Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, February 26, 2015


Today is dedicated to the god Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles, because- hey, whatever works. The journalist and witch, Margot Adler, once said that the challenge of our time is to reconcile the mystical and the rational. It doesn’t come out even. It’s more like holding two different world views simultaneously. Kind of gives you vertigo, but life is so much richer seen this way than through the lens of strict materialism or fundamentalist religion. Here’s the musician, MC Yogi, I first heard in that store in Provincetown that had all the flaming murals on the front for years- kind of miss that.

All the snow in Siberia cannot prevent the inevitable Spring.

The original image of Ganesh is by Jennifer Mazzucco at Fine Art America

Posted in Engaged Paganism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, February 19, 2015

page of cups

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

People of Religion Being Good Neighbors

When any fool with a can of spray paint can get famous overnight for vandalizing a place of worship it’s important to give at least some thought to the good people who teach and live peace. This story from 2010 during the floods that closed Rhode Island Mall and put much of Kent County underwater is worth remembering-

WEST WARWICK — By all accounts, Rose Achabi is a shy person.

But as she sat through Easter service at the Full Life Christian Fellowship Church, she could no longer hold her tongue.
At the Islamic School of Rhode Island at 840 Providence St., where she is a teacher’s assistant, floodwaters had risen more than four feet, seeping into the pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade classrooms on the first floor, damaging students’ books, computers, desks, chairs and teachers’ lesson plans. Everything on that floor had to be thrown away.

When the service was over, she approached her pastor, Brian Regan, hesitating a little given it was Easter, but felt the church family she had known since she was a teenager would come through. She asked Regan if the Islamic School could use the church’s building, which had once served as a Catholic school that belonged to Our Lady of Good Counsel, for classes

“The pastor didn’t hesitate,” said Achabi, a Christian who is married to a Muslim and has three children attending the Islamic School. School members met with Regan Sunday night after he had Easter dinner. “I know they felt funny about meeting on Easter, but they were really worried about finding a place to have their school,” Regan said.

On Thursday, the Islamic School reopened at the Full Life Christian Fellowship Church not far down the road at 59 Pleasant St.

I got this story from SailanMuslim.com which for some reason is blocked on Facebook. The author is Tatiana Pina of the Providence Journal.

And just saying, Bishop Tobin had some kind words for the Islamic community in 2013. An attack on anyone’s place of worship is a threat to the freedom of all.

WRNI reports today that religious groups all over RI are coming out in support of the Islamic School and against hate.

Posted in Church and State, Engaged Paganism | Leave a comment

Mike Huckabee and Jim Bakker, Thick as Thieves

jim and tammy people

I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to Mike Huckabee, Republican hopeful for president, until I saw that he was a guest on the Jim Bakker Show.

As a Catholic girl who was dragged sideways through the Charismatics and then Assemblies of God (Hello, Apponaug!) I was fascinated by the 1980′s unfolding scandal that was Jim & Tammy Bakker. They broke into televangelism early, and found success in begging Social Security dollars from widows so that Tammy could binge-shop and indulge her pets with a luxury air-conditioned doghouse while Jim paid church secretary Jessica Hahn to stay quiet about her claim that he and another preacher, John Wesley Fletcher, drugged and raped her in 1980.

Whatever happened to Jessica, it was bad enough that Jim Bakker wanted to keep it quiet…

Hahn was paid the $10,000 in 1984, and later accepted $265,000 from the ministry in exchange for keeping quiet about her motel tryst with PTL founder Jim Bakker in 1980. Evangelist John Wesley Fletcher also was charged with perjury for his accounting under oath of how he introduced Bakker and Hahn.

Like most of you reading this, I would rather eat broken glass than beg strangers for money. But I’ve done it for a good cause. Have you pledged to WRNI lately? Just asking. Anyway, it’s not the money, it’s the ruthless disregard for the people they deceived.

The Bakkers had been selling lifetime memberships to the park. For $1,000 donation, you’d get a three-night stay in a luxury hotel at Heritage for the rest of your life. Tens of thousands of people bought in, but the Bakkers only started building one 500-room tower. And construction was slow.
Turns out, Jim Bakker was using some the money to pay off a church secretary who says he raped her. He also gave himself more than $3 million in bonuses. The Charlotte Observer exposed the Bakker’s conduct, and more media and legal scrutiny followed. Park attendance dropped, Bakker went to prison for fraud, and Heritage USA filed for bankruptcy.

I’m just imagining Harry and Louise sitting in the cramped living room of their trailer, counting what’s left of their Social Security check after they tithe. They’ve never had a vacation, but here’s their chance. Heritage USA! Good Christian people they can trust! Three nights in a queen-sized bed and days at the water park with real Americans! Louise is going to save the cute little soaps and shampoo bottles for souvenirs!

Jim Bakker got some of what was coming to him. His brother in the Lord, Jerry Falwell couldn’t wait to get his hands on the Bakkers’ PTL media empire and Heritage USA, which was a happening place, not the ghostly ruin it is today.

Jessica Hahn had a brief career posing for Playboy and being notorious, she got pecked at by Barbara Walters in a ‘where are they now?’ TV interview in 2011. Maybe she invested the hush money that Bakker paid her.

Jim’s wife, Tammy Faye, got busy with Jim’s friend, Roe Messner. Roe divorced his wife and Tammy ditched Jim and married Roe while Jim was in prison. Roe later did some time himself for fraud. Tammy liked the bad boys.

tammy faye at the mall

Tammy really should have gone to prison too. There’s no way she didn’t know that they were living large off poor people’s money. But she was the better performer of the two, and that is how she’s remembered. She was a female drag queen, troweling on the makeup and vamping in reality shows. Sadly, she got cancer and died. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Their daughter,Tammy Sue, appeared on Jim Bakker’s new show, their son, Jay Bakker, went into the family business and started a church. I guess it’s what they know, but I’d like them better if any of them got a real job.

Jim Bakker still chases money and power, and Mike Huckabee is his kind of politician.

Journalist Charles Shepard wrote a book about Jim and Tammy, file it next to Bonny and Clyde. There’s still some references to be found on the net-

The trial and conviction of Jim Bakker

A common criminal, said the prosecutor

First felon among TV evangelists

Even some evangelicals were embarrassed

‘People Magazine’ cover from Mental Floss

‘Tammy Faye at the Mall’ T-shirt from Etsy.com

JewEatYet? is worth visiting for Danny Miller’s hilarious review of The PTL Club, The Bakkers’ daytime extravaganza. High camp to some, but they talked the money out of the pockets of countless lonely widows and trusting souls. If there is a God they will spend eternity somewhere warmer than Tammy’s doghouse.

Posted in Church and State, Engaged Paganism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, January 28, 2015

snow on window

Sun is shining and the deep cold has come to stay, maybe for a week, maybe longer. Although it’s commonly said that the Winter Solstice is the point where the days start to get longer, it’s really at the start of February that we start to see the return of the light.

From Pagan Poet-

Imbolc is a pagan holiday and a festival of light. It was a common pagan harvest tradition to light up the lamps of the house for several minutes during Imbolc, as Imbolc rituals usually include light in one form or another whether that be lamps or candles. Neopagans today also use this day to reflect and respect the coming of longer, brighter days and the hope of a healthy, hearty spring.

It’s around this time that we get up to 10 hours of daylight and the weeks of going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark are past. It’s also around this time that the return of the light speeds up as we move toward the next point on the Wheel of the Year, the Vernal Equinox.

Here in New England there’s no point in asking the groundhog- we’ll be lucky if we get only six more weeks of winter, more likely we’ll be freezing our garbanzos for twelve weeks.

But the sunlight brings cheer, Happy Imbolc, February 2nd, this Monday.

Posted in Engaged Paganism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Rainbow vs 50 Shades of Grey

comix 1

I’m bracing myself for the grey wave due to soak us all this Valentine’s Day when the movie opens. A couple of years ago the book was all the talk around my office. Why, I wonder, do smart, competent women go for this type of junk?

But then, my grandmother, who worked as a secretary from youth to old age, a cop’s widow and mother of four, consumed romance novels like she smoked her cigarettes- one after the other. She was nothing like the swooning and weeping women on the covers, even the plucky heroines were wimps compared to her. She faced enough adversity for 3 lifetimes with Irish-American toughness. So why did she love these stories where the right combination of submissiveness and trembling self-assertion won the heart of some arrogant inbred British lord? Like there was no cute stable boys around? Like our relatives back in the old country didn’t have issues with the British?

Good thing Christian Grey doesn’t look like Donald Trump. Even so, this oligarch worship is creepy. Bad enough we have to listen to politicians drivel on about ‘job creators’ as if any mortal ever created anything. As if we need to flatter and appease our betters so maybe they’ll create us some jobs.

And the Fifty Shades plot that a young woman out of college has no better prospects than to sell sex to some rich guy? This is not romance- it’s outrageous. And untenable. Simple math says that the 99% can’t all count on making a living as a sex toy to the 1%.

comix 2

I miss the old days. Back then when we said ‘eat the rich’ we didn’t mean it that way. We wanted to stick it to the man, not kneel down for him. Where did the anger go?

Like everything else in American culture it was co-opted, commodified and neutralized. The draft ended, campuses settled down. The women’s movement made substantial legal gains and discrimination became a dirty word. Plenty of it, but you don’t see ‘whites only’ or ‘ladies entrance’ any more. Social progress left much of America behind and gave cover to the dismantling of the working middle class.

From ‘Dallas’ to ‘Pretty Woman’ to ‘Maid in Manhattan’ and now ’50 Shades of Grey’ it’s the same wealth worship. It doesn’t work for me. I thought Scarlett O’Hara was a slave owning parasite who should get a job. I thought Princess Diana could have done better. I think rich guys are more likely to look like Rupert Murdoch than Richard Gere.

comix 3

I know that escapist fantasies are just that- escape from our real lives. Agency brings responsibility, and that’s a burden sometimes. Everyone on some level would like to be rescued. It’s just that this junk culture, like junk food, will make you fat and hungry at the same time. Believing in fairy tales can mess up your life- think of poor Diana, she dreamed of Prince Charming and got Prince Charles instead.

Who am I to judge? It’s not like I never read The Enquirer in the grocery line. I own the complete set of Firefly. I call M&M’s and potato chips a balanced meal. I think the hottest screen couple ever was the snails in Microcosmos. But there’s something not right in making gods of the rich, even if they are a Christian.

If The Baffler ‘Fifty Shades of Late Capitalism’ is correct, this film may be an orgy of product placement. Tell me if I got that right, I’ll be doing other stuff with my time off.

comix 5

Posted in Feminism, Fiction, Solidarity Economy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, January 24, 2015

7 of swords

Today’s Tarot is the VII of Swords, taking power by unconventional means. Science Times reports that the government of India made an end run around American pharmaceutical company, Gilead, for their new drug, Solvaldi.

Gilead can and should make a profit on this radical cure for Hepatitis C, but they priced the drug so high that even the US will struggle to afford a treatment that runs almost $100,000 per person. No one wants to discourage research and investment, but much of that research is done with government money, and there has to be limits on public investment for private gain.

Meanwhile, in parts of the world where Hep C is epidemic and the cost is out of sight, patent law must not stand in the way of saving lives-

“Getting sofosbuvir out of the stronghold of Gilead’s monopoly will be crucial to expanding treatment for people with hepatitis C globally,” says executive director of the Action Campaign of Doctors Without Borders, Dr. Manica Balasegaram.

And with the notion that over three-fourths of the world’s hepatitis c patients would have access to the once off-limit drug only supports India’s decision to cut-off Gilead Science’s tyranny over the Solvadi’s active ingredient, sofosbuvir.

“Gilead’s licensing deal is what we call managed competition,” MSF law partner, Tahir Amin says. “What this case can achieve is open competition, a real free market.”

Like the Dalai Lama said, “understand the rules so you know when to break them.”

Posted in Health Care, Science, Solidarity Economy | Leave a comment

Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, January 22, 2015

claudette Colvin

Try this thought exercise. How many TV shows about doctors can you recall? I can remember all the way back to Dr.Kildare. How many shows about nurses aides- without whose labor the US health care system would collapse? Unsung for sure.

Before Rosa Parks took her direct action against segregation on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the Black community organized, planned and considered how and when to make their case.

Claudette Colvin, an A-student in her high school, was engaged in the civil rights debate. When she refused to go to the back of the bus she was arrested. She might have become the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but she was young and vulnerable. Now, a pregnant 15-year-old would be considered to have been sinned against, but then she was considered too much a bad girl to represent the cause.

Claudette Colvin had to leave the South, and her life’s work was the valuable and under-recognized direct care of the sick and elderly. She retired in 2004 and is still with us, her story is now beginning to be told.

Claudette Colvin Goes To Work

–By Rita Dove

Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown into jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus and give it to a white person. This is the second time since the Claudette Colbert [sic] case… This must be stopped. — Boycott Flier, December 5, 1955

Menial twilight sweeps the storefronts along Lexington
as the shadows arrive to take their places
among the scourge of the earth. Here and there
a fickle brilliance — lightbulbs coming on
in each narrow residence, the golden wattage
of bleak interiors announcing Anyone home?
or I’m beat, bring me a beer.

Mostly I say to myself Still here. Lay
my keys on the table, pack the perishables away
before flipping the switch. I like the sugary
look of things in bad light — one drop of sweat
is all it would take to dissolve an armchair pillow
into brocade residue. Sometimes I wait until
it’s dark enough for my body to disappear;

then I know it’s time to start out for work.
Along the Avenue, the cabs start up, heading
toward midtown; neon stutters into ecstasy
as male integers light up their smokes and let loose
a stream of brave talk: “Hey Mama” souring quickly to
“Your Mama” when there’s no answer — as if
the most injury they can do is insult the reason

you’re here at all, walking your whites
down to the stop so you can make a living.
So ugly, so fat, so dumb, so greasy —
What do we have to do to make God love us?
Mama was a maid; my daddy mowed lawns like a boy,
and I’m the crazy girl off the bus, the one
who wrote in class she was going to be President.

I take the Number 6 bus to the Lex Ave train
and then I’m there all night, adjusting the sheets,
emptying the pans. And I don’t care or spit
or kick and scratch like they say I did then.
I help those who can’t help themselves,
I do what needs to be done. . . and I sleep
whenever sleep comes down on me.

Thank you 9PoeticFingers for posting this and other fine and rare poems.
Thank you ClaudiaFeitosasantana for the image of Claudette Colvin, of which there are few and rare.

Posted in Engaged Paganism, Feminism, Health Care, Labor, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tarot Daily Dot Decoder, January 20, 2015


Today’s Tarot is from the Major Arcana, VIII Strength. Dedicated to all the forms of strength that hold the world together while violence and selfishness pull us apart. Martin Luther King day gave us a chance to recognize the courage and strength of love in action. Here is a poem praising women’s strength,

Belly Good

A heap of wheat, says the Song of Songs
but I’ve never seen wheat in a pile.
Apples, potatoes, cabbages, carrots
make lumpy stacks, but you are sleek
as a seal hauled out in the winter sun.
I can see you as a great goose egg
or a single juicy and fully ripe peach.
You swell like a natural grassy hill.
You are symmetrical as a Hopewell mound,
with the eye of the navel wide open,
the eye of my apple, the pear’s port
window. You’re not supposed to exist
at all this decade. You’re to be flat
as a kitchen table, so children with
roller skates can speed over you
like those sidewalks of my childhood
that each gave a different roar under
my wheels. You’re required to show
muscle striations like the ocean
sand at ebb tide, but brick hard.
Clothing is not designed for women
of whose warm and flagrant bodies
you are a swelling part. Yet I confess
I meditate with my hands folded on you,
a maternal cushion radiating comfort.
Even when I have been at my thinnest,
you have never abandoned me but curled
round as a sleeping cat under my skirt.
When I spread out, so do you. You like
to eat, drink and bang on another belly.
In anxiety I clutch you with nervous fingers
as if you were a purse full of calm.
In my grandmother standing in the fierce sun
I see your cauldron that held eleven children
shaped under the tent of her summer dress.
I see you in my mother at thirty
in her flapper gear, skinny legs
and then you knocking on the tight dress.
We hand you down like a prize feather quilt.
You are our female shame and sunburst strength.
Marge Piercy

Thank you, PoemHunter.com

Posted in Art | Leave a comment

Problems in Morality- A Novel Solution to The Heinz Dilemma and Other Stuff

act upNurses are required to get continuing education. This month’s class was Ethics. I sat around a table with co-workers debating moral challenges – little white lies, getting extra change at the supermarket, etc. I kept my head down, suppressing an urge to giggle nervously, like the mortal and venial sins blotting my soul might show through my blouse- but then it got interesting.

The group leader passed around a morality problem called The Heinz Dilemma. This is a famous ethical problem posed by psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg in the 1950’s. It goes like this–

A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife. Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?

My first impulse was that I’d stand lookout while Heinz grabbed the goods. But on second thought- is Heinz supposed to stuff a hunk of Radium in a CVS bag? He’ll be glowing in the dark before he gets home.

Anyway, this is all hopelessly 20th Century. As dilemmas are said to have 2 horns, a 21st Century 2-pronged approach is needed– power politics and social disgrace.

Step 1. Crowdsourcing. Mrs. Heinz posts a picture of her languishing self on social media with a plea for donations. This has the dual benefit of helping her with her medical expenses while outing the profiteering druggist. If they succeed in raising the cash quick they can buy the medicine, and buy time while they go on to…

Step 2. Social Disgrace. Start with the doctors who thought Radium might save Mrs. Heinz. They may be customers of the druggist. The druggist doesn’t care about a nobody like Heinz, but ticking off the doctors is bad for business. Time is short, so direct action is needed. Heinz should get a few friends to stand out on the sidewalk with him as he begs for help. If Mrs. Heinz can’t make it they can wear t-shirts with her picture. Invite Channel 10. Clergy in garb and professionals in attire make good visuals. Heinz should have a statement prepared for when the press shows up.

Step 3. Lobbying Politicians. This is another form of crowdsourcing- taxes fund social welfare, laws protect the vulnerable. While Heinz takes it to the streets he also needs to take it to the marble halls where decisions get made. The greedy druggist is a political opportunity to crack down on profiteers. In fact, when he feels the heat he might decide that it is better to give Heinz a break. And there may be competitors ready to make a cheaper generic version of Radium if protecting the druggist’s patent becomes a political liability.

Step 4. Opposition Research. There’s got to be some dirt on this druggist. It’s a sure thing he’s made enemies with his cruel, mercenary ways. Go for the throat.

Poor Heinz, I picture him forever languishing in post-war Germany, with ex-Nazis for neighbors. I hope his wife got better. I see them like an old movie, perhaps because so much of the dilemma is black and white- the authoritarian stance of the druggist who puts profit before people, the helplessness of the individual, the voiceless wife…did I mention that the whole setup is hierarchical and masculinist? Carol Gilligan did.

In the bigger picture, we have to deal with ‘Heinz’ situations all the time. A part of my generation is missing, lost to AIDS. It was not so long ago that people had to break rules and make new rules as the epidemic raged. (see Dallas Buyer’s Club) Each new drug that made its way through the approval pipeline was expensive, and states were slow to pay. Internationally, pharmaceutical companies played the role of the heartless druggist, protecting their patents at the cost of lives in poor nations. (see here how the West blocked generic AIDS medication in South Africa.)

Right now we have a cure for Hepatitis C, but the cost is about $1,000 a pill. It’s a strain on the system, and how to manage it is not clear. Recent history of activism and political pressure driving down the cost of some drugs gives encouragement. It’s cheaper in the long run to treat illness, and people will not quietly go away when a cure exists just out of reach. Even poor Heinz stopped being a good German when he was pushed too far.

What if there was a wealthy nation that let millions of its citizens die over the years because they could not afford medical care? What if potential remedies were rejected in favor of protecting profits? Where is the morality in a system that values national defense, but not defense against preventable illness? What ethical standard withholds care until a citizen is disabled- then puts them on disability?

Like a wise man once said, “it’s a complex world.” The Affordable Care Act is partial and imperfect, but it has made health care accessible to millions of Americans who were previously uninsured and is something to build on. No dilemma here- the US needs to join all the other developed nations and move forward to universal health care.

ACT UP poster from www.imgkid.com

Posted in Health Care, Politics, Providence, Solidarity Economy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment