black people.

There’s really no other credible way to read this. York effectively argues that black people shouldn’t count. We can look at polls measuring the attitudes of Americans, but if we want to see the truth — appreciate the numbers as “they actually are” — then it’s best if we focus our attention on white people, and only white people.

See, nothing to do with swine flu. Just the usual knee-jerk racism, xenophobia, and inflated sense of their own worth.

And in another example, check out our Con lawmakers, incensed over the idea that gay people might be worthy of protection from hate crimes:

The right wing, unsurprisingly, is up in arms over extending protection to victims of anti-gay crimes. Led by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), House Republicans took to the floor last night to warn that the bill would impose “tyranny,” create a “Big Brother” government, and end religious freedom:

REP MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): I feel that this hate crime legislation could be considered the very definition of tyranny.

REP. GRESHMAN BARRET (R-SC): This bill would inhibit religious freedom in our society — a scary thought.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): You think a pregnant mother does not deserve the protection of a homosexual? You think a military member doesn’t deserve the protection of a transvestite?

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): I, Mr. Speaker, oppose and I defy the logic of the people that would advocate for such legislation the very idea we could divine what goes on in the heads of people when they commit crimes.

[snip]

Apparently unbeknownst to House Republicans, a federal hate crimes law already exists: Passed in 1968, it allowed federal investigation and prosecution of hate crimes based on race, religion, and national origin. The new law would simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected groups, and allow local governments to get needed resources from the federal government for investigations and prosecutions.
It got so bad that one Rep. Virginia Foxx, actually called Matthew Shepard’s murder a hoax:

As the House of Representatives debates an expansion of hate crimes legislation, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has taken the rhetoric to a new level, claiming that those who say Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming for being gay are perpetrating a “hoax” on the American people.

“I also would like to point out that there was a bill — the hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. This — the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills,” said Foxx.

A Foxx spokesman didn’t immediately return a call. The Matthew Shepard “hoax” notion is a popular meme on right-wing blogs.

There’s disgusting, and then there’s despicable. They’ve crossed the threshhold on both.

Poem o’ the Day

Tomorrow’s Poem in Your Pocket Day, don’t forget. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

It struck me today that I’ve been a little heavy on the male poets. It’s not that I don’t like female poets. It’s just that I don’t know many. So I took a stroll through Wikipedia’s List of Female Poets. I clicked on Erinna because the name leaped out. Contemporary of Sappho, lovely. Died young. Wrote one of the most beautiful epitaphs for a friend in existence, of which only fragments survive. Yeah. We’re highlighting her.

I love her poems for a few reasons. First, she didn’t load her poetry down with ten trillion references to the gods, which was the failing of too many ancient Greek poets. Secondly, she’s expressing a friendship and grief that remind us just how timeless those human emotions are. Thirdly, through her, I now know a lot more about what it was like to be a woman in ancient Greece, and it’s fascinating.

Finally, most importantly, she’s one hell of a wordsmith. Even in translation.

The Distaff and Other Poems

…virgins
…tortoise
….moon
…tortoise…
…into the deep wave
you jumped from the white horses with a crazy step.
“I’ve got you,” I cried, “my friend.” And when you were the tortoise
jumping out you ran through the great hall’s court.
Unhappy Baucis, these are my laments as I cry for you deeply,
these are your footprints resting in my heart, dear girl,
still warm; but what we once loved is already ashes.
Young girls, we held our dolls in our bedrooms
like new wives, hearts unbroken. Near dawn your mother,
who handed out wool to her workers in attendance,
came in and called you to help with salted meat.
What terror the monster Mormo brought when we were both little girls:
on her head were massive ears and she walked
on four legs and kept changing her face.
But when you went to the bed of a man
you forgot all you heard from your mother while still a child,
my dear Baucis. Aphrodite filled your thoughts with forgetting.
As I weep for you now I desert your last rites,
for my feet may not leave the house and become unclean
nor is it right for me to look upon your corpse,
nor cry with my hair uncovered; but a red shame
divides me…
Nineteen…Erinna…the distaff…
2.
From here an empty echo reaches into Hades.
But there is silence amongst the dead, and darkness closes their eyes.
5.
My gravestone, my Sirens, and mourning urn,
who holds Hades’ meagre ashes,
say to those who pass by my tomb “farewell,”
both those from my town and those from other states.
Also, that this grave holds me, a bride. Say also this,
that my father called me Baucis, and that my family
was from Tenos, so that they may know, and that my friend
Erinna engraved this epitaph on my tomb.
6.
I am the tomb of Baucis, a young bride, and as you pass
the much lamented grave-stone you may say to Hades:
“Hades, you are malicious.” When you look, the beautiful letters
will tell of the most cruel fate of Baucis,
how her father-in-law lit the girl’s funeral pyre
with the pine-torches over which Hymen sang.
And you, Hymen, changed the tuneful song of weddings
into the mournful sound of lamentation.