Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Poverty and Disaster

Jim Wallis writes about who will be hardest hit in New Orleans:
During hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, those who have the least to lose are often those who lose the most. Why?

First, the dwellings in which poor people live are not as sturdy, stable, or safe as others. "Shotgun" shacks, mobile homes, and poorly constructed apartment buildings don't do well in hurricane-force winds and tidal surges.

Second, the places where poor people live are also the most vulnerable. The rich often live at the tops of hills, the poor in the valleys and plains that are the first to flood. The living conditions in these neighborhoods are also usually the most dense and overcrowded.

Third, it is much harder for the poor to evacuate. They don't own cars, can't afford to rent them, and often can't even afford a tank of gas - especially at today's prices. They can't afford an airplane, train, or even bus ticket. And, as one low-income person told a New Orleans reporter, they have no place to go. People in poverty can't afford motel or hotel rooms, and often don't have friends or family in other places with space to spare. In New Orleans, there were many people who desperately wanted to leave but couldn't.

Fourth, low-income people are the least likely to have insurance on their homes and belongings, and the least likely to have health insurance. If jobs are lost because of natural disasters, theirs are the first to go. Poverty makes long-term recovery after a disaster more difficult - the communities that are the weakest to begin with usually recover the slowest. The lack of a living family income for most people in those communities leaves no reserve for emergencies.

New Orleans has a poverty rate of 28% - more than twice the national rate. Life is always hard for poor people - living on the edge is insecure and full of risk. Natural disasters make it worse. Yet even in normal times, poverty is hidden and not reported by the media. In times of disaster, there continues to be little coverage of the excessive impact on the poor. Devastated luxury homes and hotels, drifting yachts and battered casinos make far more compelling photographs.

The final irony of New Orleans is that the people who normally fill the Louisiana Superdome are those who can afford the high cost of tickets, parking, and concessions. Now its inhabitants are the poor, especially children, the elderly and the sick - those with nowhere else to go. Those with money are nowhere to be seen.

Katrina and the Waves

Yes, that's what Much More Music played this morning. Yeah, tasteful. I was waiting for them to play New Orleans is Sinking by The Hip.

It appears that New Orleans is now uninhabitable and will be for some time. This is a big city and now there are probably something like one million people displaced. I was thinking about this, and this kind of internal displacement within the US is something that hasn't been seen since at least the Great Depression and possibly since the end of the Civil War.

As Atrios and others have pointed out, what's the deal with the media obsession with looting in New Orleans. I'm sorry, but if my home was gone and all the shops were closed, I'd smash a store to get food. What's the alternative for these people? Drinking dirty contaminated water and resorting to eating pets and engaging in cannibalism?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What are you doing for the victims, Pat Robertson?

Certainly not offering them fuel like Hugo Chavez. Viva Chavez!

Score Another for Ludd

I don't know if I can stop buying CDs. Yeah, I know downloading and everything is here and here to stay, but I don't feel like I actually own music with a little shiny disc to show for it. I need a physical property, not just a name on a hard drive or my iPod. And I know it's stupid, I can own the exact same thing in terms of aural experience, but I like to have something physical. Is it just a hoarding instinct? Is it just nostalgia? I don't know, I used to think that vinyl collectors were these paleolithic weridos. "Aww man, CDs, that's fake, that's selling out, look at this big black circle full of Zeppelin!" Yeah, whatever, shut up, old man. And yet here I am, still wanting after a little silver piece of lacquer.

Monday, August 29, 2005

"I've been doing it wrong all of my life"

Sometimes I get that feeling. Of course there was a Seinfeld episode on this where George ponders whether every single instinct he's had is wrong. Moreover he wonders aloud whether the best for him to live is to do the opposite of everything he's been doing up until that point. Obviously this is something of an exaggeration. I do not, for example, think it was a bad idea on the whole to complete a university degree. I don't think it's a bad idea to hang around the people I hang around with, they are all great. But it's smaller things that make ponder this. Am I getting the most out of my life? It's probably about 1/3 over, so I better get my shit together and find that out fast. But see? That's my instinct, to ponder all these sorts of questions. Maybe I just need to not overthink things in that manner. But if I didn't consider these sorts of questions then would anything change? See? Another conundrum. I don't even know why I'm posting all this... I feel like a teenage girl, sheesh....

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Score One For Ludd

So this summer my friend Jam gave me an addressbook from India. It's a very nice piece to look at, what with its striking orange cover and handmade paper. But this is 2005, everyone has email addresses in their email accounts, and phone numbers in their cell phones, so what need is there for such an antiquated technology? Well, upon considering the matter, I think that there's still room for a physical address book in my life. All the other addresses I have are scattered, a phone number here, an email there... And besides, once any given device among these actually breaks, you're stuck. Where are all your addresses? Gone. So you know what, a real, corporeal address book is still something I think I can use. Thanks again for the gift, Jam.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why America is Hated

Well, there are a lot of reasons. But the fact that something like this can happen and get ignored by most of the media is certainly one of them. The final insult of course being that the US army is on these kinds of adventures ostensibly to promote freedom.

Delegitimizing a Clown

I propose that, in light of his recent comments, we make a subtle change in how we refer to Pat Robertson. In calling to assassinate a democratically elected leader, Robertson has shown such hatefulness. Setting aside Chavez's life, I think Robertson fails to see what that sort of thing could unleash. Coups and assassinations are often followed by things like strongmen, unrest, civil war. Robertson is advocating unleashing forces that could result in hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent lives being taken. In this light, I think it's sensible to stop referring to him as a "Christian" broadcaster, activist, commentator, pundit, or whatever. There are plenty of people of faith who are in the public eye without that tag, and I think that as long as Robertson uses faith as a bludgeoning stick to cow followers into supporting his idiotic and ungodly ideas on public affairs, we shouldn't be calling him explicitly Christian. I have no idea what Robertson believes in his heart, I don't know the man. He may be a believer, he may be a clever trickster, but by calling him a Christian leader it somehows implies that the policies he advocates are somehow the will of Christ. I very seriously doubt that they are in this particular case.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Cable News Industry in a Nutshell

Friday, August 19, 2005

Allegorical Bush Administrations

Watching the TV here and there, I very rarely catching enough episodes of any given series to let me get a feel for the characters. That said, I have seen the show House on Fox on a couple times. It seems that one of the trademarks of the show is that House always comes up with some kind of crazy treatment that will either work or kill the patient. Everyone has to trust that House is right or something. It strikes me that this is how the current US administration frames issues. "Our solution may very well be destructive, there is just no alternative." In the case of Iraq, this is exactly what they did. The was was supposedly the only option. Except it wasn't. In the real world, unlike the TV world of House, there are often a number of workable solutions to a problem, and anyone who says, "follow my plan or you will surely die" is almost certainly presenting you with a false choice.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stupid People

People who complain that their discretionary purchases are overpriced are stupid. There, I said it. Don't go into a fancy place and complain about fancy prices. It's not like you're buying penicillin.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Tom Tomorrow has an excellent cartoon about the torture and the (Republican) party line on it. I have to say though that I'm still astonished at why this is not a big deal. The United States decides that it's going to invade a bunch of countries in the name of "freedom" and it then proceeds to use torture as a method of obtaining freedom. We don't even know who the victims are. Are they all terrorists, or at least friends of terrorists? But it doesn't matter, the whole damn thing gets explained away. And besides, the Americans are serving them yummy chicken dinners, or something. Here, have some more chicken with your dog attacks.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lou's Vigilantes

Watching Lou Dobbs (oh why do I torture myself?) I learned that some whackjob Congressmen in the States want to deputize average citizens to be vigilante border guards. Great, 'cause you know what kind of person is going to sign up for this type thing. That's right kids, the US government would have some underemployed redneck gun-collectors "defending" their borders. Look, at the end of the day, the US, like any nation-state has the right to secure its borders. But having amateurs out there, that's frightening, if it happens, I'll be just waiting for them to end up shooting each other, bystanders, or real qualified border guards. If you need to do something, build a better fence and/or wall, just don't ask me how your fruit or construction industries will manage to function after that.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

More Cowbell in the White House!

Just consider the possibility!

Friday, August 12, 2005

You are a Target Market

So the other day CNN (which is trying to beat Fox in the race to be the largest repository of idiots on TV I think) goes on about the effect of The Passion of the Christ on Hollywood. Now I must confess that I've never seen The Passion, but I have read the book. The report then went on to say how the success of the gospel according to Mel hadn't really changed Hollywood. The evidence that CNN submitted for this claim was the large number of R-rated films released since The Passion. But wasn't the The Passion an R-rated film? Then the piece turned to the rise in Hollywood of Christian marketers, that is, of people who market films that have some sort of even vaguely biblical message specifically to churches and other Christian groups. Ugh. That's the lesson that Hollywood has learned from Gibson's film, how to sell films to churches. Great.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New Low in Exploiting 9/11

Apparently the Pentagon wants to hold a big parade and country music show! What next, a September 11 theme park in Crawford, TX? These filthy bastards have shown a nearly limitless desire to exploit 9/11 to do anything except ACTUALLY CATCH THE DAMN TERRORISTS!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Quid Pro Quo

Right now there is a certain hysteria in Toronto about gun violence. Now crime in Canada has been declining over the years and Toronto has one of the lower crime rates among major North American cities, but every time there's a clump murders all at once, the media and the police (though they are more restrained now that Herr Fantino is gone) do like to exploit it. I don't particularly want to add to that clamour, but I do have an idea. The guns used in these killings are generally thought to be smuggled here from the US. At the same time, the DEA's reefer madness about pot coming from Canada has got them trying to get Canadian authorities to do their dirty work.

My solution: Canada will work to limit pot smuggling when the US works to curtail weapons smuggling. The US can keeps its guns, we'll keep our pot, I know which one frightens me more...

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Horrible Idea

Some woman somewhere in America came up with this idea, as the good people at BagNewsNotes explain:
The proposed design was created by Marcia Thompson Eldreth of Cecil County, Md., and was inspired by a sermon she heard in church. It is intended to replace the international Christian flag (which Ms. Eldreth describes as "crisp and dignified, but politely cold"). This version is supposed to be flown alongside the stars and stripes.

So the international Christian flag isn't good enough? And moreover, it's not exclusively American, so something better be done about this. The whole principle is disturbing, after Paul wipes out all distinctions in the church, we are always so eager to make churches organs of one group or another. But beyond that, it's disturbing in how it depicts Christianity in America.

The comments on BagNewsNotes are full of concern, but I don't know if many of them are from a specifically Christian point of view. If anything though, from a strictly Christian point of view, it's even worse. There is no good interpretation of the American eagle carrying the cross. Is the cross (Christianity) too weak to support itself? Or maybe it says that only Americans can carry the gospel forth? Or maybe it's more obvious than that, the American political and business establishment has seized the cross for its own ends. Either way, it's unbiblical for the cross to either need the help of a national symbol or be usurped by it. It is sufficient by itself.

The border is just as bad. It's black and full of stars. The black border is constricting and the stars seem to imply who is do the constricting - the United States of America. Thus the cross, seized by the eagle, is now bound up by the constrictions of one state. What does this mean? Only American churches may set the limits of Christianity? It's disturbing to say the least. Are Christians in other parts of the world somehow less Christian? Can only Americans make correct interpretations of doctrine?

I could go on about how the Bible verse, in this context, is not a great comfort, but the flag is already so sickening to me, that I feel that to be redundant. Christians in America, do you feel this flag represents you? I sincerely hope that it doesn't.

Edit: Someone pointed this out in the original post, but why is such a Germanic font used? More really terrible connotations...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Working on Something New

In addition to this blog, I've decided to start up another one, The Average Bass Player. I wanted some place where I could ramble on about that passion as distinct from here were I ramble on about anything and everything. This place will pretty much continue the same way, only now I have an outlet for a lot of specialized knowledge (and perhaps specialized ignorance).

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Random Book Updates

Right now I'm reading Kirkegaard's Training in Christianity, it's interesting because it confirms some of what I'd heard about him, but in other ways it's rather surprising. At the same time, I'm nearly done Volume I of Don Quixote which has been joy to read. The other day, just for the heck of it, I read some more of the poems of Paul Celan. I know this is lame, but I bought that book because I read somewhere that it had influenced some of U2's lyrics.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bush Appoints Grumpy Malcontent

That's right kids, Bush decided that what the US needs is this Bolton guy. Apparently he's going to "fix" the UN. He's the perfect man for the job because that's what the other veto-holders like France love, an angry, red-faced American shouting at them. Good job Team Chimpy.