Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy belated 250th birthday to Mary Wollstonecraft

Thanks to Feminist Law Professors for pointing out the birthday of this fabulous fore-sister, which took place on April 27.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A, you're an Amazon?

I've never been much one for on-line shopping, so I don't know much about the workings of But a little while back there was a little brouhaha over sales rankings for feminist and gay books disappearing from the site--something that could hurt the sales and popularity of these books. I discovered this all via a fascinating post over on Viva la Feminista.

Apparently, has a policy that it doesn't show sales rankings for "adult" titles. Over the Easter weekend, the sales rankings for large numbers of feminist and gay books--but not for "soft-core" hetero porn--started to disappear. As one might have hoped, a virtual volcano of online protest erupted, mostly on Twitter. (Twitter is another one of those phenomena that I haven't spent time on and don't know much about.) Shortly thereafter, announced that the whole thing was just a "glitch."

Calls for a boycott of Amazon seem to be continuing, according to Deanna Zandt, who wrote the Women's Media Center post that Veronica at Viva La Feminista picked up on.

But Veronica takes the analysis further:
I've seen many a feminist blog and website that has an Amazon bookstore widget. Huh? Really?

Perhaps they missed the story of how the beloved Amazon feminist bookstore tried to sue for stealing their name? They settled out of court, but obviously the fact that a feminist bookstore had their name for 30 years meant nothing. Oh...and actually asked the owners whether they were lesbians during the pre-trial depositions? I admit that I'm practically ancient when it comes to online wars. And that I had forgotten this detail until I reread this article, but I've tried to limit my purchases since the throw down with the bookstore. I'm sure that I knew that tidbit back then, but just remembered "Try not to use them!"
Okay, I'm certainly not in the business of telling anyone where to shop. Really. But I think Veronica is making the point that is a typical large corporation interested in doing whatever it can to make the most money possible. If promoting feminist and gay literature is profitable for them, they'll do it. If suppressing free speech is profitable for them, they'll do that, too. If stepping on the oldest independent feminist bookstore  in North America is good for their bottom line, they'll do it. That's what giant corporations do. There's no reason to be surprised by's bad behavior.

If you'd like an independent alternative, you might try the IndieBound web site.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Trying to put a stop to legalized torture

I've been somewhat hesitant to support the prosecution of Bush administration officials and government operatives for ordering and carrying out the torture of suspected terrorists. Sure, Bush and his minions were pretty bad, assaulting civil liberties and maliciously meddling in the affairs of other countries. But that's what the US government usually does, under Democratic presidents as well as Republicans. I don't want to support the polite fiction that the US usually acts for good in the world, and that W. was some kind of abberration.

On the other hand, over at happening-here? (one of my favorite blogs, by the way),  janinsanfran argues persuausively that if we don't prosecute the misdeeds of Bush admininistration officials, we are helping to condone this behavior by officials in future administrations. She points out that Richard Nixon's pardon by Gerald Ford set the stage for much of the evil done by the George W. Bush administration:
So what happened? Nixon, personally, aged out of most action, rather bitterly. But the thugs (yes, they are thugs) who learned executive abuse of the power under his administration came right back.

Donald Rumsfeld: functionary under Nixon; White House chief of staff, then Secretary of Defense under Ford; diplomatic envoy for Reagan, including taking the old boy's greetings to Saddam Hussein during the Iraqi dictator's war on Iran; Secretary of Defense under Bush II, architect of the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Dick Cheney: assistant to Rumsfeld in the Ford White House, then Chief of Staff; a Congressman under Reagan working for such causes as blocking sanctions on South African apartheid; Secretary of Defense under Bush I; exponent of the monarchical executive; finally a Veep who claimed to be a previously unheard of fourth branch of government.

Those two old wannabe dictators aren't likely to be back -- it's their intellectual heirs who must face legal jeopardy if Obama's verbal repudiation of torture is to amount to anything. Addington, Feith, Bybee, Bradbury, and Yoo, minimally, need to explain to a court their conspiracy to violate American and international law. If they are allowed to waltz off to live on right wing welfare (and a federal judge's salary in the case of Bybee), Obama hasn't restored the rule of law. He's just postponed the country's next leap into the abyss.
 The whole post is well worth reading. See also this post on the possibility that the CIA might "go rogue" in response to Obama's release of the the torture memos, and this post about Senator Joe Lieberman's response to the situation.

If you want to read the torture memos for yourself, and sign an ACLU petition calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor, you can do so here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pooling our resources...

I've just finished my first adventure using craigslist.

Out in my backyard, I had this old-above ground pool that was there when I moved in:

I'm not really much of a swimmer, and I have plenty of other things at my house to repair, renovate, and maintain. Really. My friends told me, "The frame of the pool is the thing that is most expensive and difficult to get. Someone is going to want that." But no one I knew actually did want it, except for one woman who didn't have a back yard big enough to put it in.

"Put it on craigslist,"everyone said. So finally, I did, thinking no one really would be interested. Thinking that if worse came to worst, it wouldn't be that difficult to take it apart and haul it out to the curb for the next Big Trash Day.

Well, it worked! I got more emails than I could possibly answer, inquiring about the pool. I picked one email that seemed to have really good energy, and gave the folks a call. Friday night they came out to take a look at it, and Saturday evening when I got home from work, it was gone.

A nice family is going to have a nice pool, and I have that thing out of my back yard, so I can concentrate on my next project, constructing a French drain to protect the foundation of the house.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What's a lesbian civil libertarian to think?

Okay. It's my gut feeling that outing people is kind of rude and uncalled for. But is it a criminal offense? And how far should an institution go in trying to catch someone who does this?

If accurate, this story, courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is truly bizarre.
On Friday, EFF and the law firm of Fish and Richardson filed an emergency motion to quash and for the return of seized property on behalf of a Boston College computer science student whose computers, cell phone, and other property were seized as part of an investigation into who sent an e-mail to a school mailing list identifying another student as gay. The problem? Not only is there no indication that any crime was committed, the investigating officer argued that the computer expertise of the student itself supported a finding of probable cause to seize the student's property.
According to another EFF report:
Some of the supposedly suspicious activities listed in support of the search warrant application include: the student being seen with "unknown laptop computers," which he "says" he was fixing for other students; the student uses multiple names to log on to his computer; and the student uses two different operating systems, including one that is not the "regular B.C. operating system" but instead has "a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on."
I wondered if there was an "opposing point of view," and did a quick web search on "boston college gay email investigation". Every reference to the story that I found seemed to be computer tech web sites that were repeating the EFF angle. Another quick search of mainstream news organizations found no reference to the story. I posted a request for information on the Boston College web site, and held this post for a few days to see if they responded. They didn't.

It sounds to me as if Boston College has gone way overboard in trying to punish the student they think was responsible. And the idea that using a command prompt is suspicious behavior would be funny, if it weren't so frightening. (Just as an aside, here, you don't need to use Linux to get a command prompt. Your Windows machine has one if you just look under "Accessories.") But maybe the story is more complicated than EFF is letting on. EFF seemed to gloss over the nature of the email in question. Was it ugly, vulgar, threatening?

Ironically, Boston College, an institution run by the Jesuits, is no haven for gay rights. At one time, it seems to have made a list of the nation's most homophobic campuses, although another article in the Boston Phoenix suggests that this reputation is not entirely deserved.

Radical feminists may remember Boston College as the one-time employer of philosopher Mary Daly. In 1999, Daly left Boston College after settling a lawsuit before it went to trial. Daly had sued BC for violating her tenure and free-speech rights, after the institution tried to force her to admit men to her regular classes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Women in Dominican Republic fight anti-choice constitutional amendment

Inter Press Service has all of the details.
SANTO DOMINGO, Apr 23 (IPS) - A truck full of female police officers, dressed in black riot protection gear, pulled up in front of the General Assembly building here to confront and control the crowd of women who had gathered on Tuesday to protest a "right to life" amendment to the Dominican constitution.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day in Oklahoma

Thanks to the Oklahoma Democratic Party for links to Oklahoma Sustainability Network and Oklahoma Earth Day Resources.

Yes, again.

Feministing reports that there has been a second case of an 11-year-old boy committing suicide because of anti-gay bullying.

Saberi update

Inter Press Service has this update on the situation of jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who also reported for IPS, along with other news organizations such as National Public Radio and the BBC.

Racism conference rescued by final declaration

Inter Press Service has this useful analysis of the recent UN Racism Conference.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

off our backs alive, kicking

Or at least that's what they say on their web site.

The link above is not a permanent link, but here is what the oob site is reporting as of this writing:
Our newly reorganized, re-energized gathering of enthusiastic, talented and committed radical feminist women is dedicated to oob's continuation as the beacon and source of feminist journalism and activism it has been since 1970. We plan to survive and thrive! Look for our next issue to hit your libraries, bookstores and mailboxes in mid June 2009!
This is very good news. Founded in 1970, off our backs is the oldest surviving feminist periodical in the US. You may remember that last fall, oob was in such difficult financial shape that they suspended their print edition and took time to re-group. But now the print edition of off our backs is back, and they've also started a blog as well.

Congratulations, sisters.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Oklahoma by the Numbers

The Oklahoma Policy Institute has just released their April edition of Numbers You Need. Here's the short version:

Oklahoma unemployment rose steeply in February to 5.5 percent--the highest rate here since 2003, but still well below the national average. Inflation rose slightly. Growth in personal income in the final quarter of 2008 was anemic, but nationwide, personal income declined. The number of Oklahomans taking part in the program formerly known as food stamps grew for the tenth straight month. High energy prices have had a noticeable effect on the state's production of natural gas and oil. Finally, "State revenue collections continued their downward spiral in March."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Iranian-American journalist jailed as spy by Iran

Roxana Saberi has reported for such news organizations as the BBC, National Public Radio, and Fox News. She was originally arrested for buying alcohol, later charged with working as a journalist without a valid press card, and finally charged with espionage.

BBC NEWS has the details.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Astro-turf tea parties

When logged out of my Hotmail account last evening, I found the following link on the web site:

Anti-tax 'tea parties' vent anger across U.S. - Life-

These are supposed to represent grass-roots opposition to President Obama's economic policies. We are told that these policies oppress US taxpayers by taking away their hard-earned money, while leaving a legacy of debt to younger generations. Even, however, acknowleged that the rallies were promoted by a conservative think tank called FreedomWorks.

This post on the progressive web site AlterNet tells a slightly different story:
(A)s with so much on the right, these apparent displays of populist rage are not what they will seem.

Six weeks ago, two of us (Mark Ames and Yasha Levine) published an investigation exposing the nascent "Tea Party" protest movement for what it really is: a carefully planned AstroTurf (or "fake grassroots") lobby campaign hatched and orchestrated by the conservative advocacy organization FreedomWorks. Within days, pieces of the scam had crumbled, exposing a small group of right-wing think tanks and shady nonprofits at its core.

The whole AlterNet post is well worth reading.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What, me worry?

If you're inclined to worry, you could find a few reasons to worry on

First, you could read that the Targeted Killing of Women's Rights Activist Shocks Afghans.

Then, you could read about the possible collapse of Pakistan within six months time, the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran, or the serious risk that President Obama's Wall Street bailout is not only pandering to the rich and greedy, but also likely to fail.

Or, you might find yourself troubled that the US Treasury Department has directed General Motors to prepare a bankruptcy filing.

But apparently, the Mid America CropLife Association (read, lobbying group for agribusiness) thinks that we are facing a more serious threat than all of these. MACA appears to be worried that Michelle Obama's organic White House garden fails to "recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the US."

I think any further comment from me would be entirely superfluous.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another point of view on Somali pirates

AlterNet has cross-posted this article from the British newspaper The Independent, reporting that while many Somali pirates are indeed thugs, others are trying to prevent things like illegal fishing and the dumping of nuclear waste.

The Independent also reports that US snipers have killed three pirates who were holding a US sea captain hostage. The crew of the Maersk Alabama had repelled a pirate attack, but the retreating pirates had taken Captain Richard Phillips, who had offered himself as a hostage. Also, Somali insurgents fired mortars in the direction of US Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) as he was leaving from a visit to that troubled nation. Payne, who has been in the House since 1988, chairs the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bad Bush policies continued, part two

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an important warrantless wiretapping case pending in federal district court in northern California, the Obama DOJ's New Arguments Are Worse Than Bush's.

The case is called Jewel v. ISA. In this case EFF is suing government agencies, including the National Security Agency, on behalf of AT& T customers to stop what it calls "the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records."

EFF blogger Tim Jones reports that in a recent motion to dismiss the case, the Obama administration made two troubling arguments:
First, they argued, exactly as the Bush Administration did on countless occasions, that the state secrets privilege requires the court to dismiss the issue out of hand. They argue that simply allowing the case to continue "would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security." As in the past, this is a blatant ploy to dismiss the litigation without allowing the courts to consider the evidence.

It's an especially disappointing argument to hear from the Obama Administration. As a candidate, Senator Obama lamented that the Bush Administration "invoked a legal tool known as the 'state secrets' privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court." He was right then, and we're dismayed that he and his team seem to have forgotten.

Sad as that is, it's the Department Of Justice's second argument that is the most pernicious. The DOJ claims that the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.

This is a radical assertion that is utterly unprecedented. No one — not the White House, not the Justice Department, not any member of Congress, and not the Bush Administration — has ever interpreted the law this way.

For myself, recently I've been searching for a new Internet service provider. I've been using dial-up, and at my house it's about half as fast as it used to be at my apartment. I've been considering going with AT&T, but now I think I won't.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Associated Press reports Midwest City blaze started intentionally

The report is here.

Bad news from California

Longstanding Oakland, Calif., Women's Clinic Closes After Lack of Medicaid Reimbursements, according to the Daily Women's Health Policy Report.

Bad Bush policies continued, part one

According to the Daily Women's Health Policy Report:
President Obama filled the remaining seats on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships this week, appointing an antiabortion-rights Pentecostal bishop among his last nine selections to complete the 25-person panel, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports. Bishop Charles Blake is a presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, a predominantly black Pentecostal church with about six million members. At a Democratic National Convention interfaith service, Blake called on Obama to adopt policies to reduce the need for abortion and criticized those who show "disregard for the lives of the unborn." The White House has asked the council to address four priorities, which include economic recovery, reducing the need for abortion, "encouraging responsible fatherhood" and improving interfaith relations, according to the AP/Tribune.
Let's start out with the whole idea of "faith-based initiatives," which Obama decided to continue and expand. Regardless of what safeguards are supposedly in place to protect the separation of church and state, I'm not sure it's a great idea for religious organizations to receive federal money. Religious groups that want to engage in charitable work are already able to collect money tax free to use on those projects. Why should they also be also awarded taxpayer money to fund their programs?

I'm even less sure that it's a good idea for there to be a special federal office devoted to encouraging the charitable projects of religious groups. And what does it mean for the government to try to improve interfaith relations? This sounds a lot like government meddling in religion, which is at least as bad as religious groups meddling in government. It also sounds like the government trying to say, we don't care which religion you practice, as long as you practice some religion. The whole thing makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

And then there is the question of who President Obama has decided to appoint to the advisory panel. As Ann at Feministing points out, "he's stacking the panel with anti-choice men."

So maybe the more things "change," the more things stay the same?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy smokes!

When I walked outside briefly tonight while I was at work, I felt the wind gusting and smelled the smell of smoke in the air. It was enough to make a person uneasy. Later, I took a break, and back in the break room the local news people on the television were reporting fires, fires, and more fires. After work, I came down to Sauced to have some pizza and look at the Internet.

The Associated Press reported that Dozens of homes burn as fires scorch Texas, Okla. I also found that the Muskogee Phoenix had reported this afternoon that I-35 was closed in north central Oklahoma because of the fires. Scary stuff. I wish there was something useful I could say. It's enough to make a person hope for rain, snow, and unseasonably cold temperatures.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Speaking Frankly

(Part I of a sporadic series on what economics is all about. I think this is what I would call economic philosophy, which sounds intimidating, but if we look at it in small chunks, I'm hoping it won't be.)

I want to start examining some economic concepts. When I listen to economic news on the radio, the reporters and commentators seem to take some things for granted that I would like to challenge.

President Obama's budget is criticized by Republicans and some Democrats because it would increase the size of the deficit. Republicans also complain that it would also increase the size of government. "Blue Dog" Democrats say that most of the president's program would be worthwhile, but we can't afford them.

Meanwhile, the conservative governments of France and Germany say that they don't want to add any more economic stimulus programs in their countries because such spending might touch off inflation.

But are deficits and inflation necessarily bad things? Economist Ellen Frank says they aren't.

Frank is the author is The Raw Deal: How Myths About the Deficit, Inflation, and Wealth Impoverish America. This book was published by Beacon Press in 2004, and is available through the Oklahoma County Metropolitan Library System. The call number is 330.973 F8283r.

Starting on page 192 of The Raw Deal, Frank has a useful summary of the economic convential wisdom that has taken hold over the past 30 years. She notes that this is called supply-side economics by the people who favor it, and market fundamentalism by the people who oppose it.

This belief system calls for government economic policy to work toward balanced budgets, low inflation, and very low taxes on accumulated wealth or high incomes. It also calls for very low expenditures on government programs that provide services to ordinary people--services like health care, pensions, child welfare, or education.

Market fundamentalists insist that the government shouldn't help out its citizens or take care of the economy. They say that rich people will make productive investments that create jobs and make a better life for everyone, If allowed to make and keep as much money as possible. Under this belief system, it's just not possible that the unregulated free market would fail to provide fair access to jobs and resources.

Writing in 2004, Frank had seen the collapse of the dot com bubble on Wall Street, but not the collapse of the housing bubble and the mess that followed from it. But she accurately identified many of the pitfalls of supply-side economics, and the core fallacy that holds it together. That fallacy is that what is good for the economic elite is good for the rest of us and for society as a whole. The myth is that everyone can be rich.

"Financial wealth"--abstract entries in checkbooks and computer data banks--gets confused with the real economy. The real economy, Frank points out at the beginning of the book, is made up of actual goods and services--things like automobiles, haircuts, knee-replacement surgeries. Money is just a tool that helps these things get moved around. As Frank says on page 8:

Simple arithmetic dictates that the average standard of living in a society cannot grow faster than that society's output. Therefore, no one person's share can grow by more than the average unless somebody, somewhere, gets stuck with a smaller slice of the economic pie. If the economy grows at, say, 4 percent per year, then there will be only 4 percent more stuff--cars, bread, haircuts, housing--to go around. Some people, through luck or clever financial trnasactions, might manage to increase their own incomes by more than 4 percent. but when a lucky few investment specialists of CEOs realize tremendous gains, it stands to reason that others somewhere down the line either suffer losses or receive less than a full share of the economy's growth.

Throughout her book, Frank analyzes how the principles of supply-side economics are designed to allow rentiers to monopolize the products of the real economy at the expense of the rest of us. Rentiers are those elite few "individuals and institutions with substantial accumulated wealth who live on the interest income generated by financial assets--banks, financial firms, and their wealthy clients."

We're told that inflation and deficit spending are bad, and they are, for rentiers. For the rest of us, it's different.

For instance:
Debts of the federal government differ entirely from personal debts; they do not need to be repaid, are not claims on the income of ordinary families, and will not plague future generations. While it is true, in a vague and general sense, that "we" owe this money, it is also true, as any introductory economics textbook will explain, that we owe it mostly to ourselves.

These days "we" seem to owe quite a bit to the Chinese as well, and I'm not sure how this affects the equation. My hunch is that economic conservatives tend to exaggerate whatever this effect might be. At any rate, conservatives tend to ignore deficits when they are brought about by tax cuts for the wealthy or by expenditures on wars (which, coincidentally, tend to enrich private contractors in which they hold an ownership interest.) These same conservatives complain about deficits when they are caused by government expenditures that create demand in the real economy and benefit ordinary people.

The situation with inflation is similar. A moderate amount of inflation actually benefits ordinary people:
Evidence abounds that countries willing to tolerate moderate inflation are able to sustain higher rates of job growth for longer periods of time. A study by economists at the World Bank found that inflation rates of up to 20 percent annually are correlated, throughout the world, with higher rates of economic growth.

Frank notes that the only significant effect of inflation alone (not falling income or standards of living that might occur with or without inflation). "(I)nflation erodes the value of money over time." That hurts the extremely wealthy who depend on their accumulated income rather than on money earned by working for a living.

We live in interesting times. On the one hand, the Obama administration has promised real change from the exploitation and greed that reached its peak during the eight years of the second Bush administration. We do see many programs that promise to rebuild the real economy and help ordinary people.

On the other hand, Obama seems to accept much of the economic orthodoxy that culminated in the current worldwide economic depression. We need to seriously rethink that orthodoxy, and The Raw Deal is a very good place to start.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Foreign Policy in Focus: London summit has "disastrous results"

Yesterday, I linked to a Foreign Policy in Focus analysis by Walden Bello of the issues facing the G-20 summit. Here's a link to FPIF's analysis of the summit's results.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It doesn't take a rocket scientist..

John Feffer at Foreign Policy in Focus asks, What's Up with North Korea? and comes up with some sensible answers.

Foreign Policy In Focus | U-20: Will the Global Economy Resurface?

Walden Bello at Foreign Policy in Focus has a useful analysis of the issues facing the recent summit of the G-20 nations in London.

Bello says that the International Monetary Fund has been discredited, and the summit decision to grant the IMF a trillion dollars to stimulate the economies of developing nations is exactly the wrong move. Instead, Bello says:
First of all, since legitimacy is a very scarce commodity at this point, the UN secretary general and the UN General Assembly — rather than the G20 — should convoke a special session to design the new global multilateral order. A Commission of Experts on Reforms to the International Monetary and Financial System, set up by the president of the General Assembly and headed by Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, has already done the preparatory policy work for such a meeting. The meeting would be an inclusive process like the Bretton Woods Conference, and like Bretton Woods, it should be a working session lasting several weeks. One of the key outcomes might be the setting up of a representative forum such as the "Global Coordination Council" suggested by the Stiglitz Commission that would broadly coordinate global economic and financial reform.

Second, to immediately assist countries to deal with the crisis, the debts of developing countries to Northern institutions should be cancelled. Most of these debts, as the Jubilee movement reminds us, were contracted under onerous conditions and have already been paid many times over. Debt cancellation or a debt moratorium will allow developing countries access to greater resources and will have a greater stimulus effect than money channeled through the IMF.

Third, regional structures to deal with financial issues, including development finance, should be the centerpiece of the new architecture of new global governance, not another financial system where the countries of the North dominate centralized institutions like the IMF and monopolize resources and power. In East Asia, the "ASEAN Plus Three" Grouping, or "Chiang Mai Initiative," is a promising development that needs to be expanded, although it also needs to be made more accountable to the peoples of the region. In Latin America, several promising regional initiatives are already in progress, like the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas and the Bank of the South. Any new global order must have socially accountable regional institutions as its pillars.
The entire post isn't terribly long and is well worth reading.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The poem about the clog in the drain pipe under my house, under my kitchen sink.

This is a poem that includes a hacksaw.
Every poem should include a hacksaw.
I suppose you shouldn't get a clog out of your drain with a hacksaw,
but it was my drain pipe, and my hacksaw, and darn it, it worked.

Here is how I found out about the clog in my drain pipe.
It started when I was crawling under the house
with the engineer who is advising me about how to fix my foundation.
If you haven't guessed, this is what they call a fixer house, and
I thought I had fixed the plumbing well enough to last
until I fix the foundation, but I thought wrong.
Because there, down in the crawl space under the kitchen sink,
there was wet clay,
and a tiny puddle against the concrete wall.

And I wanted to believe the engineer
when he said it probably wasn't anything.
But a person has to check.
So once the engineer was gone, I stayed in my coveralls,
and turned on the kitchen sink,
and crawled underneath the house again.
I  crawled back toward the kitchen sink, and I could hear water flow,
and there, right under my kitchen sink,
I discovered the fountain of youth,
water flowing up
and out
from an un-plugged clean-out opening in the drain.

I can see this poem so clearly in my head,
the white pipe, and the fountain,
the slurping sound the water made as it fell,
and then there is the whole mechanistic troubleshooting process that went through my head,
which led me inexorably to the conclusion that the drain must be clogged,
and I can still feel the poem in the memory of my elbows, covered in gray cotton twill,
digging themselves into the hard clay as my eyes watched the water fall.
I wish I could write the poem so that you could see it, so that you could ride with me
over 23rd Avenue to the hardware store, and home again,

It is poetry to climb under a house on your elbows and knees,
there is poetry in exploring with a springy metal plumber's snake,
there is poetry in the reckless recognition that it is my hacksaw
and my drain pipe,
and I can damn well use the one to take the other apart,
and glue everything back together again. I can only

it's a poem, because there's no way this is a coherent story,
but plumbing is never a coherent story, if you ask me,
plumbing is the best kind of incoherent poetry, just me and the
hacksaw and the snake under the house, and a screwdriver to
disassemble the clamp where the plastic drain pipe
joined the old cast iron,
poetry is that wet smell when I found the clog,
the slippery, gooey mess that came out on my fingers,
purple primer works better than purple prose,
in my humble opinion,
poetry is the swish of purple primer and the smell of glue
when I take my handiwork and put it back together.

Poetry is mud and the scrape on my finger from the time
I slipped with the hacksaw.
Poetry is a story I am only just learning how to tell.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's National Poetry Month...

...and you can find all the details at

Here in Oklahoma City, there will be a special event to celebrate National Poetry Month on April 25 at the Ralph Ellison Library. There are activities all day, and the featured speaker will be poet Deborah Hunter.

Tuesday night at the spoken word event at Galileo, someone talked about writing a poem a day this month. I think I'll try to do that. If I wrote 30 poems this month, I might start to feel like a poet, again. So, I'm doing a few other things, but hey, how much time could it take?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Remembering Patsy Mink

Women's Media Center has an interesting post by Emily Wilson on Kimberlee Bassford's new documentary film on Patsy Mink, scheduled to air on PBS in May.