On Being A Small Blue Dot In A Dark Red, Theocratic State

Just for fun, since I am doing some long-overdue digital housekeeping, here’s an article from 2007. This is, you’ll note, before Barack Obama was elected President. You may want to keep that part in mind when you read (that, and this is dated; I don’t get newspapers dumped on my lawn anymore–if you stop paying them, they do eventually cut it out–and those unwanted Pennysaver rags can’t be stopped by anything short of a very, VERY high wall).

HERE’S THE OLD STUFF:

I’ve also been catching up on the massive pile of newspapers–the newspapers I didn’t want and which rarely arrive (or which get swiped before I go fetch them from the puddles in the driveway, where they always end up)–and which are 90% adverts. Somehow a WTOC “news” paper ended up in the reading spot instead of being pitched, unread, into a bin. Each time I have attempted to read it, it makes me develop frown wrinkles.

WTOC 11 is one of a handful of local “news” channels, and, I’m 99% sure, they are responsible for the advert I groused about previously, which involved a rich white guy standing behind a White Baby Jesus nativity scene and reading ponderously from The Bible, which started airing in October, thus earning two frownie marks at once. October is for Hallowe’en (and my birthday), but not for pushing Christmas down my throat before I’m out of overpriced, undersized Tootsie Pops. Also, not everyone down here is Christian, though it sometimes sure seems like it. Maybe I’m grumpy, but it seems foolish for a supposedly unbiased news channel to air religious propaganda. Since they are FOX NEWS-lite, though, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

To my surprise and delight, though I couldn’t find the original article online (their website is terrible), I did find a comment from someone at Fort Stewart (military, of course) who grumped about another article Bill Cathcart (the article writer, and The Highest Muckity Muck at the station) penned wherein Cathcart misinterpreted Dennis Kucinich’s recent nay vote (unrelated to the article I’m grumping about, but intended to spark discussion about the “real” reasons behind the Iraq war and 9/11 and so on, from what I gathered) and wound up talking about Christianity for the last 2/3 or the article, which had fuck all to do with anything. The military guy patiently posted the more accurate details about the Kucinich vote and then complained that the pro-GOP and pro-Jesus stuff was really unnecessary. Word. And all the more “word” because, lo and behold, it proves that at least one of the many military d00dz in Jesusland is capable of having a lick of sense, and thinking for himself. (Imagine how popular he must be among his peers. Poor guy.)

Enjoy the article, which I have transcribed for your pleasure, and which would otherwise be lost to the mists of time (even the Wayback Machine failed me):

“Like the continual drip of a rusted faucet, ridiculous actions never cease. Two more servings of compost scooped from the heap. Several high school students in ever-progressive Boulder, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms to protest the daily recitation of the Pledge Of Allegiance, which includes, of course, our much-cherished tribute to God’s guidance. These left-ward youngsters chose to recite, instead, their own secular version, claiming that ours violates the Constitution’s “separation” clause, which, as you well know, does not exist.”

ZOMG! Two teenagers not wanting to pray at school! The horror! How “ridiculous”! What “compost”!

Shall we take bets on where Cathcart stands on the Creationism v. Evolution battlelines? No?

And when did “progressive” become a BAD thing? Honestly?

“Look, you want to write your own wedding vows, have at it. But you do not edit the American citizen’s pledge of loyalty to suit your own Mother Earth needs. Chalk up another one to social studies replacing history classes, and our trendy micro-focus on self. Forget our country; it’s me that counts. And, oh, by the way, God, thanks for the earth and stuff, but we’ve got it handled, so we’re cutting you loose.” 

First, let us applaud Cathcart’s generous offer to allow people to write their own vows without his disapproval. What a great guy!

Whereas I do agree that “micro-focus on self” is a problem a lot of kids seem to be afflicted with these days, and it is something I might fuss about in the future, I disagree that it runs hand in hand with Gaea worship (or that this might be wrong, as religion is a personal thing, thanks). I also resent the constant reminder, by fundies, that they take the whole Genesis thing really, really literally.

“Colorado requires its schools to read the Pledge daily over the PA. Students may either recite or stand quietly. So, with their Constitutional objection bogus, kids opting out, or even refusing to simply listen to our Pledge, must either be confused about where they are, or prefer to commit their allegiance to some other nation or galaxy. Ah, the sweet arrogance of youth.”

You can bet that if the school recited a “Gaea pledge” every morning that Cathcart would be railing against this just as strenuously as he is railing against the students who are trying to find a middle ground where they can still pledge allegiance to America without bringing someone else’s religious beliefs into it. Because they don’t want to pledge allegiance to someone else’s God, they are automatically bad kids. I don’t agree.

Some “other nation or galaxy”? What the eff?

“And speaking of professing allegiance to a nation other than America, according to a just-released Opinion Dynamics voter poll, 5% of Republicans, 7% of Independents and 19% of Democrats feel that the world would be better off if the United States lost the war in Iraq! Incredible and despicable. Talk about being self-possessed, or more likely, just plain possessed. While they have a right to that opinion, they should be absolutely ashamed to have it, given that this foolishness is just all about punishing President Bush. Our country and its future be damned.”

Note the TINY percentage of people who disagree with Cathcart’s point of view, here, and it is STILL pissing him off, though he graciously allows that they have the right to disagree. Even so, he just knows that they feel this way because they are out to punish Bush. There could be no other reason for their opinion. Furthermore, since they are so wrong-headed, they should be ashamed! SHAME on them for holding a different opinion, because clearly that also means they don’t give a crap about Amurika and where it is going.

Or, conversely, maybe they care A LOT, and didn’t like seeing tens of thousands of people dying for a trumped-up war that has produced no WMDs and where the trigger point was ostensibly 9-11, something NO Iraqis have been tied to, ever. (But the Saudis are our political buddies, you know.)

He can NOT stand it that even a small handful of people, of all political persuasions, disagree with him (and Bush). How can they not see the WISDOM and RIGHTNESS of the war? How can they say it would be okay to LOSE? How HORRIBLE and un-American!

GAH! People like this drive me crazy.

“By the way, those ex-patriots might want to remember that wish when the center of their city is in ruins, since a loss in Iraq clearly beckons further attacks here.”

Oh, CLEARLY. Because Iraqis flew planes into buildings, you know. And killing as many of them you can get your hands on will stop the random handful of nutburgers who embarrass their less-crazed neighbors by kamikazi-ing into stuff for the promise of seventy virgins and a mess of figs and honey in the afterlife.

Maybe losing the war would be unpleasant, but since we foolishly got into that mess on false pretenses in the first place, I don’t know that sticking it out is going to magically make things all better.

“Beyond un-American and pro-terrorist, defeat-at-any-price is imbecilic. Our loss there would be catastrophic, for Iraq, for the Middle East, for Europe, for the United States. To actually embrace defeat, people have to be out of their minds. Oh, wait, that’s it. They are! And they don’t belong in this country.”

ARGH ARGH ARGH!

Translation: “You disagree with me? You are crazy, and you need to leave the country.” Sir, if you will pay for my relocation, I will gladly take you up on your kind non-offer.

Now, let’s discuss.

Separation of church and state is a political and legal idea usually identified with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The phrase building a wall of separation between church and state was written by Thomas Jeffersonin a January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. (Wikipedia)

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (Thomas Jefferson)

… no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. (James Madison)

What Cathcart is saying (which is actually true) is that the exact phrase “separation of church and state” itself does not appear in the Constitution, but, on the other hand, he’s a bit wrong-headed as well, as it has been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.

The phrase “separation of church and state” became a definitive part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), a case which dealt with a state law that allowed the use of government funds for transportation to religious schools.

While the ruling upheld that the state law (allowing federal funding of religious schools) as constitutional, Everson was also the first case to hold the Establishment Clause applicable to the state legislatures as well as Congress, based upon the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1962, the Supreme Court extended this analysis to the issue of prayer and religious readings in public schools. In Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the Court determined it unconstitutional by a vote of 6-1 for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools, even when it is non-denominational and students may excuse themselves from participation.

As such, any teacher, faculty, or student can pray in school, in accordance with their own religion. However, they may not lead such prayers in class, or in other “official” school settings such as assemblies or programs, including even “non-sectarian” teacher-led prayers. […]

The court noted that it “is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America.”

In short, Cathcart is both right, in that the exact phrase does not appear in the particular document he cites, and wrong, in that he seems to be wilfully ignoring what our Founding Fathers intended and what more enlightened laws have underscored since.

What always boggles me is how Righty Whitey Christian Americans, generally speaking, are not in favour of other theocracies world-wide, but are all in favour of having one here. When Kennedy was running for office, a vicious tide of anti-Papist / anti-Catholic rhetoric spewed forth like sewage from a leaky pipe. Guess what? Since the majority of rich white people in charge of things at the time were not Catholic, suddenly they became more amenable to the idea of separation of Church and State, because they genuinely feared that Kennedy’s religious beliefs would interfere with his Presidential duties. They were more amenable, because their idea of religion was not shared by, arguably, the then most powerful man in the country.

Now that the arguably currently most powerful man in this country is a Born Again ex-cokehead Righty Whitey idjit who feels the need to inflict his religion on the country as a whole, the rich white dudes in power think separation of Church and State is now a BAD idea. Wonder why.

My prediction: we are going to be hearing how separation of Church and State “doesn’t really exist” or it is a bad idea UNTIL, by a miracle, some non-Protestant person is elected as President. And with the level of political corruption in this country, do you really think that will happen any time soon? Honestly? Right now, generally speaking, it supposedly “looks pretty good” for Democrats. This, I am telling you, will bring out some of the most vicious, underhanded, pro-Jesus flagwaving xenophobic mutts you ever saw during the next Presidential campaign.

What I’d love is a President who gets into office (without help from governor brothers, denying African Americans their vote, or friendship with the guy who OWNS Diebold) as a WASP-acceptable candidate and then converts to Judaism, which is a religion most of my sane friends practice, or something else that would make the rich white Jesus freaks go bananas. We might even get some “no backsies” laws that might actually stick that make it crystal clear that the State has no damn business dabbling about with religion of any stripe or type.

Last time the issue went before the Supreme Court, they punted, all the better to avoid truly clarifying the damn policy once and for all.

Sadly, I can not predict with certainty that we’ll have a Dem in office next go ’round, because the frontrunners, last I checked, are either female or black, and there are enough folks out there who are uncomfortable with both or either to potentially jigger the election for whoever the Repubz decide to nominate.

Do I personally think Jesus is “bad”? No, actually. I also know plenty of people who are devout and not hypocritical about it, and they don’t see the need to convert everyone else to their point of view, because they have the sense to understand that religious belief is deeply personal and private.

Some websites you may find interesting:


Americans, generally speaking, do not like or want to try to understand other theocracies, often nattering on about how wrong-headed and foolish those beliefs are, and comparing their own flavour of (usually) Christianity favorably to those other beliefs. As has been done for centuries, a particular type of Christian is really not into “live and let live” when it comes to competing religious beliefs. Not satisfied with their own personal salvation and religious beliefs, they feel the need to force everyone else to think and feel the same exact way, and to accept the same view of God as they have. I never understood that.

I especially don’t understand it when it involves two earnest, buzzcut-sporting, zitty teens in neckties (riding bikes) who insist on waking me up on the weekend.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that condemns the entire Muslim religion based on the actions of a handful of fanatical Muslim assrods, while conveniently neglecting to recall offenses a handful of fanatical Christian assrods have perpetrated throughout the ages.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that is so xenophobic and jingoistic as to say things like “America! Love it or leave it!” while forgetting that America is about preserving personal freedoms and rights, as long as those do not infringe upon other people’s freedoms and rights. Technically. Officially. Well, that’s what they keep telling us.

And meanwhile they are also forgetting that a lot of other countries sincerely hate our American guts, and don’t want any of the average American personality types to soil their country. Given that I don’t like the average American and average American interests (including political ignorance, dislike of reading, spelling and grammar, choices in mostly crap entertainment, their mostly crap musical preferences, their mostly crap etiquette, especially their crap dating behavior, overly indulgent or completely hands-off parenting, pro-tanorexic fashion, anti-intellectualism, false piety combind with judgmental behavior when faced with anyone who falls into the “other” category, materialism, use of animals / babies as accessories, and so on and so on) much myself, I can’t really blame them.


I guess I am incredibly angry that, say, Paris Hilton merits even one line of press, whereas actual NEWS news is considered too “unsexy” to bother with at all. (Example: I’m irritated that I even know “New York” is a person as well as a place, though what she does or contributes to the world, well, THAT I do not know.) And we’re infecting the rest of the world with the same crap values (though, to be fair, the UK has us beat where it comes to the “build ’em up then tear ’em down” trivial non-news “reporting” and publishing).

I guess if you say “we’re the best country on Earth” often enough, some folks really start to believe it. I’d say the truth somewhere in the middle: that we do a lot of things right and our intentions are generally good, but we mess up in a lot of areas, too, and you can’t acknowledge one side, the side where we do something really right, without also admitting to the other side, the one where…hoo boy!…have we ever got some work to do.

I think I need some caffeine and a lie down.

END OF OLD STUFF.

Okay.

Did you catch that bit about how it would be hilarious if we got a President in office who announced he wasn’t Christian? Well, instead we got a Christian that the conservative nutbags among us keep swearing is really a Secret Muslim.

It is probably best that we didn’t enrage the crazy people by having him announce he was giving up bacon permanently and converting to Judaism, after all.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Californian Thrilled To Be Caught By The Fuzz While Carpooling With Corporate Person

CorporationNotPeopleSan Rafael, California resident Jonathan Frieman got pulled over in the carpool lane and ticketed in October, but, unlike most of us, Frieman was delighted and is looking forward to his day in court this week: it was all part of his plan to expose what he feels is the ridiculousness of the concept of “corporate personhood.”

Frieman has been into the idea of opposing corporate personhood since before it was “cool”: he’s been at it for more than ten years. For most folks, corporate personhood was not something discussed in much detail until after the unpopular 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, or perhaps until after Mitt Romney, while campaigning in 2011, cheerfully chirped at critics that he agreed that “corporations are people, my friend.”

As Wendell Potter from Citizens for Media and Democracy wrote in an article titled Corporations are People, My Friend, and So are States, Say GOPers:

While on the campaign trail in Iowa, former corporate executive and Republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney shot back at hecklers who were challenging his stance that it would be unfair and unwise to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to reduce the deficit.

“Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney said. “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? People’s pockets! Human beings, my friend.”

Democrats were quick to pounce. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said of Romney’s remarks: “It is a shocking admission from a candidate — and a party — that shamelessly puts forward policies to help large corporations and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class, seniors and students.”

There are some legal reasons why corporations are considered to be “people.” Most of those reasons deal with how legal disputes are to be handled (in short, who / what can be sued), but in recent years, the amount of funds a corporate “person” can contribute to influence political campaigns (among other things) has been hotly debated.

A brief synopsis of corporate personhood-related court cases:

In 1907, The Tillman Act banned corporate contributions to national political campaigns. In 1971, The Federal Election Campaign Act sought to set guidelines for campaign financing, then in 1974, the Federal Election Commission was founded to regulate elections,  and campaign funding limitations were imposed (the amount of money donated, the types of entities allowed to contribute, the degree of disclosure of contributions and contributors, and the amount of funding the government would or could provide were all legally defined).

In 1976, Buckley v. Valeo enforced campaign contribution donation limits, but also tied expenditure of money used to support one or more candidates during their elections to First Amendment protections. In other words, groups of people claiming that spending money is legally equivalent to exercising free speech rights have been around for decades; it is not a new concept.

In 1978, First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti set precedent that claimed that corporations and other similar entities should be allowed to donate to other political causes that did not necessarily involve supporting a specific candidate, such as ballot initiatives and referendums. Again, this may ring a faint bell if you followed the trail of corporation and other money that flooded in to oppose the Prop 8 same-sex marriage initiatives in California. First National v. Bellotti made it perfectly legal.

In 1990, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce supported the state of Michigan, which was attempting to keep corporations from using their wealth and resources to unfairly influence elections. In 2002, The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (also known as McCain–Feingold), prohibited corporations from buying advertising that specifically named candidates close to elections. In 2003, a similar court case–McConnell v. Federal Election Commission–upheld McCain–Feingold. In 2007, Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. undercut McCain–Feingold, but (mostly) upheld McConnell.

Here’s where–for some, at least–corporate personhood became a discussion topic around water coolers at work. In 2010, not only did Democrats stay home from the polls and allow Congress to become infested with Tea Partiers and their ilk, SCOTUS also decided, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that the First Amendment protects corporate “people” that might wish to donate freely to any candidates they liked, but also to allows them to flood the airwaves with “independent political broadcasts” during candidate elections (as well as, as already established, non-candidate elections such as Prop 8). Thus did SCOTUS render Austin invalid as it also partially overruled McConnell, making it practically toothless.

CorporationsRPeople

In 2011, then-candidate Mitt Romney infamously called corporations people when responding to hecklers in Iowa. Last year SCOTUS also ruled, in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General of Montana, that Montana’s state law(s) against corporate financing pertaining to elections did not overrule Citizens United. To be clear, neither Buckley (in 1976) nor Citizens United (in 2011) specifically addressed corporate personhood; corporate personhood as a legal construct was already simply assumed.

Our Californian friend Mr. Frieman is clearly a patient man. It is implied that he has been diligently toting a sheaf of corporation papers around with him–at least when driving alone in carpool lanes–for at least a decade, boldly setting out to be a solo-driving carpool lane scofflaw as often as possible, all while hoping that one day a law enforcement officer would eventually notice only one head silhouetted within Frieman’s car…and issue him the traffic ticket that would allow Frieman to show up in court to dispute it. Finally, in October last year, Frieman was pulled over for ridin’ solo in the wrong lane and ticketed. Score! It only took ten years!

As NBC News reports:

He waved his corporation papers at the officer […] saying that “corporations are people” under California law. Frieman doesn’t actually support this notion. For more than 10 years, Frieman says he had been trying to get pulled over to get ticketed and to take his argument to court — to challenge a judge to determine that corporations and people are not the same. Mission accomplished in October, when he was slapped with a fine — a minimum of $481. […]

Frieman, who faces a traffic court on Monday, plans to tell the judge that this isn’t about carpool lanes; it’s about corporate power. “I’m just arresting their power and using it for my service to drive in the carpool lane,” he told NBC Bay Area’s Jean Elle.

University of San Francisco law professor Robert Talbot says Frieman’s argument may not hold up because it steers too far from the intent of carpool lane laws. “A court might say, ‘Well, it says person, and a corporation is a person, so that’ll work for the carpool lane,’” Talbot told NBCBayArea.com. “It’s possible, but I doubt it.”

Frieman explained his rationale further for the San Rafael Patch in May, 2011, long before he finally achieved his goal of being arrested last year:

You know how the carpool lane on 101 has those signs which say, “Carpool is two or more persons per vehicle?” Did that ever make you want to check out what the definition of a person is in the California Vehicle Code? It says “Person includes a natural person or corporation.” That’s wide enough to, ahem, drive a truck through. Not to mention a skinny little carpool lane.

Just imagine what THAT courtroom scene’ll be like: “Your honor, I got this ticket because Officer ‘so-and-so’ believed I was the only ‘person’ riding in my car in the carpool lane during the restricted hours where the sign says two ‘persons’ need to be in a vehicle. Officer ‘so-and-so’ did correctly espy only one human being in my vehicle. From that he mistakenly believes there was only one ‘person.’ But there were indeed at least two ‘persons’ in that automobile at that time. At least.

Why? Cuz the definition of a ‘person’ in the California vehicle code includes both a corporation and a natural person. Section 470. I had incorporation papers just to be safe, but here’s why I was safe without them: there’s no definition of a corporation in the California Constitution. Nothing in the California Corporations code defines a corporation, either. Why? Cuz a corporation is an imaginary entity. Sort of like a childhood playmate. […]

Your honor, according to the vehicle code definition and legal sources, I did have a ‘person’ in my car. But Officer ‘so-and-so’ believes I did NOT have another person in my car. If you rule in his favor, you are saying that corporations are not persons. I hope you do rule in his favor. I hope you do overturn 125 years of settled law. On the other hand, your honor, if you dismiss the ticket and say I am right, that means anyone can go into the carpool lane alone during restricted hours. That is, you are saying that everyone, riding alone in an automobile in the carpool lane during restricted hours, also has on board a corporation, or, under California law, a ‘person’ other than them.

Frieman is not the first to come up with a novel approach to protesting corporate personhood. As Addicting Info reported in July, a Seattle, Washington woman has already married a corporation (the video clips are charming and amusing, as are the special wedding vows):

Ms. Angela Vogel married a Corporate Person in a public ceremony in Seattle Washington. Officiated by United Methodist Pastor Rich Lang, the ceremony was of course a political statement on the dangers of Corporate Personhood. However, due to the Citizens United decision, the marriage was in fact issued a legal marriage license, making Ms. Vogel, Inc. now the first person in the United States to have married a Corporate Person. […] Sadly, for the happy couple, marital bliss was not to be, as it was determined earlier today that the marriage license could not be legal due to the Corporate Person being underage.

There is one serious flaw in Frieman’s clever plan: if the arresting officer fails to show up on the appointed day, Frieman’s carpool lane ticket may simply be dismissed, saving him $481, but robbing him of his long-awaited chance to have his day in court to express his opinion about corporate personhood to a judge.

Cartoonist Ted Rall's take on the subject.

Cartoonist Ted Rall’s take on the subject.

In the meantime, if you think Citizens United is ridiculous, and think corporate personhood is even more so, you don’t have to risk annoying a traffic cop, exasperating a judge, or marrying a Corporate Person yourself. You can keep up with what groups like Move to Amend are up to, you can tell your Congresscritters that you want them to seriously consider the amendment proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders, and you can support other similar efforts nationwide.


Lorelei welcomes you to visit Liberal Lore on FacebookTwitter or at Addicting Info.

He keeps calling me a VooDoo Queen, and I don’t know WHY.

Who do you voo doo?

The ceremony begins with a Roman Catholic prayer. Then three drummers begin to play syncopated rhythms. The attendees begin to dance around a tree in the center of the yard, moving faster and harder with the rising pulse of the beat. The priest draws sacred symbols in the dust with cornmeal, and rum is poured on the ground to honor the spirits. One woman falls to the ground, convulsing for a moment before she is helped back to her feet. She resumes the dance, moving differently now, and continues dancing for hours. It is perhaps no longer she who is dancing: She is in a trance, apparently possessed by Erzuli, the great mother spirit. It is an honor to be entered and “ridden” by a Loa, or spirit.

     

Spooky tools for voodoo ghouls:
I Got My Mojo Workin’!

You might think you were in Haiti, where such rituals are commonplace: Voodoo is the dominant religion. But no.

You’re in Savannah, Georgia. It’s a somewhat hidden lifestyle in the Low Country, one that is especially secreted away from non-African-American citizens.

And you’re me.

I live in Savannah, and often drove past a little stripmall-type business on my way to and from home. It’s probably three or four blocks from my front door. It’s located next to consignment stores, a brass buffer, a musician’s equipment store, a cake decorator, a Wendy’s. It does not stand out, and it takes effort to patronize this store, as hours are irregular–at the whim of the store keeper, primarily–and the road it faces is frequently clotted with what passes for a traffic jam here in lazy, tiny Savannah.

It’s Midterms time again, and was heading home and it popped into my head that maybe I should try to spot the botanica. Maybe I could check it out. I decided to pull off and spend a little time browsing. I assumed it would be a place with books, candles, maybe some tarot decks, maybe some Oriental tchotchkes and crystals. You know, New Age-y. It will probably smell good and have windchimes and maybe a cat or two. They probably sell tea. Maybe I could offer to work there.


“I put a SPELL on you…
beCAUSE you’re MIIIIIIIINE!”
— Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Am I qualified? Well, no, but there’s a kid I talk to online, and he insists, for reasons of his own, to greet me as a VooDoo Princess. It’s this, and other quirks, that make me think he’s afflicted with 12-ness, but he means no harm. At any rate, if I wanted to do that voodoo to you, this town is as nice a place as any to get going with that stuff. So, okay, the first step is to visit a supply store. Can’t bake a cake without flour, and can’t be a big shot VooDoo Queenie without getting major mojo ingredients.

First of all, even looking for it and knowing it was there and going at a slower-than-normal clip, I passed right by it and had to turn around. It’s that much under the radar. When I pulled into the parking lot, a bleached blonde fat redneck woman boggled openly at me when she realized that I was heading towards the botanica. I had time enough to think to myself that this was a bizarre reaction from a total stranger before I opened the door to the store. Then I got it…sort of. I was an invader. The proprietress did not often get Caucasian chicks wandering into her establishment. It was a hardcore voodoo shop.

Fortunately, I find all kinds of new experiences fascinating, and I was willing to stay and explore and chat with the shopkeeper, and perhaps to learn something new. She was bored and I was hot and in no hurry to get home to wash my breakfast dishes.

Most of the store was taken up with candles and oils and incense, as expected, but there were certain differences between a botanica and your average New Agey store. First of all, don’t expect it to be polished and Yuppified. (And don’t drink the tea you can get there unless you’re sure you know what it has in it.) Most of the products were homemade locally. There is no discomfort with what outsiders would consider “black”, or dark, magick. Casting a love spell is a big no-no in most “white”, or healing / ‘good’, magick, as is attempting to control the will of other people in any other fashion. Not so in a botanica, where you can buy candles shaped like nude women and men (for use in sex and love spells, of course!), as well as various herbs and roots and powders and candles and oils, all intended to force someone else to bend to your preferences. We might judge that. Voodoo practitioners don’t. In fact, they probably reason that someone else is out there working a mojo on you already, so why not work your own personal mojo and get your requests listened to by the Loa too?

Again, it’s all somewhat alien to Caucasians, and that’s not a big surprise. It’s not our history, it’s not our culture. It’s not our place to horn in on what we do not have the background to deal with. Further, the tradition has many names and many different practices. The tradition in Louisiana is different from the tradition in Haiti, which is again different from the Gullah-based tradtion here in the Low Country.

In recent years, there has been a little more demystification of voodoo. Book lovers have gotten a glimpse from time to time, but only a glimpse. Fans of cyberpunk author William Gibson are aware of his interest in the Loa. It would seem that there are no two things more distinct than the primal, mystic, organic world of Haitian Voodoo (or voudoun), and the detached, mechanical world of the high-tech future. Yet Gibson parlayed off the success of his first SF ‘cyberpunk’ blockbuster Neuromancer to write a more complex novel, Count Zero, in which these two worlds are rapidly colliding. Gibson apparently felt there was an instinctive linkage between Haitian Voudoun and the urban hyperreality of his fictional Sprawl. As a fan of jazz and other urban music, Gibson instinctively found the religion for his new urban dystopia. The essential struggle in the book is between a Voudoun / cyber sect and the Yakuza, the Japanese gangster conglomerate. It is a battle between two traditions: one of power, corruption, and influence and the other of passion, magic, and sensuality. There are scholarly papers being written about how belief in the loa and belief in the possibility of the Internet–as a vastly interconnected System / Sprawl / Matrix–eventually developing a rudimentary artificial intelligence or awareness might tie together to explain a third popular meme, that of the Ghost in The Machine. (If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I urge you to explore it on your own, as I am long-winded enough without digressing off into THIS particular subtopic!)

Other bibliophiles discovered Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Berendt’s book introduced readers to Minerva, voodoo priestess, and the powerful and infamous (but currently deceased!) Dr Buzzard, of St. Helen’s Island, the courtroom specialist, who used power, unknown tongues and the Evil Eye, to cause hostile witnesses to seize up in the middle of crucial testimony and fall–frothing and twitching–to the courtroom floor. “Root doctors” command respect, fear and healthy fees for their services. And even though Dr Buzzard is now dead, believers still petition him for favours, lucky numbers, support in their causes. He’s still a big man in the voodoo community. Death has not cramped his style one iota.

At a voodoo ceremony, believers gather outdoors to make contact with the Loa, any of a pantheon of spirits who have various functions running the universe, much like Greek gods. Each of the spirits has a distinct identity. Some are loving and good, while others are capricious or demanding. Haitians believe that the Loa most often express their displeasure by making people sick. There is also a responsibility to care for beloved and deified family spirits and to honor a chief god, Bondieu. During the ceremony, participants ask the spirits for advice or help with problems. It’s said that more than half the requests are for health.

My new shopkeeper friend would dispute this. Or maybe she just read me well, and realized my impecunious state at present. As I noted, I’m pretty much a jobless ne’er-do-well at present, though I’d rather not be. Her clients buy come-to-me oils and money candles and prosperity incense sticks. They empty their already slender wallets, hoping to receive an insight so they can choose the correct three-digit Quik-Pik lottery number.

In the West voodoo has been portrayed in zombie movies and popular books as dark and evil, a cult of devil worship dominated by black magic, human sacrifice, and pin-stuck voodoo dolls—-none of which exist in the voodoo practices that originated in Benin. This isn’t the whole story. In Haiti, voodoo began as an underground activity. During the 1700s, thousands of West African slaves were shipped to Haiti to work on French plantations. The slaves were baptized as Roman Catholics upon their arrival in the West Indies. Their traditional African religious practices were viewed as a threat to the colonial system and were forbidden. Practitioners were imprisoned, whipped, or hung. The slaves continued to practice in secret while attending masses. What emerged was a religion that the colonialists thought was Catholicism—-but they were outfoxed.

It was easy to meld the two faiths, because there are many similarities between Roman Catholicism and voodoo. Both venerate a supreme being and believe in the existence of invisible evil spirits or demons and in an afterlife. Many of the Loa resemble Christian saints, endowed with similar responsibilities or attributes. For example, Legba, an old man, is said to open the gates between Earth and the world of the Loa, much like St. Peter traditionally throws wide the gates to Heaven. But there are differences. Westerners tend to believe in free will and personal choice. Not so in voodoo. The Loa are believed to determine our lives to an astonishing degree and they are always present in great numbers: there might be two people in a room, but there are also twenty Loa. Participation in voodoo ritual reaffirms one’s relationships with ancestors, personal history, community relationships—-and the cosmos. There’s another important difference: anthropologists estimate that voodoo’s roots in Benin—-formerly Dahomey—-West Africa may go back 6,000 years (an estimated 60 million people practice voodoo worldwide). Compare the longevity of these beliefs to Christianity, which has been with us for only a little over TWO thousand years.

Savannah has an active voodoo subculture here, though naturally it is not as widespread, commonplace or accepted as it is in Haiti, and yet the customs arrived here and persist for the same reasons: slavery and tradition. Isolated on coastal plantations, the slaves created a lingua franca–a common tongue. We call it Gullah. Maybe after Angola. Maybe from the West African Gola River. Nobody knows. Gullah slaves may have been stripped of everything but their names but they came from oral cultures. They had no books, no saved scrolls that could be torn away and flung overboard. They remembered what was sacred. In Cuba, they call the magic Santeria. In Belize, obeah. In Haiti, voudoun. In New Orleans, voodoo. Folklorists call it hoodoo, conjuration, rootwork. But the Gullah do not call it anything. Perhaps it is too fearsome for utterance. Certainly, casual talk is a faux pas of cosmic proportions. Nonbelievers are ashamed of their forebears’ credulity. Belivers are afraid of spiritual retribution. Even if they do not have a name for the tradition itself, the do have a name for the sorcerers who practice it. The Gullah call them root doctors, a literal translation from the west African Fon, which pegged tribal medical doctors as workers with roots.

Our voodoo folks down here are mostly root workers.

While I was in the store, a customer came in with five children. One child is also clearly not a relation but a babysittee. He’s blonde and even paler than I am. The other children are siblings and other babysittees. And they are incredibly well-behaved. Perhaps the babysitter has impressed upon them that running amok in a root worker’s shop and attracting exasperated attention is a bad idea.

She pretty much ignored me and started telling her troubles to the shopkeeper. She used to have good luck, but now it has turned against her. Precious Jesus alone knows why. She needs something powerful to fix her luck. She needs money, and money just fall out of her hands and bills come. She has the bad luck, the juju. Someone or something has fixed agin her, and she needs to turn it back around.

You get the idea.

She’s a bubbly older lady, and she makes me smile with her animated gestures and her lengthy, heartfelt speechifying. I say something to the effect that if the shopkeeper can’t fix it, there’s no help in this world, and they both favour me with a big grin. I then butt out and just continue to browse.

After the babysitter purchases her candles and powders and oils, the shopkeeper and I continue to chat as I browse, taking note of the differences between the botanica and a typical New Age store. You can buy “rum” at a botanica. (I wouldn’t wish to presume as to its alcohol content or taste, but the spirits probably are happy with it.) There are buckeyes and other roots, fenugeek and other herbs, bayberry candles for money-attraction and other candles, gold glitter dust and other powders to sprinkle, burn, wear or mix into various concoctions. It’s interesting.

I do have to say that there is a slightly dark feeling to some of this stuff, but that’s more due to my background and belief system than any inherent evil lodged in, say, a baggie of lavender buds or a bath oil with food colouring and herbs in it. A hammer can help you put things together by helping you nail things together, and it can help you dismantle things by helping you pry nails out. Peanut butter can improve a jelly sandwich or kill someone with legume allergies. You get the idea. It’s how you use the tools, not the tools themselves.

I left without buying anything (I had no money to buy anything even if there was something I wanted), though I had inspected her (seven) decks of tarot cards. I owned about 2/3 of the types she was offering, which is an indication to me that this isn’t where I need to be browsing for tarot decks anyway. Which means it is also not a place that would be interested in hiring me to do tarot readings. (The shopkeeper also noted that two customers per day means business is booming.) But finding stores with tarot decks I don’t have (and still want) is getting more challenging.

Yeah, I’m a tarot deck collector and a reader and have read since I was ten or eleven years old. I started collecting decks shortly after college. I have almost 70 decks of cards of various types, 55-60 of which are strictly tarot and the remainder of which are still divination decks of some type or another (like the one based on Jungian psychology, one based on Osho Zen, et cetera).

Do I believe it is actually telling someone’s fortune to read their cards? No, not really. I think the subconscious reacts to the symbols and uses them to translate what your intuition has already picked up on from your client.

On the other hand, I can’t really explain how this worked: I did conduct an experiment a few years ago. I offered to read tarot cards for people over AOL Instant Messenger. This is something that I have charged up to $30 for, though I’m still cheaper than most tarot readers, as I spend close to an hour or more with each querent. Readings go for $20-25 for fifteen minutes in Atlanta, LAs Vegas and New Orleans. What a bargain. And, being poor, I can’t afford to do hour-long readings for free these days. An hour spent noodling around on AIM is an hour I should be spending working on my websites or job-hunting, you know?

Anyway, I read for a few dozen folks, and I knew nothing about them except their “handle”. I said I didn’t want to know whether they were male or female, how old they were, where they lived, or even what their question might be. And out of all those blind readings, only ONE person said that I was inaccurate, but her question had been “should I have an affair with another married parent I run into while picking up my child at daycare”, or so she revealed when we discussed her reading afterwards, and the cards had said no, no, no, a thousand times no, don’t do it, all signs point to no, are you fucking insane, this is a bad plan, perhaps an illuminated billboard saying “NO!!!” would help, no, no and no…and she kept rephrasing the question to me again and again, hoping for a yes to justify her desire to give into her loin-flamage stirred by her libido. And I couldn’t give it, not based on what the cards were saying.

What happened? She probably fucked him. She wasn’t going to hear that it was a bad idea. Do I care? Not really. I gave the advice that was sought, but to care too much would be to inject my own opinions and morals into the reading. I don’t think married people should ignore problems in their marriage and seek booty from other married people that they aren’t getting at home. But that’s just me. Also, people who have a polyamorous and mutually-agreed-upon situation should know that I am not talking about them.

Voodoo practitioners probably wouldn’t have told her it was a bad idea, though I don’t know that for sure. I assume that only based on the plethora of products available to help the customer go after whatever booty object they desired. There were no warning labels, if you know what I mean.

I’ve been to New Orleans and I have what my former roommates and I dubbed a “poodoo doll”, a poppet in a coffin made for tourists to buy as a curiosity. The poppet looks like Mr. Hanky (from South Park), hence the nickname. Hey, I’m sure I could hex someone into a fierce bout of constipation if I concentrated hard enough.

I’ll probably talk about tarot and Qabbalah (what little I understand of it, of course!), and Taoist philosophy and travels hither and yon and so forth in future blogs, but, for now, I have rattled on long enough. Also, I got a check today from CafePress and I intend to treat myself to actual food. And maybe a pack of clove cigarettes. Yeah! So I’m off like a prom queen’s dress. Chat with you later.

Who’s That Shrub?

Why do some people seem to actually miss this guy?

Some low-lights:

  • The first president in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.
  • In his first two years in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs.
  • Shattered record for biggest annual deficit in history.
  • Set all-time record for biggest drop in the history of the stock market.
  • Cut the taxes of the wealthiest people in America (those making over $200, 000 a year).
  • Members of Bush Administration were the richest administration in history.
  • First year in office set the all-time record for most days on vacation by any president in U.S. history.
  • Cut unemployment benefits for more out-of-work Americans than any president in U.S. history.
  • Dissolved more international treaties than any president in U.S. history.
  • Set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases.
  • First president in U.S. history to attack a sovereign nation against the will of the United Nations and the world community.
  • Took the biggest world sympathy for the U.S. after 9/11, and in less than a year, made the U.S. the most resented country in the world.
  • First U.S. president in history to have a majority of people in Europe (over 70 percent view his presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.
  • In the 18 months following the 9/11 attacks, he has successfully prevented any public investigation into the biggest security failure in the history of the United States.

WHO is it?

Time’s up.

Now, tell me again, WHY do some people actually pine for the “good ol’ days” of the Bush administration? I lived through them, and they weren’t all that swell.

Athena In San Francisco Shares The Top Five Myths About America

Swiped shamelessly from a poster in the Bay Area (San Franscisco) who called herself “Athena”. (It might not be safe to assume that a female deity pseudonym = female person in “real life”, but I’m willing to go there if you are.) Swiped because the ranting is heartfelt and well-researched. Impressive. (NOTE THE AUTHOR before yelling at me for writing something you didn’t like, please. It’s not original.)

Top 5 Myths About America
Date: 2006-05-22, 9:25AM PDT (NOTE THE DATE before fussing that some data is not current, please.)

MYTH 1: The US was founded on Christian principles.

TRUTH:

This is incorrect.
The Constitution never once mentions a deity, because the Founding Fathers wanted to keep their new country “religion-neutral.” Our Founding Fathers were an eclectic collection of Atheists, Deists, Christians, Freemasons and Agnostics.

George Washington, the Father of our country, and John Adams (Second President of the USA) CLEARLY stated in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli: “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.”

G.W. rarely attended church and instead followed a popular 18th century philosophy called Deism—a Star Wars-esque philosophy that believed in a cosmic energy or big-ass universal “Force.” The dictionary says that Deism is “a system of thought advocating natural religion based on human reason rather than revelation,” that had nothing to do with Christian principles.

James Madison, original mastermind of our Constitution, was an Atheist to the core who loved skewering Christianity. In 1785 he wrote, “What have been [Christianity’s] fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

Thomas Jefferson, who sat down and authored The Declaration of Independence, rarely missed an opportunity to laugh at Christianity. In a letter to John Adams in 1823, he wrote: “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus…will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

More ammo: In 1814, Tommy J. wrote about the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, “The whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful — evidence that parts have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds.”

In fact, it was President Jefferson himself who first wrote (to a Baptist church group in 1802), “The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between Church and State.” Therefore, when Jefferson talked about “Nature’s God,” the “Creator” and “divine Providence ” in the Declaration that he wrote, he was being a hippie and referring to a general cosmic energy– not the Christian God.

America is not a Christian nation. Period. Our Constitution derived from the post-Christian Enlightenment values of reason and truth…never from the paranoid yammerings of that otherwise compassionate cult leader who fucking died in the Middle Eastern desert 3000 years ago.

MYTH 2: US Conservatives tend to be patriotic, ethical Americans; liberals tend to hate America and are immoral.

TRUTH:

Liberals aren’t the traitors to America. In fact, conservatives who insist on sending American troops into the Iraqi slaughterhouse to watch some blood-n’-guts “towelhead” ass-kickin’ are the traitors. Most of them could care less about our troops, no more than Mao or Stalin cared about the safety of their own soldiers. In the neocons’ view, these young boys and girls are expendable test dummies. They’re dying for virtually nothing, so that the hicks in the Bush Admin can make good on their campaign promises to their buddies from the petroleum and infrastructure-rebuilding industries. By revving up the Arab threat, these MFs can scream “national security” and “freedom” as smokescreens, while getting their hands on a diminishing resource: Middle Eastern fossil fuels, which power everything from your lightbulbs and computer that you leave on all night, to your stupid gas-guzzler pickup truck.

Pro-war conservatives are the traitors to America. With only 29% of the public approving of Bush’s policies now, it took a full 5 years for America to finally wake up in bed next to this disgusting fact.

Do liberals hate America? No, in fact they care so much about the USA that they fight so aggressively to make it better. They’re not anti-American; they’re just anti-stupidity. Do liberals hate American policies? Sometimes, but only the self-destructive ones that threaten human rights, liberty, democracy, justice, inquiry, excellence and reason– the values that our country was founded upon.

As for conservative moral superiority? Frauds. Think of the child-molesting priests, money-scamming televangelist preachers, Jack Abramoff’s friends in the Bush Admin, gay-hating Jesus lovers, the Christians who beat up the professor who opposed intelligent design, human rights violators like Lynndie England and her Abu Ghraib hick officer pals, Tommy “Scandal-icious” Delay, Scooter “Leaky” Libby, the entire K Street Project meant to hire only Republicans, FEMA’s Michael “Yer doin’ a heckuva job” Brownie, and so on.

Oh and by the way, conservative Red states have a divorce rate 27% higher than the liberal Blue states, the per capita rate of violent crime in Red states is 49 per 100,000 higher than in Blue states, the top 5 states with the highest rates of alcohol abuse are Red states, and the per capita rate of gonorrhea in Red states was 41 per 100,000 higher than in the Blue states. Time to unshelf the antibiotics for our “ethical,” “God-fearing” conservative friends with their “traditional family values.”

MYTH 3. The US has a liberal media.

TRUTH:

This is a paranoid Republican myth.
Reality check: the US media is a mix of liberal, centrist and conservative voices. Also, the US media is largely owned by 10 corporations who frequently push pro-conservative agendas to the American public. Evidence:

1. Even Republican Pat Buchanan confessed, “For heaven sakes, we kid about the liberal media, but every Republican on earth does that.” Neo-conservative pundit Bill Kristol also said, “I admit it: the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.”

2. A 2005 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that “coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media.” Why? Partly because only four major corporate networks control American TV news– up to 75% of the audience share. The “Big 10” media conglomerates who control the bulk of the entire US media are: AOL Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, Bertelsmann, AT&T and Liberty Media. Yes, we have National Public Radio, but compare its public reach to that of Canada’s CBC and the United Kingdom’s BBC.

3. Eighty percent of all US newspapers are owned by corporate chains.

4. Liberals are virtually non-existent on talk radio stations nationwide. Rush and Dr. Laura, eat your hearts out.

5. Conservatives are very well accomodated for across FOX News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the New York Post, the American Spectator, the Weekly Standard, the Drudge Report, the National Review, etc. Even so-called “bastions of liberalism,” e.g. the NY Times, MSNBC, WashPost and NPR make a concerted effort to be “fair and balanced” by bringing in right-wing views like those of David Brooks, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, Charles Krauthammer and Cokie Roberts to have their say in these forums, respectively. This is in stark contrast to FOX News’ claims to unbiased objectivity, which were easily demolished by Robert Greenwald in 2004.

6. Contrary to what some paranoid Republicans claim, most journalists are centrists, not liberals. A representative sample of 141 US journalists and bureau chiefs were asked in 1998, “On social issues, how would you characterize your political orientation?” Answers: Left 30%, Center 57%, Right 9%, Other 5% . Next question, same sample: “On economic issues, how would you characterize your political orientation? ” Answers: Left 11%, Center 64%, Right 19%, Other 5%. Also, look at the total number of think tank citations in major newspapers, radio and TV transcripts: Conservative TTs: 7792, Centrist TTs: 6361, Liberal TTs: 1152.

7. Eric Alterman summarizes a 1999 research study from the academic journal Communications Research: “Four scholars examined the use of the ‘liberal media’ argument and discovered a fourfold increase in the number of Americans telling pollsters that they discerned a liberal bias in their news. But a review of the media’s actual ideological content, collected and coded over a twelve-year period, offered no corroboration whatever for this view.”

MYTH 4. The US doesn’t need improvement compared to other countries; it is the greatest country in the world.

TRUTH:
Wrong again. I’ll only cite the statistics here.

USA Ranking on Adult Literacy Scale: #9
(#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- OECD

USA Ranking on Healthcare Quality Index: #37
(#1 France and #2 Italy)- World Health Organization 2003

USA Ranking of Student Reading Ability: #12
(#1 Finland and #2 South Korea)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking of Student Problem Solving Ability: #26
(#1 South Korea and #2 Finland)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking on Student Mathematics Ability: # 24
(#1 Hong Kong and #2 Finland)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking of Student Science Ability: #19
(#1 Finland and #2 Japan)- OECD PISA 2003

USA Ranking on Women’s Rights Scale: #17
(#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- World Economic Forum Report

USA Position on Timeline of Gay Rights Progress: # 6 (1997)
(#1 Sweden 1987 and #2 Norway 1993)- Vexen

USA Ranking on Life Expectancy: #29
(#1 Japan and #2 Hong Kong)- UN Human Development Report 2005

USA Ranking on Journalistic Press Freedom Index: #32
(#1 Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands tied)- Reporters Without Borders 2005

USA Ranking on Political Corruption Index: #17
(#1 Iceland and #2 Finland)- Transparency International 2005

USA Ranking on Quality of Life Survey: #13
(#1 Ireland and #2 Switzerland)- The Economist Magazine …Wikipedia “Celtic Tiger” if you still have your doubts.

USA Ranking on Environmental Sustainability Index: #45
(#1 Finland and #2 Norway)- Yale University ESI 2005

USA Ranking on Overall Currency Strength: #3 (US Dollar)
(#1 UK pound sterling and #2 European Union euro)- FTSE 2006….the dollar is now a liability, so many banks worldwide have planned to switch to euro

USA Ranking on Infant Mortality Rate: #32
(#1 Sweden and #2 Finland)- Save the Children Report 2006

USA Ranking on Human Development Index (GDP, education, etc.): #10
(#1 Norway and #2 Iceland)- UN Human Development Report 2005

So much for those “socialist” Europeans and those “backward” Asians, hm?
We can do better than this.

Miscellany:
*Only 18% of Americans own passports and bother to travel outside of the US.
* 85% of US soldiers in Iraq believe that they are there to get revenge for 9/11.
* New international student enrollment in US grad schools has decreased by 6%, because of xenophobic post-9/11 US visa restrictions, jacked-up tuition fees and better educational opportunities in the EU and Asia. So no, not everyone wants to come here anymore, because it’s become a land of incredibly limited opportunity, and we’ve lowered our educational standards.

MYTH 5: The US government loves to help other countries.

TRUTH:
This is a myth. The US government tends to be motivated by interests, not humanitarian principles.

Denmark gives the most amount of its GDP (1.01%) to developing countries; Norway gives 0.91%; the Netherlands give 0.79% and so on until the end of list, where the USA sits. Yes, America ranks DEAD LAST in foreign aid at a pathetic 0.1% of its GDP, compared to the other 21 nations listed as developed nations. The idea that the US government is a heroic bunch that runs around the world helping the poor and the disempowered is not backed up by the evidence. We have one of the stingiest governments on earth.

Most Americans believe the US spends 24% of its budget on aid to poor countries; the actual amount is well under a quarter of 1%. Our country also ranks #5 on asylum-seeker acceptance rates (#1 is Denmark and #2 is Canada).

For you self-congratulatory, redneck-inspired conservative fuckwads who will start to say, “B-b-b-but you’re anti-American! M-m-m-moonbat! G-g-g-god bless the USA!” I answer, “Go fuck yourself. We can do better.” Stop blindly believing everything your president tells you. Come back to us only when you start realizing that the $400 billion your president has allocated to his Roman Empire-style military overstretch could be better spent on correcting the sociopolitical and economic problems in the arenas that I’ve listed above.

For you liberal shit-heels who will start to say, “Yeah! Right on!” I answer, “Grow some fucking balls.” That goes for women and the LGBT community too, and don’t call me a sexist either: I’m more than comfortable with being a female, but I believe balls can be useful in situations like these. Instead, stop apologizing for being the “liberal elite,” and start championing un-abashed excellence in everything, not mediocrity. Help your reps and senators take back Congress, and stop dithering while the political tides are turning in your favor right now. The conservatives are terrified now; TAKE advantage of that. And don’t waste time trying to explain rational things to any homophobic Christians, or hyper-patriotic losers who wave and cheapen our American flag only for a self-esteem buzz, or those testosterone-filled, gullible, culturally-ignorant military recruiter robots who lack even a basic intelligence. THEY CANNOT BE REASONED WITH. They don’t understand statistics, elaborate charts, legislative proposals or complicated scientific explanations. Just let them go. Let them go.

In the meantime, stop being SHEEP and get up and do something before some bright and ambitious Chinese, Indian and the European students grow up to be international leaders and make your lazy, self-absorbed kids irrelevant on the world stage.

If this is a reasonable manifesto, click “best of,” upper right-hand corner.

Athena