PLAYBOY: Then what is it? How do you classify your vitriol?
CARLIN: It's dissatisfaction and disapointment. I'm disappointed that my culture let me down. I feel betrayed by the people in this country. They're dumb. They're just fucking stupid. They don't know how to protect themselves and operate in their own interest. I'm telling you, my fucking species let me down a long time ago.
PLAYBOY: Is that why you haven't voted since 1972?
CARLIN: That's right, for George McGovern. It doesn't matter if anybody votes. Kerry wouldn't have been any different than Bush. One of the most interesting things in politics is that we always worry about censorship from the right because that's the standard formula, but suddenly it's barreling in from the left, too, from the campuses in the East and the intellectuals via political correctness. I think when you go out of your way to protect so-called minorities and disaffected people by altering the language used about them, by calling people "differently abled" or whatever shit it is, you're saying they're not strong enough to handle anything on their own. the left thinks it's protecting people, but it's actually insulting them, whether they're handicapped people or blacks or lesbians. But the bottom-line message is still the same, whether from the left or the right: "You can't handle life unless we, the white, paternalistic, educated, wealthy community, help you by altering the game plan." And that's just fucked.
I'm here at the big archaeological conference here in Columbia, and while I'm not going to live blog it because I'm covering it for my paper, I did want to do a post live from the conference hall... largely because I've got a laptop and I was able to log on to a hotspot and I just... want to say that I've done it.
At the moment we're listening to Florida archaeology David Webb lecturing on "The Last Big Game," talking about the Aucilla River History Project, which has turned up some significant pre-Clovis sites. But what I want to share is an extended quote from a remarkable conversation I had last night with pre-Clovis skeptic Stuart Fiedel.
In this little drama, Fiedel has been cast in the role of the black hat, but here's the way I look at it: pre-Clovis may be the engine that's driving things, but Fiedel is the brake. Without an engine you don't get anywhere. Without a brake, you go off a cliff.
I feel this new affinity with Al Gore over the last couple of years. You know, there’s the real Al Gore, and then there’s this kind of media Gore, who’s the robot and the guy who claimed to invent the Internet. And then there’s myself as I recognize myself and then there’s the Science article where I was compared to Brad Pitt in Fight Club because of the extreme aggressiveness that I brought to the scientific argument, and there’s this book by Steven Oppenheimer called “Out of Eden” where I’m this villain that’s holding back the wheels of progress by continuing to push for the Clovis-first model, and it’s just kind of strange to see how … I mean, he never spoke to me. He never corresponded with me. He just picked up at this sort of tertiary level this characterization of me as … I don’t know what. I don’t recognize myself in it.
I like covering archaeology for many reasons, but one of them is it's such a human endeavor. There are icons in conflict here, but once you get to talking to them, you realize they're just guys. And I can't help but like most of them.
Today just isn't a good day to be a Republican. The media had to break into its "Here come the indictments!" story for breaking news on Bush caving to the far right on his Supreme Court nomination, which means that anyone he nominates now is going to be strongly opposed by Democrats (and maybe even moderate Republicans who are getting sick of this charade).
And let's not miss the significance here: We might be witnessing the fracturing of the Republican coalition that has been more or less running this country since the Reagan Revolution. Cultural conservatives -- one of the largest voting blocks in the country -- have been manipulated for years by the economic/defense/establishment conservatives. Thing is, the establishment had to promise the culture warriors that they'd give them an anti-abortion court, and they never had any interest in following through on that promise. Why? Because supermajorities of the American public favor a variety of abortion-rights positions. Creating an anti-abortion majority on the Supreme Court is a really great way for the Republican Party to toss itself on the ash heap of history.
But lest you think it can't get any worse, here's a little bit of flay-them-alive satire: A look at how FOX News would have covered other great events in world history. Yeah, it's piling on. So what?
Just go with it, GOPers. Suffering is good. Cleanses the soul.
My first posts on Xark! prmpted questions as to whether donating to the Red Cross was a worthy activity, and for all my frustrations with them (both relating and unrelated at this point), I would still say, yes, they are a worthy charity to which to donate. Their follies mostly involve volunteers, not clients. Opinion in the South is mostly possitive toward the Red Cross, which in many areas was the only organization clients have ever seen show up, even this many weeks after the hurricanes. Indeed, I think some of our problems stem from the fact that almost all of us are volunteers - if a few more people were drawing RC salaries we'd have better prepared and informed leadership.
If only that were the only problems at some of the other organizations.
Let's start with you favorite group and mine, FEMA, the tax-funded governmental agency that can't seem to find a tax-payer to help to save its life. (Fix Everything My Ass!) My first experience with them was in Baytown, outside of Houston, TX, where I was transferred after Montgommery was really, really, really sure it didn't need me. We shared a building with them, although I barely ever saw a FEMA employee - or anyone they were supposed to be helping. To call them possessive would be understating things. FEMA determined that the main door to the building was "theirs" and that Red Cross volunteers had to use the rear entrance - despite the fact that the theoretically FEMA area beyond those main doors were generally utterly empty. Fed up with us Red Cross interlopers, FEMA stuck further signs in the elevators which read, word for word:
"Under any circumstances is Red Cross NOT to enter or exit the main (FEMA) entrance."
The FEMA entrance mostly being identified by this and other signs saying that the main entrance is FEMA's, but not being identified by anything like, oh, logos or, heaven forbid, FEMA employees being present.
Then there is the Salvation Army, who apparently has a reputation for not playing well with the Red Cross. A representative showed up at Magnolia Park, where my particular kitchen was located, asking to see "Joan" because "Joan" said the Salvation Army could set up at the Park. There is no Joan at Magnolia, so the representative insisting on seeing the building manager, a man named Lou who burst out laughing at the idea of the Salvation Army setting up there.
"Are you kidding? She won't even let me park my car here, and I work here!" he exclaimed, pointing to Connie, the Red Cross supervisor for the location who the representative had first talked to and who had led her to Lou.
The SArmy was talking about setting up something like 30 trailers, which wouldn't even fit at Magnolia if it were empty, which of course it wasn't. It was full of Red Cross equipment and personnel. We weren't hiding.
So then the SArmy started inquiring about setting up in the fairgrounds across the street from us, where the energy company was slowly pulling out of. Now, seriously, what is the point of setting up a SArmy kitchen across the street from a RC kitchen in a neighborhood that is needing us less and less every day? At that point we were cooking 3000 meals a day. When I arrived, we were doing 5000. previous to that, the location had been doing 8000. We were more than capable of filling the need of that location, and I also know that there were areas that the RC had not yet been able to reach, because of limited resources. Wouldn't those places have made more sense for the SArmy to move into?
In another incident, our mental health guy, Karl, accompanied a food run down to a site run by the Savation Army but supplied by a number of organizations (a not uncommon arrangement in Texas). He identified himself and his job and inquired whether anyone would mind if he talked to some of the clients located there in a professional capacity.
"Yes, we would mind," was the answer.
And finally, there are the ads that the SArmy is currently running. "Salvation Army: Doing the Most Good." As opposed to other groups, which are doing less good? Grow up. This isn't a damn contest as to who can save the most people, and we sure as hell shouldn't be competing for clients. There's still more than enough to around, unfortunately.
The Pagan community most often singles out the Midwest and the South as inhospitable areas for Pagans. Living in the Midwest my entire life, I've yet to understand why that area is so frequently targetted. After spending three weeks in the South, part of it deep within the Bible Belt, my count of harassment or persecution remains, well, non-existant. This is not to say problems never happen. They do. I'm just continuing to say that it doesn't happen as often as some would like you to think, and that I continue to strongly suspect that it has more to do with the disposition of the individual Pagan than that of the would-be persecutors.
My fingers swell in the heat, so before I left with the Red Cross I removed all my rings, including my wedding ring. After much debate, I decided to bring along a single piece of jewelry: a pentagram pendant about an inch wide. I don't want to ever wear it as an exercise of advertising my religion, much less looking for trouble, but it also was my one link to my regular life, and I likewise don't like tempering my choices of apparel based on what someone else might think. Nevertheless, I will confess a little curiousness as to how it might be received, and if it caused trouble I would have tucked it under my shirt. (My purpose for being there, after all, was to comfort the clients, not start a debate in religious toleration.)
I will say that I ended up having very little contact with clients. However, I did exist within the cities of Montgomery Alabama and Beaumont Texas for three weeks. People saw me on the street, in resturants, and at hotels. I'm sure many did not even notice my pendant. But unless Southerners are somehow less aware of their surroundings than other people, it stands to reasons that many people did notice it - and yet they said nothing.
Only twice was I recognised for what I was: once as a Pagan and once a Wiccan. Neither person expressed a problem with the revelation. Several times I was asked if the pendant meant anything, and I would explain it symbolized the unity of the four elements with Spirit. A couple times this conversation turned into something deeper, but the rest of the time it did not. Twice I was asked if I was Jewish. ("Nope, one point short of a Jew," I'd respond.)
No one expressed a concern that the symbol was Satanic. One person asked if it was Satanic if it was "upside down" (quotes used here because there really is no such thing as an upside down pentagram anymore than there can be an upside down triangle.) A former Catholic, now non-denominational Christian, started a long conversation about what I believed in, as did a born-again (not Twilight, described in my previous post). The only vaguely negative reactive I got the entire time was from the born-again, who, after I explained that I had left the church and that I was polytheist, asked me how I thought I was following the commandment to "worship no god before me." And that simply left me baffled, not insulted. That came from ignorance, not spite. (Hello, not a Christian, not a Jew, not even a Muslim, not interested in your commandments, along with half the world's population!)
Back in chilly Appleton, I'll probably be sharing some of my Red Cross exploits over the next few days, as once we were moved to Texas we did get to participate in something approaching an exploit.
I'd like to start, however, by introducing you to one of the most quietly inspiring people I've ever met: partly because of her own exemplary approach to life, but also because she steadfastly refuses to to be categorized.
Twilight is a 20-year old RC volunteer that I first met in Alabama and travelled with to Texas, where I got to know her. She drives a car, owns a computer, hopes to get an email address, and while she doesn't own a cellphone she can confidently use one (unlike some of our older volunteers!). She wears her pajamas confidently in the gymnasium where both men and women volunteers sleep.
Twilight is also, incidentally, a Menonite. Kind of.
Twilight's mother used to be Menonite, but left her congregation. Twilight's father used to be Amish, but he was kicked out when he became a born-again, which the Amish don't believe in. They now attend a nondenominational church, and so technically speaking that is what Twilight is religiously: a non-denominational Christian. However, her lifestyle is generally Menonite: she veils her hair, always wears skirts and doesn't own a television, for example.
Her reasons for such behaviors, however, are neither blind nor unconsidered. Ask her why she does these things and she'll always have a well thought out answer, not some answer memorized by rote and fed to her incessantly by parents or congregation. She veils her hair because of the passage in the Bible insisting women cover their hair when they pray, and she never knows when she might be moved to start praying. She wears long skirts because she considers them more modest than pants. She is not in any way offended that other women wear pants or even shorts, but she is uncomfortable with revealing herself in this way. She doesn't own a television because there's very little on it she thinks is worth watching.
People frequently think of women in these communities as being raised to be subservient and meek, but that is certainly not the case with Twilight - although I made the mistake early on of confusing her good manners with deference. She ignores minor slights, not willing, I now I think, to sink down to those levels of pettiness. But when she or someone around her is seriously wronged, she'll let you know. Her complaints are almost always, however, attempts to somehow correct the situation, not to merely rant.
She is deeply religious, also considering herself a born-again, but without the judgmentalness society frequently associates with such people. She believes that AIDS probably was first visited upon humanity as divine punishment, but she also accepts that many, many people now get AIDS through no moral fault. She also agreed with me that even if AIDS was a divine punishment, that was no excuse to ostracize or not care for AIDS patients - she sees no problem in one human helping another human even if God is punishing him, as it is not like we're going to interfere with God's plans, if he really has such plans. She never attempted to convert anyone. Indeed, most of what we learned of her faith came from her answers to our questions, not anything that she preemptively explained. If she has any negative opinions about non-born-agains or non-Christians in general, she certainly never expressed them in my presense.
The political problem with taxing property is two-fold and psychological: it penalizes good fortune, and makes us feel that we don't "own" our homes. And then, of course, there's that whole business of having to pay more money.
Here in Charleston, where property values have gone through the roof, property tax reform has been an enormous issue ever since the most recent revaluation -- delayed for years -- came online. We could all see it coming: people who live on the islands and in the historic district could pick up the real estate section and see that the going rate for the homes around them had quadrupled. Most of us with mortgages took advantage of the boom by going out and getting low-interest home-equity loans.
But when the tax bill came due, suddenly all we heard about were all the little old ladies who were going to be out on the street, deposed by unpayable property taxes. We tried several fly-by-night "tax cap" plans, all of which were doomed to failure. They only made matters worse.
Now a state senate committee has proposed a new solution, one that would certainly pass constitutional muster: Increase the statewide sales tax to match the highest rate in the nation, and cut local property taxes by about 50 percent.
It's great political theater. And it's a disaster waiting to happen.
Now, this was in the UK and it's not quite clear what he was busted for (I think it was lying to police, actually), but the police got the records from his shoppers card and demonstrated that he was at the right place at the right time and Bam!
Of course, if not the shoppers card that perhaps the credit card? Or are credit card records *more* protected than shoppers cards records? Or do the records expired faster? (I know I can't download credit card transactions that are more than 6 months old.)
What kind of electronic trail do you leave and how could it be used? Is it fair to use it to confirm a suspects story? Is it fair to use it to go fishing for suspects in the first place?
(<knock, knock> "Ma'am, I'm Detective Soandso and I'm sorry to interrupt your Church social but I need to ask you a few questions about your trip 'Ted's Adult Toy Store' last week....")
I'm trying to read the news this morning, admittedly after a rough night where I slept little and worried alot about the usuals: money, work, money. It's making me so cranky, I have to share.
MSM sucks. The newspapers. The online news aggregators. They are reactive, superficial, meme-distributing, lazy, pompous, water-carriers for the normative. Here's a clue, reporter/editor/smartass columnist: YOU ARE NOT MY DADDY. I don't need you to make me feel better or pat me on the head or interpret the news for me. How about some facts? A little research? How about some quotes from something besides the same press releases that every media outlet in the country got? How about not letting sources feed you the same bullshit that you then spew all over my news like it came down from the heavens? Look, dude, I can access documents, definitions, medical abstracts, subject histories, alternative viewpoints and anything else myself, all while not wearing pants ... What are you offering me?
There are some journalists who are actually looking a little deeper, being a little thoughtful in their presentation of the facts and I want to commend them for holding firm against the tide of "don't research, repeat!" hacks.
Two cases in point and then I will foam elsewhere...