Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Say it loud, I'm Hurricane-American and I'm proud!

Unless you’ve been vacationing in Antarctica, you’ve seen or at least heard of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Thousands dead, thousands more displaced, billions in damages, blah, blah, blah. You can’t flick on the TV, radio, or fire up the ol’ computer without hours of footage from every possible angle. And just as the media buzzards seem to be running out of carrion to feed upon, out of left field comes Jack Shafer, some sort of editor at large of ultra-liberal Slate.com. In Mr. Shafer’s opinion, it’s not that the hurricane isn’t getting enough coverage, it’s that the victims aren’t being properly identified as “black victims”. Huh?

Read first, and I’ll be here when you get back…. Done? Ok, anyone want to tell me Jack’s point? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Didn’t think so.

In the article itself, Jack mentions how 67% of New Orleans is black, and close to 30% is at the poverty level. And then he wonders why the TV news is showing so much footage of poor, black Hurricane survivors. Well? Do you think it might have anything to do with the raw statistical data that you just mentioned 11 seconds ago? Thought so.

He then goes on to reflect upon a question he’d like to posit to news anchors:

“"Can you explain to our viewers, who by now have surely noticed, why 99 percent of the New Orleans evacuees we're seeing are African-American? I suppose our viewers have noticed, too, that the provocative looting footage we're airing and re-airing seems to depict mostly African-Americans."

Are we to believe that Jack Shafer, an editor of such a prestigious website, an editor-AT LARGE, no less, is that ludicrously stupid? Or is there a hidden agenda? If you answered “Hidden Agenda,” you may already be a winner. Although the same is true if you answered “Ludicrously Stupid.”

See, Jack, the reason why there is so much TV coverage of poor, black hurricane survivors is because the vast majority of the people who were adversely affected by the hurricane are poor and black. Middle class and rich white people (as well as blacks in that socio-economic group) who had their homes carried away in a swirling torrent of muddy rain water simply check into a Holiday Inn. They have insurance, and liquid funds (if you’ll pardon the pun) with which to secure temporary lodging and other survival needs. It’s the poor blacks (and to a lesser extent, the poor whites) who don’t, and therefore need to be evacuated to the Superdome and Red Cross shelters. Simple, basic arithmetic.

As for the footage of the “black looters”, let’s all be honest with ourselves: TV cameramen would burn through six battery packs before they got any footage of middle class white families breaking into Wal-Mart and swiping diapers. Anyone who watched broadcasts of the Watts or LA Riots can attest to that “phenomenon”. I’m sure there were one or two or maybe even six-dozen white people looting, but when your population of blacks stands at 67%, you have a 67% chance of any looter being black. Somehow I doubt even the intrepid news personalities would brave rising floodwaters and fires just to balance out their broadcast with the 33% possibility of getting a few shots of white people ransacking the local 7-11. Plus there’s the fact that in 2003, there were 12,726 larcenies in New Orleans. That’s 34 a day. On a normal, non-hurricane day, 34 people are arrested for stealing things that belong to other people. Is anyone still shocked that news crews would happen to catch a few dozen black people looting in the streets?

People like Jack Shafer create controversy where there isn’t any, just to confirm his own self-importance. What he’s essentially saying is, “You mindless simpletons, can’t you see that there is a major class division in this country and poor blacks are suffering from it? It’s a good thing I, editor at large of Slate.com was here to point it out to all you cretins!” Thanks, because, we were unaware.

What you don’t see Jack doing is spending any time, energy or money to help any of the people he highlights in his piece; like most liberals, he shakes his head, clicks his teeth, and shuffles off to his duplex condo via a shiny new SUV. ALL disasters detrimentally affect more poor and disadvantaged people than their more wealthy counterparts, simply by virtue of the fact that they are poor and disadvantaged. If instead of a devastating hurricane, New Orleans was hit by a freak wave of rainbows and butterflies, 67% of the people would still be black, and 30% would still be living below the poverty line. And 34 a day would still be arrested for larceny.

Ah, but Jack leaves us with one final, haunting enigma, “Why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?" And to that I answer: Who Cares? It’s irrelevant to the article and irrelevant to the hurricane coverage in general.

Even when multitudes of people are dying and / or having their lives decimated by tragedy, “intellectuals” like Jack Shafer are still pushing their social and political agendas. I’m sure the thousands of poor, now-homeless blacks affected by the disaster will sleep a little better tonight knowing that Jack Shafer is in their corner. Well, not literally. He’ll be at the Holiday Inn with the other rich, white people.

Sanctimonious Mortal.

All we are saying...is give me my fifteen minutes

I realize that there’s a war going on. On one side you have a country hell-bent on democracy and freedom and safety and security, and on the other, a rag-tag bunch of lunatics who think that their invisible man will give them a bunch of raisins if they kill anyone who even so much as talks about another invisible man. Gee, it’s really difficult to decide which horse to bet on there.

Let’s be honest here, war is a good thing for it decides irrevocably where mere words have failed miserably. Diplomacy is good for, say, high school debate teams, and union negotiations. On the other hand, only a lightning bolt from above (or thermonuclear warhead) can sway the minds of those who murder and torture thousands of innocent people, especially in the name of invisible people. There are those who say “two wrongs don’t make a right”, but most likely they were the ones beaten up for their lunch money in school. Lex Talionis, my tye-dyed friends, an eye for an eye – that is the very definition of true justice. Sanctions and fines don’t work; they lead to further injustice. I always found it mildly amusing that after WWI, Germany was fined 132 billion Marks for “loss and damages”, and the subsequent depression caused by the fine unwittingly led to Hitler’s rise to power.

In any case, this is not about the logic of war, or an argument for or against it. What I’d like to focus on, however, is the fringe society created out of the growing frustration of simply being ignorant of the terms and concepts of war. From Boston to Budapest, you can’t swing your arms without hitting some unemployed college student or baby-boomer looking to relive his Woodstock days prancing around with a sign and screaming "Bush Lied!" through a mouthful of veggie burger. Even if I concede the fact that protests are sometimes warranted, in the case of this war, they are a complete waste of time. Why? For the simple reason that the majority of people have absolutely no idea why we are at war. Go outside and ask a dozen people why there is a War in Iraq. Go ahead, I’ll wait...

Ok, back? What did they tell you? Oil? American Imperialism? Revenge? Some sinister conspiracy plot involving the Rosicrucians and Halliburton? I’d by willing to wager a golden fiddle that not one person you asked is aware of the true cause behind the war. And yet, those same ignorant people will be the first ones to shout and cry and scream and throw rocks at police officers. How can people act so vehemently against something they don’t understand?

There are a few reasons of course, but all of which point to human nature and the idea of mob mentality. Young, idealistic humans who are convinced that they can make the world a better place get caught up in the frenzy of denouncing anything that woulf imperil their ideals. And it doesn’t matter which issue is at stake: The environment, gun control, civil rights, animal cruelty, war. The result is the same – thousands of frustrated people marching en masse complaining because things aren’t going the way that they had hoped for. They don’t actively do anything about it, mind you, they just complain. And protest, and boycott, and chant. And the world continues in spite of their protestations.

If anti-war people weren’t so readily dismissed by those in power, I think it would be amusing to give them one hour of airtime on a major TV network in order to disseminate their plan to rectify the ills in the middle east. Admit it, you’d love to watch Rainbow Mudslide Smith Jr. stammer through some convoluted speech and then throw up her hands in a fit of anger. Without their placards and slogans, these people bring nothing to the table, and consequently, should not be mocked or ridiculed or hassled, but quietly ignored, but not without a wry smile planted firmly on the lips.

The protest group du jour, the one camping out near President Bush’s property in Crawford, Texas and led by media-magnet Cindy Sheehan, has been the subject of much attention over the last few weeks. In case you’ve been living under a rock Ms. Sheehan is the mother of a soldier (Casey Sheehan) who was killed in Iraq, which, naturally, gives her complete authority and expertise into the war machine. She believes that the war is unnecessary and that if she is given just one hour to speak to the President, she is convinced that he will see the error of his ways. Admirable, but naïve.

Check out this heartwrenching picture of Ms. Sheehan clutching a pole.

For one thing, 1800 soldiers or so have died in Iraq since the operations have begun in March, 2003. That works out to be 62 a month. During peacetime, 75 soldiers are killed each month in accidents, suicides and what have you. Peacetime. That means when lunatics aren’t running around ululating with pipe bombs strapped to their thighs, 75 American soldiers still die from something other than natural causes. So statistically (and hence, logically) 1800 soldiers killed in 30 months AT WAR is more than acceptable.

Click here for more Peacetime Casualty rates.

I suppose on some level it’s sad when someone is killed, whether by accident or aggression, but let’s examine the truth – every single person will die. It’s called Cartesian Certitude. How and when we are to pass on is another matter, but lifestyle choices and employment must be factored into the equation. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a Sunday School teacher is less likely to be killed at work than a police officer. And even though I don’t have the statistics in front of me, I can safely assume that being a soldier on active assignment during a time of war isn’t exactly a safe endeavor.

So my question is this, Ms. Teary Eyed Sheehan: Where were you when your son decided to sign up for the military in the first place? If you were such a pacifist, not to mention caring mother, where were your protestations when he sauntered down to the local Army recruiting tent in May 2000?

What’s most interesting to me is that in an interview given to Mark Knoller of CBS she referred to the Iraqi terrorists as “freedom fighters”. In another video, she drives around in a bus labeled “Impeachment Tour”. She said “only some of the people in Iraq are victims, the war won’t affect the others.” She has mentioned that “Iraq was never a terrorist state.” She claims “President Bush has killed her oldest son.” (Not a terrorist, mind you, but the President. Those are some pretty serious allegations.) Before a protest march, her question to her clingers-on of “Are we going to go peacefully?” was met with derisive cheers, laughter, and a cry of “We’ll try”. One of her followers keeps chanting, “stop contaminating the troops”, referring to the military’s use of depleted uranium. Another says that the UN treaty prohibits preemptive wars (it doesn’t), but fails to acknowledge that the reason for the war in the first place was because Iraq violated multiple UN treaties. The Crawford police tell them they are allowed to protest off the road, but not in the road, and yet, there they are, walking on the road. And when they are told to follow the rules, her disciples respond by yelling at the officers, calling them fascists and challenging their authority. View it all here:

Cindy Movie

(Be warned, there’s lots of angry cursing and bad guitar strumming on that site.)

Throughout the whole video, she keeps demanding an answer to the question “Why did my son die," but she is not satisfied by any answer the administration has to give. I wish I could point out to this poor woman that no person in any level of the government owes her anything. Her son, being of legal age and sound mind and body, made a decision to join the military, served admirably (Volunteering for his ill-fated mission. Keep that in mind. He was NOT ordered to serve in the mission in which he was killed, he VOLUNTEERED), and died honorably. At best, her situation is a family heartbreak. Period. But once the cameras are turned on, and the interview has started, her agenda spews forth like evil bile.

Hmm. Grieving mother, or opportunistic political activist?

Mendacious Mortal.

Raise, Call, and Raise Again

If you mortals can't even get along within your own country, then Zeus help you when it comes to that "World Peace" thing certain groups are always blathering on about. Take a look at this item here

A judge from Georgia, presumably one of America's more progressive states, pardoned a woman who had been executed over 60 years ago. Now, I'm obviously all for justice, but was something like this really worth the time and money put into it? Does Georgia not have other ill-charged prisoners languishing in prison? A quick look at crime statistics shows that Atlanta has a murder rate 4.52 times the National Average and an overall violent crime rate 3.30 times the National Average.

That sounds like a pressing concern. More so than dredging up old crimes which may or may not have been prosecuted correctly.

But if you read a little further into the article, you can see a variable that seems consistent with a lot of the problems you mortals keep running into: The exonerated criminal was a different color than some of the other people. Is this why so much energy went into these proceedings? I could have sworn that America prided itself on racial harmony, and being a melting pot and all that rot. How on earth can all you mortals “just get along” if people are going to be constantly reminding each other of how different you are?

It seems that the person behind all of the hoopla was Charles McElveen, the great-great-nephew of the accused. Great-great-nephew? Is there any person, besides royalty, who can even identify who their great-great-aunt is, let alone spearhead a movement to have her good name restored to the book of the ages? Doesn’t this guy have a job or a family or something more important he should be attending to? What an arrogant human, to decide that all aspects of his life were so perfect and in order that he could waste his and elected officials’ precious time rehashing events that occurred in 1945?

McElveen goes on to say that people should let this be an example to people living with the evils of segregation to “come forward and right the wrongs of the past”. No, I may not be omniscient, but I’m no dummy. I did my homework, and I know that America passed a series of laws called Civil Rights Acts in 1871, 1875, 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1968, which, in essence, have already righted the wrongs of the past. According to this article, however, this is not good enough for some people, and consequently they want the past re-examined on a case-by-case basis. How supercilious! Should the descendants of the Etruscans drag their cases before the modern Italian court to “right the wrongs” perpetrated against them by the ancient Romans? Should the Venetians, the Tibetans, the Cherokee, the Mayans?

Where should one draw the line?

If the woman was truly innocent, (and the details are sketchy at best, since all persons involved in the case are long dead), then it is an injustice that she had been executed for a crime she didn’t truly commit. Although, she’s not truly innocent, either, for she did kill the guy in question, just not in the manner described by the 1945 case. Regardless of her intent, a man is dead by her hands, so that doesn’t completely exonerate her. Nevertheless, the matter here doesn’t seem to be actual justice, but socio-political retribution. A man, living three generations after the event, is so alienated from his own society that the only way he can feel a sense of self-satisfaction is to dig around and fabricate a “cause” to get behind. And what a cause at that! What American official in his right mind would do anything but bow to this man’s request? The race card had been played, and no one was walking away from this table.

So while Atlanta attempts to deal with its rising crime rates, one man with an axe to grind is given the undivided attention of the mayor, the DA, the parole board and the media so that he may sleep a little easier at night. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that McElveen’s next course of action is to sue the descendants of the jury for wrongfully condemning his great-great-aunt. He’d probably win, too.

Foolish Mortals.

Mom, this hippopotamus followed me home, can I keep it?

From where I’m standing (hovering, actually), Planet Earth is being torn apart due to war, famine, disease, racial and religious infighting, and just plain stupidity. The population of your little ball of rock is straining at 6 billion and in ten-fifteen years, 10 billion of you fleshbags will be wandering around, sucking up every available resource in order to drive bigger cars, eat pre-packaged string cheese, and fornicate ad nauseum. Instead of banding your best and brightest together in a word-wide intellectual oligarchy, it seems that your insatiable drive for self-expression and meaningless individuality has fractured your world’s greatest thinkers into two distinct groups: Intelligent people who toil in laboratories attempting to translate the human genome in an effort to clone even more of you and Pseudo-intellectuals who make it their life’s goal to impress other pseudo-intellectuals with their increasingly ridiculous concepts, theories and proposals. The second group, while not without their charm, are by far the most dangerous, as they succeed in the brainwashing and manipulation of college students and other such malleable types. And you’ve had some winners in the past, let me tell you. I remember fondly such “thinkers” who proposed that:

Jesus was Black (Actually, Jesus is a short, olive skinned woman from the Myanmar Republic. She plays a mean banjo)

Shakespeare was gay (A little known fact is that Shakespeare didn’t have genitals at all, and sought sexual satisfaction through yodeling)

The temperature of the earth is slowly rising and will soon cause the destruction of every living thing on the planet (Just ask anyone from Winnipeg who has ever tried to start a Ford Taurus at 7 AM without a block heater if the temperature is rising)

Drinking milk is animal cruelty (Drinking milk is just disgusting, unless you happen to be a calf)

Currently, the title of “Most Brilliant Idea in the Field of Asinine Ideas” goes to C. Josh Donlan, a PhD candidate from Cornell University, an institute of higher learning so prestigious that no less than 8 people a year commit suicide on its campus. It seems that Mr. Donlan, uninterested in flinging himself into Ithaca’s gorges, has instead spent his time at school frowning over the plight of Africa’s wildlife. The animals on the Dark Continent are apparently in danger of extinction, what with all of the khaki-wearing British Safari guides traipsing through the savannah wielding large-caliber rifles and all. Not to mention the dirt-poor, civilizationally challenged natives who rely on said animals for food, clothing, shelter, and materials with which to fabricate musical instruments to sell to tourists. Whereas the rest of the world merely shrugs, or sends a $10 check to the WWF, Mr. Donlan has proposed a controversial yet flawless solution. Flawless meaning, “would work if restricted to the confines of Mr. Donlon’s own mind.” He proposes boxing up some of lions, elephants, and zebras, and shipping them to North America where they would run wild and free.

Like I said, Flawless!

You can read more about Donlon’s proposal here:

Re-wilding of America

He makes a strong case, doesn’t he? I mean, no, he’s obviously a raving lunatic.

Or, “Dr. Raving Lunatic” to you. Other than spending the majority of the article detailing how at one time North America once had thousands of other species living on it, including primeval species of lions, elephants, and camels (the fact that they’re currently extinct should be the first clue that this is a fruitless endeavor), Donlon seems to be exuberant about all of the “benefits” that would result from wild animals wandering around Interstate 95. Benefits that include tourism, employment, and granting C. Josh Donlon a PhD!

Let’s be realistic here; introducing a lion to North America would result in no real discernable benefit for America. Tourism? Yes, I can picture it now, thousands of grubby, fat, spoiled Americans driving hundreds of miles to the middle of nowhere, littering and chatting on cell phones to stare at -- a fence. Lions, in the wild, are not going to hang around near a bunch of noisy tourists, especially if you give them thousands of open acres in which to live.

Plus, there's the element of probability. If you bring a population of lions, elephants, or camels to North America, there is a chance that at least one of them will escape their enclosure. Just ask any one of the hundreds of zoos across the world, and they will tell you that animals escape on a frequent basis. Does anyone want to go hiking in Yellowstone if there's a chance of being attacked by a lion? Or an elephant, which may be one of the world's most dangerous creatures? Of course, the only danger Donlon sees in that scenario is “scared passers-by." Scared? Humans are scared of spiders, clowns, and rollercoasters. I guess Mr. Donlon’s thesaurus doesn’t contain an entry on “Emotions felt when an eight-ton African Elephant is charging towards your children.”

Aside from these scenarios, consider this: if you have just "re"-populated the North American continent with wild animals, animals that have evolved to survive in a completely different environment, it may well be that you have expedited their extinction. There are no gazelles here for lions to eat; the flora typically eaten by elephants is completely different in North America then in Asia or Africa. This naturally means that someone will have to tend to them and supply them with food. Which means, in essence, all you have created is a giant zoo; you aren't "rewilding" anything.

This “brilliant idea” is just further proof that humans, especially those from the hallowed halls of academia, are not truly concerned about the environment in the abstract, but rather asserting their control over nature for their own purposes. In this case, being able to tack on a bunch of letters after their name in order to sell their idea for more grant money.

Silly Mortals.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Ubiquitous FAQ's

Why is this site called The Pantheon Outcast?

Simply because I’m fascinated with religion and theology and the motivations behind people worshiping one god or another. I may not be able to walk on water or toss thunderbolts around, but I believe that what I have to say is just as significant as any divine being.

Your name isn’t really Valannin, is it?

No, it’s not. I thought it would be clever to write from the point of view of a lesser-known deity as he observes human behavior.

But you don’t write that way anymore.

It stopped being clever.

What is that symbol next to your name supposed to be? And where is the quote under the title from?

The symbol is a phoenix, the Egyptian mythological bird who immolated himself and then rose from the ashes. I kind of adopted it as my personal motif, to reasons known only to a select few. It has nothing to do with a penchant for Harry Potter, I can assure you. The quote is from Maid of Orleans by the poet and playwright Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, an aesthete and friend of Goethe. His play, An die Freude, was the inspiration for the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ode To Joy.

Geez, I'm sorry I asked.

You should be.

Why do you hate religion so much?

I hate any kind of organization that attempts to breed fear and awe and at the same time preaches peace and tolerance. Religion is just one of the many institutions I despise. I also don’t like soccer, reality TV, or dancing.

So what do you do for a living? You can’t possibly make money off blogging.

Thanks for your vote of confidence in my chosen art form. In order to relieve my mounting credit card and student loan debts, I teach English Literature, American History and Creative Writing to a gifted and talented junior high school class in the Bronx. I also steal cutlery from restaurants and resell it on the black market.

You mention scotch a lot in your writing; are you an alcoholic?

I don’t believe in alcoholism. Drinking is an intentional act. So is eating, talking, and walking around in circles. People like to give medical labels to their actions to free themselves from responsibility. It sounds so much better to say, “I can’t help it, I’m an alcoholic”, than to say, “I’m an reckless asshole who needs attention.” Same goes for Anorexia, ADD, and any other self-anointed syndrome. You want to talk about compulsive behavior, let’s discuss those people who perpetually carry around little bottles of water like we all live in the fucking Sahara.

You’re kind of angry all the time. Were you beaten up a lot in school?

Yes. And then I took Karate lessons and bought a gun. You'd be surprised how often this simple solution eludes us.

Are you married?

Just to the sea. But currently accepting applications . If the last book you read was on tape, or you habitually eat soy anything, then I'm not interested. Please include a listing of your favorite Russian writer, Scotch Whisky, and Italian opera, along with a recent photograph that doesn't include cats or children in the foreground.

So, do you have any hobbies?

What is this, a first date? Yes, I enjoy launching high-speed ballistic projectiles toward an assortment of non-sentient targets. I also love leaving this country as often as possible by flying off to places with lots of K’s and Q’s in their names. Consequently, I have taken over twenty thousand photographs of native people wearing sheets and selling fruit. As noted above, I take pleasure in my single malt scotch and cooking elaborate dinners for myself using obscure ingredients from questionable sources. I also collect medieval edged weapons, play bass guitar, and am currently training my three hermit crabs (Rory, Weena and Clark) to be my unholy army of the night.

You know, you’re one hell of a writer…

Thank you.

You didn’t let me finish you arrogant prick. Have you written anything else that’s not web-related?

As a matter of fact I have. I’m an award-winning playwright and have been produced off-Broadway, my Master’s Thesis on Freudian Symbolism and Jungian Archetypes in Shakespearean Tragedies has recently been publicly published, and I’m currently working on a book recounting my experiences in the New York City Department of Education. If you know a literary agent, feel free to send him my way.

Are you a Democrat or Republican? Who did you vote for in the last election?

Fascist. Democrats are too radically stupid and Republicans have their heads too far up the Church’s ass to be taken seriously. Communists and Marxists are just pretentious college students in unwashed T-shirts. Libertarians would get a nod from me if they gave it a rest with the hemp agenda already. We get it, you’re trying to establish a voting bloc of 18-30 year old college educated males. I don’t vote because I think the idea of Democracy only works when you have an informed populace, which we clearly do not. If you put a WMD to my head and forced me to pick, however, I’d go with the GOP. They might be jingoistic megalomaniacs, but at least they’re not hypocritical, tax-wasting entitlement pimps. In all honesty, I think America would benefit from a good solid decade of Intellectual Hegemony.

Normal people don’t talk like this. What, do you do, sleep with a thesaurus?

No, a stuffed anteater named Maurice.