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The Ogres Of Poetry

Happy Halloween! It’s a day on which we give ourselves permission to confront the things that frighten us, only in not quite so serious form. In that spirit, I bring you ogres… in poetry.

Walter De la Mare wrote The Ogre:

‘Tis moonlight on Trebarwith Vale,
And moonlight on an Ogre keen,
Who, prowling hungry through the dale,
A lone cottage hath seen.

Small, with thin smoke ascending up,
Three casements and a door–
The Ogre eager is to tap,
And here seems dainty store.

Sweet as a larder to a mouse,
So to him staring down,
Seemed the small-windowed moonlit house,
With jasmine overgrown.

ogreHe snorted, as the billows snort
In darkness of the night;
Betwixt his lean locks tawny-swart,
He glowered on the sight.

Into the garden sweet with peas
He put his wooden shoe,
And bending back the apple trees
Crept covetously through;

Then, stooping, with a gloating eye
Stared through the lattice small,
And spied two children which did lie
Asleep, against the wall.

Into their dreams no shadow fell
Of his disastrous thumb
Groping discreet, and gradual,
Across the quiet room.

But scarce his nail had scraped the cot
Wherein these children lay,
As if his malice were forgot,
It suddenly did stay.

For faintly in the ingle-nook
He heard a cradle-song,
That rose into his thoughts and woke
Terror them among.

For she who in the kitchen sat
Darning by the fire,
Guileless of what he would be at,
Sang sweet as wind or wire:–

“Lullay, thou little tiny child,
By-by, lullay, lullie;
Jesu in glory, meek and mild,
This night remember thee!

“Fiend, witch, and goblin, foul and wild,
He deems them smoke to be;
Lullay, thou little tiny child,
By-by, lullay, lullie!”

The Ogre lifted up his eyes
Into the moon’s pale ray,
And gazed upon her leopard-wise,
Cruel and clear as day;

He snarled in gluttony and fear–
“The wind blows dismally–
Jesu in storm my lambs be near,
By-by, lullay, lullie!”

And like a ravenous beast which sees
The hunter’s icy eye,
So did this wretch in wrath confess
Sweet Jesu’s mastery.

Lightly he drew his greedy thumb
From out that casement pale,
And strode, enormous, swiftly home,
Whinnying down the dale.

W.H. Auden wrote August 1968:

The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master Speech.

About a subjugated plain,
Among its desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
While drivel gushes from his lips.

William Carlos Williams had an ogre poem, too, viewing a young girl pushing a toy baby cart. You can listen to a Libravox recording of it on ITunes.

Barack Obama: 496 Days of Broken Promises on the Petition to Pardon Edward Snowden

The presidential administration of Barack Obama has promised to respond to any petition on petitions.whitehouse.gov gaining more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days or less.

On June 22, 2013, the petition to pardon civil liberties whistleblower Edward Snowden surpassed a hundred thousand signatures, only 14 days after the petition was started.

It’s October 30, 2014 today, and the petition to pardon Edward Snowden continues to gather new signatures every day since.  Right now, 163,206 signatures have been added to the petition.

For 496 days now, the White House has refused to respond to the petition to pardon Edward Snowden.

On November 3 2014, the days of broken promises will reach 500.

The streak shows no sign of stopping.


Women Speak Out PAC Pays Chancellor Commander Of Group That Bans Women

knights of pythiasAn organization that calls itself the Women Speak Out PAC is throwing around a lot of money this year to try to manipulate several U.S. Senate elections… but in what sense does this group actually consist of women speaking out?

colton r overcashSome of the Women Speak Out PAC money has gone to someone named Colton Overcash. Colton Overcash is paid to speak out on behalf of Women Speak Out… but he is a man, not a woman.

What’s more, Colton R. Overcash proudly proclaims his position as Chancellor Commander of an organization called Knights of Pythias, which refuses to allow women to become members.

So, rather that truly allowing women to speak out, Colton Overcash seems more willing to speak at women, to tell them to get out of his old boys’ club. Colton R. Overcash’s discrimination against women is the true face of Women Speak Out. He’s the Grand Chancellor Of No Girls Allowed.

To be honest, it’s not just women that the Knights of Pythias discriminates against. The group also prohibits atheists from joining. If you drink alcohol, you’re not allowed either. Smokers are banned, too.

Is this kind of New Model Army attitude what you want to see controlling the U.S. Congress?

FBI Tries To Get Permission To Spy On Any Computer Anywhere

fbi seal of dishonorThe Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which is the law that all other laws in the United States must comply with, makes the requirements for government spying very clear: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigations, however, doesn’t seem to think that it needs to obey the Constitution. FBI Director James Comey announced earlier this month that, in its searches of Americans’ computers, “there are exceptions to the warrant requirement.”

Now, the FBI has decided that even its present unconstitutional electronic surveillance upon Americans isn’t big enough. Ed Pilkington in The Guardian reports that the FBI has requested a new rule that allows it to go searching through computers without specifying any target, even when it does get a warrant. On the justification that criminals can falsify IP addresses and other identifying information, the FBI wants permission to go searching through any computer it wants to search, on the off-chance that these other computers might be used by criminals. This is like saying that, because a criminal writes a letter from a fake address, the FBI should have the power to go searching through the any home it wants to, in search of the criminal.

If FBI Director James Comey thinks that the Bill of Rights isn’t good enough for the USA, then he ought to have the courage to say so, and to stand before Congress, testifying that he wants the Fourth Amendment abolished. Until then, the FBI needs to stop its out of control electronic surveillance of Americans. If the FBI does not follow the law of the land, there is no law of the land.

What “Filing a Republican Candidate in Every District” Looks Like in Maine

“Surprisingly surprising is the politics of politics.”– Maine State Representative Jennifer DeChant

In the Spring of 2014, the Maine Republican Party political director Justin Richards declared his party had a new strength. “The Maine Senate is absolutely a target for us and the House is a top target as well. The reason,” said Richards, “is [the Maine Republican Party's] impressive recruitment efforts in filing a candidate in every district.”

What does running a candidate in every state legislative district look like in practice for the Republican party? To find out, I took a trip to the city of Bath today, looking for evidence of Republican Ryan Daniels’ campaign against Democratic Maine House incumbent Jennifer DeChant. Daniels has no campaign web page and no campaign Facebook account. The Sagadahoc County GOP web page mentions other candidates, but Daniels is conspicuously off its list. A newspaper’s attempt to construct a profile of Ryan Daniels generated no response. DeChant, in contrast, has a very active presence.

Did Daniels perhaps have an on-the-ground operation? I wanted to find some piece of evidence of Daniels’ campaign. When I went to Bath, I looked for fliers in shops. I saw none. I looked for campaign signs on lawns. I saw none. I looked for references in his hometown paper — and found Daniels hadn’t responded to that paper, either. Finally, I drove by Daniels’ house (here in Maine, believe it or not, our politicians’ home addresses and phone numbers are freely shared). There was absolutely no sign of any political activity by Daniels — not even a hand-made sign — at his own home.

Ryan Daniels may be a really nice guy, but he hasn’t been a real, active candidate this year. The Maine Republican Party may have identified a candidate for every district on paper, but in Bath and other Maine communities those candidates appear only as names on a registration form.

MayDay PAC Tries To Buy Grassroots With David Perelman

The core idea of grassroots activism is that it’s supposed to come from the bottom up, through the spontaneous acts of motivated individual citizens who don’t have much money or other forms of power themselves, but can join together in organizations that they control themselves in order to make change take place.

David perelmanThe MayDay PAC is an example of the opposite of grassroots. It’s an organization that was founded by wealthy politically-connected insiders who have maintained power, and control MayDay PAC in a top down manner, not allowing citizens outside of their small circle to have a say in how the group is run.

Just yesterday, however, the MayDay PAC made a gesture toward grassroots activism. I choose the word “gesture” purposefully, because I’m not talking about genuine grassroots activism. I’m talking about fake grassroots – astroturf.

Yesterday, the MayDay PAC used its big money power to purchase what it calls “grassroots and communications services” from David Perelman, a political marketing specialist living in Boston. Perelman was paid to create “grassroots” services hundreds of miles away from where he lives, in the 6th congressional district of Michigan.

A basic requirement of genuine grassroots activism is that it’s performed by people who actually live on the ground, where the activism is done. Political consulting packages shipped in from far away don’t count.

As the 2014 congressional election has progressed, the MayDay PAC has shown itself to be increasingly divorced from honest political activism. This new astroturf campaign is just the cherry on top.

New Verizon TechZine Aims for Millenial Audience While Banning Talk About Surveillance

Patrick Howell O’Neill of DailyDot reveals that telecommunications megacorporation Verizon wants to set up its very own supercool tech news page called “SugarString.” It’s supposed to appeal to “Millenials” and be superslick and popular-like…

… except visitors can’t leave any comments on any of the articles or participate in any active way on the site,
… and writers can’t talk about net neutrality, which Verizon opposes,
… and writers are forbidden from talking about government surveillance, which Verizon aids and abets.

Don’t believe O’Neill? Check out this search result for “net neutrality” on sugarstring.com:

A search for Net Neutrality on sugarstring.com turns up Zero results

On the other hand, a search for “surveillance” on sugarstring.com does dredge up one article:

Sugarstring.com search for surveillance turns up one article, raving about the wonderful ways in which drones are Good for us and save poor baby elephants

As you see, this is the exception that proves the rule.

How very tooly, in the old-school sense.

Ophthalmologists Getting Dirty

If you have a medical problem with your eyesight, you can take some solace in the knowledge that the doctor who treats your eyes has an even bigger problem with vision. The next time you visit your ophthalmologist, while you’re having your eyes examined, it will be the perfect time to ask how much if of the money you’re spending on the office visit will be going to interfere in America’s federal elections.

As of a week ago the American Academy of Ophthalmology Inc. Political Committee had sent $575,000.00 to prop up candidates in partisan congressional elections. A further quarter of a million dollars from the organization has been spent on independent expenditures.

What gives? What business does the American Academy of Ophthalmology think it has pumping money into our political system in order to manipulate our country’s representative government?

I don’t care whether the candidates supported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology are Democrats, Reoublicans, Libertarians, or something else. What I care about is the unethical diversion of resources from a medical professional organization into buying political influence in Washington DC.

Ophthalmologists, please contact your professional organization and tell it to get back to its core mission, and stop fiddling with public elections.

“Religious Beliefs Aren’t Reasonable!” — Justice Antonin Scalia, October 7 2014

“Religious beliefs aren’t reasonable!”

So said Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on October 7, 2014 — and he said it as if this was a compliment.

Really, I’m not kidding. You can listen to Justice Scalia utter these words himself, in his questioning during arguments in the Holt v. Hobbs case this month: in the audio of arguments, Scalia’s remark appears at about 2 minutes and 8 seconds into the proceedings.

This is the same Justice Antonin Scalia who just six days earlier declared how vitally important it is that the powers of government be used to promote religious belief. “The main fight,” declared Scalia in an address to Colorado Christian University, “is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non-religion.”

Finally, the Christian fundamentalists in control of American church-state policy have tipped their hand. In their own minds, powerful men like Antonin Scalia are fighting in a battle. The goal of the battle: using government power to promote religious beliefs. What quality characterizes religious beliefs? That they “aren’t reasonable.”

Can you support a political movement that openly declares its intention to use government to promote unreasonable beliefs?

Can you help Americans understand just how dangerously unhinged, unrealistic, unreasonable the conservative religious movement in America has become? Put this bumper sticker on your car to remind your fellow citizens just how unreasonable Justice Alito and his supporters have become.

Religious Beliefs Aren't Reasonable Antonin Scalia Quotation Bumper Sticker re: Holt v. Hobbs October 7 2014

All you have to do is quote Antonin Scalia to make a case against him and his powerful allies. It’s that simple. Spread the word.

News Of Black Dogs

According to the Folklore Society, “Mark Norman is compiling a database of accounts of sightings of Black Dogs and will be very pleased if people can send contributions to m.norman@exeter.ac.uk.”

The Edge asserts that, “Guardian hounds occur widely in shamanic Otherworldly lore,” and cites an old story claiming that black dogs came to haunt the living when churches began the practice of sacrificing dogs without any white hairs and sealing them into the holy buildings’ surroundings, although he admits that there is no proof that this legend has any objective truth.

Shuckland relates this tale of a young boy in the 1990s who encountered a disappearing black dog: “While staying at his grandparents’ house in the village in 1997 or ’98, a boy aged 6 or 7 was cycling up and down a lane which ran behind this and other houses, with a field beyond it. As he began cycling back to the house, he was terrified by a large black dog which ran after him. The gate to the house, which had been open, was now shut, and the boy crashed into it, at which point the dog vanished in front of him. The witness later described his feeling of ‘pure terror’, and that the incident will haunt him forever.”

A Daily Mail article suggests that a skeleton of a seven foot-long dog could be the remains of an actual dog that inspired all the legends, though the article fails to note that the legends say the great black dog was 7 feet high at the shoulder, not 7 feet long.

But then, every dog has its day, they say. So, there is a National Black Dog Day, encouraging people to go and get a black dog from an animal shelter, because there remains a prejudice against black dogs to this day. I’ve got a black dog myself.

Sing Along With Me: the Opposition Stole My Sign!

As we get close to Election Day 2014, can I ask everyone to join in the chorus. Sing with me: “the opposition stole my sign!”

Stolen Lawn Sign of the Belgrade Maine Republican Party?  Responsibility?

When the Belgrade Maine Republican Committee noticed one of its campaign signs was missing this month, it jumped on the chance to cry “theft!”

“One of our signs was stolen yesterday. So that’s how the opposition wants to play! Folks driving north on Route 27 past Christy’s Market would have noticed this sign placed among a cluster of smaller candidate signs just beyond the intersection with Route 135. We figured that if this site was far enough away from the town office for the others then it was okay for one of ours. Last Saturday we installed one among the rest. It didn’t last a week!! I guess the opponents don’t respect the 1st Amendment!! One more reason not to vote for them.”

Do the Belgrade Democrats disrespect the First Amendment? Is there scurrilous opposition going on? A week later, the Belgrade Republicans quietly fessed up: actually, the Maine Department of Transportation (in an era of Republican administration) took the large sign down because it violated regulations regarding visible obstructions.

The haste to claim shenaniganery is not a partisan fault. We had a long, windy rainstorm this week. In the aftermath, a Democratic friend of mine was steaming mad, explaining to me in heated tones how someone had “stolen” his lawn sign favoring a local candidate… until he found the sign plastered against a nearby bush.