Ink & Paper

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Just a note that I have been having trouble with comment spamming, where people/machines puke comments onto my blog and then provide links to sites about Rolex watches and Viagra. Obviously this caused me to fly into a huge, cat-kicking rage everytime it happened, and thus something had to be done.

If you now want to post a comment, you can do so as always, but will be required to type in a word verification before posting your comment. Nothing major, but it should cut down on spam comments, thus leaving room for regular bloggie comments. Hint hint.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:46 AM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


More straight-talking:

Hip-hop star Kanye West criticized President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina at a televised benefit concert in New York on Friday.

The show, which raised funds for relief efforts, featured Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Gere, Glenn Close, Harry Connick Jr and Wynton Marsalis.

But West told the audience: "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

The comment went out live on the US east coast, but was cut from a taped version seen on the west coast.

West also claimed the US was set up "to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible".

He appeared alongside comedian Mike Myers for a 90-second segment which began with Myers speaking of the devastation Katrina has caused to southern states of the US.

But to Myers' surprise, West departed from his script and said: "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food."

I don't know Kanye West from a donkey's ass but I do know that seizing the moment to speak the truth comes about very rarely. This topic, the idea that the victims of Katrina are primarily black and poor and suffering because of their skin color, is gaining a lot of ground on the internet, and even starting to be mentioned by the mainstream media.

The fact is that America is not a land of equal opportunity. It is, however, a land of misconception. Kanye West perhaps, is a prime example. Often the image North America sees of black culture is primarily through music videos, where guns, bling, scantily-clad women, and Cristal project an image of affluence and success, as defined by American capitalist standards. For the rare few black performers like West, this may be the case.

But the statistics surrounding black culture in the US do not show a minority drowning in bling and Cristal. From Wikipedia:

However, because of the disproportionate sizes of the working and lower classes, collectively, African Americans remain at an economic, educational and social disadvantage relative to whites. Economically, the median income of African Americans is roughly 55% that of whites. Persistent social, economic and political issues for many African Americans include inadequate healthcare access and delivery; institutional racism and discrimination in housing, education, policing, criminal justice and employment; crime; and substance abuse. African Americans are frequently the targets of racial profiling. They are also more likely to be incarcerated. African Americans also have higher prevalence of some chronic health conditions relative to the general population.

Prison stats

In 2002 roughly 88% of prisoners were male. About 12 percent of all black males in the United States between the ages of 20 and 39 were in prison, compared to 4 percent of Hispanic males and 1.6 percent of white males.

I have already made comment that if Katrina had hit in a predominantly white and affluent area, the response mayhave been different. Of course, this could be attacked as being nothing more than lefty speculation, which of course is exactly what it is. But the stats about African-American education rates, incarceration rates, poverty levels, and violent crimes do not lie: the USA is still gripped in the meaty paw of racial discrimination and perhaps forever shall be.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s certainly enhanced the standard of living for black people in the US, but what I see now is less of a continuation of this movement and more of a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude that is supported by the music and sports industries, which cater a false projection of racially balanced economic opportunity for all Americans.

The fact is that if you are born black in the US in 2005, you are more likely to see the inside of a jail, more likely to be affected by violent crime, and more likely to experience poverty than you would had you been born white. For all the multi-million dollar black athletes and musicians, there are many more black people who couldn't afford to get out of Katrina's way.

I applaud West for using his rare position to call it as it is, no matter how uncomfortable the truth may be for NBC and its viewers to take. To see the disparity between black and white in the US and not acknowledge the fact that there are institutional barriers that prohibit a fair game of life from being played is the highest form of self-delusion that one could ever hope to achieve.

And onwards we go...

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:00 AM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Friday, September 02, 2005

For an excellent photo essay,
click here.

I'm going to write this on Friday night, even though by the time most people read this again it will be Tuesday and things will have changed. Many have been saying that this tragedy in New Orleans should not be "politicized." I agree, to a point.

At the onset of this hurricane, it did not matter who you voted for, as Katrina didn't hit you depending on your voting history. But in the days that have followed, it is hard (and irresponsible) to ignore the fact that the response to this chaos has fallen far short of responsible and coordinated.

Some questions have been raised, one of which is the idea that the majority of the people trapped in New Orleans are black and poor. While I will not go so far as to say that racism is behind the slow response, I (as numerous others have) will point out that had this hurricane hit Vermont or Massachusetts, the response may have come more quickly.

The mayor of New Orleans,
Ray Nagin, has at least dropped the politically correct soothsaying:

"I've been out there man. I flew in these helicopters, been in the crowds talking to people crying, don't know where their relatives are. I've done it all man, and I'll tell you man, I keep hearing that it's coming. This is coming, that is coming. And my answer to that today is BS, where is the beef? Because there is no beef in this city. "

Nagin said, "Get every Greyhound bus in the country and get them moving."

Nagin called for a moratorium on press conferences "until the resources are in this city."

"They're feeding the people a line of bull, and they are spinning and people are dying," he said.

"I don't know whether it's the governor's problem, or it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get ... on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now," Nagin said.

"They thinking small, man, and this is a major, major deal," he said.

"Get off your asses and let's do something."

As I write, Friday at 5pm (roughly 8pm in New Orleans) National Guardsman are finally getting into New Orleans and bush has landed and is touring the sites of the devastation. It was early Monday morning when Katrina hit. That is 5, almost 6, very very long days.

In Washington, U.S. president George W. Bush admitted "the results are not acceptable" and pledged to bolster the relief efforts. He visited the stricken Gulf Coast later in the day, and pledged in Mobile, Ala.: "What is not working right, we're going to make it right."

A day late and a dollar short, and this time he may have read "My Pet Goat" just a little too long to be able to save his plunging popularity.

Even Republicans were criticizing Mr. Bush and his administration for the sluggish relief effort. "I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

You know when Newt Gingrich is bashing bush that this is a new level of emotion.

Lastly, there is a guy who is in New Orleans that is keeping a detailed and spooky-true livejournal about what he is seeing in the flood-ravaged city. Read it.

I suspect by the time that most of you read this, things will have changed for the better and the media will have switched from the 'doomsday' mode they are in now to a happier, 'families-reunited' mode. I suspect that the politicians will make some happy noises from their blowholes.

But what they won't tell you is this crazy/depressing reality that is going to hammer the refugees of Katrina:

It hasn't been widely discussed yet, but another disaster will strike the victims of Hurricane Katrina on October 17, 2005. And Bush can't say that he didn't anticipate it. He orchestrated it. The president's beloved Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act goes into effect on that day. Interesting that while the bill was passing though the House Judiciary Committee early this year, Democrats attempted to amend the bill to include measures to protect victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes.
The amendment to the bill, proposed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) was voted down without debate. Along party lines.

Thanks to Mr. T for shedding some light on this issue.

Anyway, now I feel depressed. So I'm going to play with Monday, who will be the main feature of Tuesday's blog.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 5:33 PM ~~ 5 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

If you can get past the super lefty opinions, there is a great detailing article here, examining 20 things we now know, 4 years after 9/11. Most of you won't read all of it.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:50 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Perhaps the best example of the right wing and its attempt to demonize the anti-war movement that has caught fire in part due to Cindy Sheehan.

Cindy Sheehan: anti-American communist?

That was the accusation coming yesterday from the Heritage Foundation, which hosted author John J. Tierney Jr. for a forum titled "The Politics of Peace: What's Behind the Anti-War Movement?"

Tierney researched the movement for a book and came up with some choice descriptions. "I have to say it is communist," he told an audience at the conservative think tank, also describing the groups involved as "revolutionary socialistic" and "cohorts" of North Korea, Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro's Cuba. "We're really dealing with . . . a comprehensive, exhaustive, socialistic anti-capitalistic political structure," he said.

Tierney, of the Institute of World Politics, identified five groups: ANSWER, Not in Our Name, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, and He said these groups "come from the Workers World Party" and are an "umbrella" for smaller groups, such as the "Communist Party of Kansas City" and the "Socialist Revolutionary Movement of the Upper Mississippi." Of the last two, he said, "I'm just making these up."

Tierney singled out Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq and who camped out at President Bush's ranch this month to protest the war. "I've never heard of a woman protesting a war in front of a leader's home in my life," he said. "I've never heard of anything quite so outrageous."

The author said he has "grave, grave problems with the conduct of the operation in Iraq" and wouldn't want to see his 20-year-old son go there. But he said it is "automatic" that anybody who joins a protest by one of the offending groups is supporting communists.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:26 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Have you ever used your Mastercard to pay off your Visa?

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.

But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

Thanks for the tip, Mr. T.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:18 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


The Thin Line

I have been following the ongoing disaster in New Orleans, a city which is now 80% under water after two main levees broke and flooded the below-sea-level metropolis. The mayor has estimated that the death toll could be in the thousands, which would make it the most deadly natural disaster in the US in more than a century. There is a very real chance that New Orleans will experience a complete evacuation of the city and surrounding communities, an exercise that is unprecedented in modern times on such a large scale.

Looting has and is occurring although most people, at this point, are looking for water and food, and maybe dry clothes, instead of the traditional looting booty of TVs and stereos. Electronics aren't worth much when the electrical and power grid is estimated to be down for the next 12-16 weeks.

While this looting is going on, police have been forced to turn a blind eye. On officer stated that there is nowhere to put the looters in terms of prison or detainment, so why bother. I can't say that I disagree with him, More alarmingly, are the reports of armed looters roaming the streets and according to the Globe & Mail "police officers were asking residents to give up any guns they had before they boarded buses and trucks because police desperately needed the firepower: Some officers who had been stranded on the roof of a motel said they were being shot at overnight."

The sad thing is that in a situation such as we are seeing in New Orleans, some people quickly revert to a survival of the fittest, Mad Max-mentality, and begin to truly rip apart the fabric of the society, a society that is already beaten down by Mother Nature. While some people try to do good, helping their fellow man, the truth is that when faced with potentially life-endangering situations, modern man quickly sheds his facade and out comes the Neanderthal in all of us, content to rape and pillage, intimidate and threaten, to get their way. It may not even be a result of feeling one's life is in danger; it may be simply because they can, in the face of a weakened societal control mechanism that is an outgunned police force.

Often we sit in front of our TVs, our internet browsers, and watch said chaos as it engulfs some far away land, where people resort to violence and animalistic behaviour when faced with either a lack of law enforcement or a fear of their own mortality. And often we feel a sense of quiet, unspoken superiority that the chaos on our TV will most likely never repeat itself here in the Western world. And even if an opportunity for chaos did poke its head up on our shores, we have lied to ourselves enough that we believe we as educated, first-world North Americans, would react in a logical and ethical manner. It is largely hypocritical to judge other cultures so easily, as we often know so very little beyond the 15-20 second clip we get on Fox News

The fact is that we are all the same in the face of a tragedy such as what we are seeing in New Orleans. Lawyers to labourers, Americans to Africans, when faced with such circumstances, we all equally regress to intimidation and power struggles to ensure our personal survival. And when we see such activities happening in our own backyard, we struggle with the little thought that tells us that we are, at the root of it all, no different than the starving masses that stampede a UN food truck in a backwater African country.

Degrees and doctorates, pieces of paper on one's suburban wall, do not necessarily mean that the doctor won't be right beside the welfare father of 8 in looting a shoe store in New Orleans. We, as a society, have created a system that stresses the inner divisions amongst us, be they educational and professional, economic and societal, or racial and sexual. And to see the complete collapse of these boundaries amid a situation of stress and fear, shows us just how paper-thin these little divisions truly become when the rubber hits the road.

The world's media will eventually forget Hurricane Katrina, as we have largely forgotten the tsunami victims, replacing them with another tragedy, another bloodbath or natural catastrophe. And no doubt when the next clip of a riot in some poor country hits our TV screen, we will, as a content and callous society, merely change the channel and perhaps utter an empty "how sad" remark.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:42 PM ~~ 2 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ciavarro and why he thinks Hurricanes are for Pussies. I agree.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:52 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


I'm sitting at the end of a hotel bed, the
mattress having seen far better days, the bedspread a seafoam green with brown flecks of leafy shapes splattered about in a poor effort. My head is in my hands and they run through my thinning hair, pausing briefly to massage the crik in the back of my neck.

The TV is blaring. I have it turned to CNN, which is assaulting me with snippets of candy-flavoured news, backed up by flashing laser lights and music that reminds me of childhood cartoons, where the good guys always were white and wore white. I hate the fact that CNN gets to me in this Arizona hotel room.

I stagger to my tired feet, my left hand steadying my drunken wobble. I sluff over to the window, a threadbare orange shred of fabric weakly trying to keep the hot desert sun from turning the room into a sauna. I push aside the curtain and stare out across a cracked pavement parking lot, through the shine of sunlight bouncing off car hoods and windshields. I see a McDonald's in the distance and, beside the McDonald's, a used car lot that has a dim neon sign hanging out in front of it. Some of the letters have burnt out.

I never saw much of the TV footage from the tsunami. I was in Iraq, trying to keep a lid on Basra. I heard about the tsunami, but only saw a few still frames, which probably don't do it justice. Plus I wasn't overly concerned about something in Sri Lanka, I was more concerned with covering my own ass and trying to forget the things I saw on a daily basis.

I came home, to Des Moines, only to find that more people were more concerned with the price of gas or who was on Big Brother 6, than with what was going on in Iraq. I got a warm welcome, for sure, but people didn't want to hear some of the things I had to say, preferring a quiet, ignorant life that left them bored but content.

How I ended up in Arizona with a dead hooker in my hotel bathtub, well, that is a long story. I was actually feeling pretty calm about the whole thing, until I turned on CNN and was bashed over the head with a hour long expose on how New Orleans was going to be the next Atlantis. And while I sat there, watching people on TV talk and talk and say nothing at all, I realized just how little we truly care about reality, unless it suddenly becomes a marketable entity, a dollar sign.

I thought back to the phone call that had launched my trip to this Arizona hotel room. When the doctor told me that I had tested through the roof for Depleted Uranium, on account of my loyal service to my country in Iraq, I had asked my wife to get an ultrasound check of our unborn baby. The doctor discovered the fetus had a condition common to those with radioactive exposure: atypical syndactyly. The right hand had only two digits. It fucked me up pretty good, and I haven't been home in three months.

And all I could do was stare at that cracked parking lot and wonder how my life came to this.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:56 PM ~~ 3 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Large parts of Biloxi, where roads are impassable and telephone lines down, may have been destroyed in what Mayor AJ Holloway described as "our tsunami". BBC

80% of New Orleans is underwater and estimates range from 80 to more than 200 people have been killed by Hurricane Katrina. Horrible stuff, as insurance claims are likely to top the $30 billion dollar mark. People are without power, homeless, and frightened. As you would expect.

But it does not compare to the tsunami, which killed at least 220,000. Not to mention the fact that the tsunami hit countries that were far less able to financially recover from the devastation, or to even deal with the illness and disease that came about afterwards.

I know New Orleans, along with parts of Alabama and Mississippi are devastated and I know that people are suffering and will continue to suffer in the coming months and years, as they struggle to deal with lost equity, lost jobs, high insurance premiums, and perhaps even some post-traumatic stress.

But Katrina was not the tsunami and to compare the two cheapens and trivializes the deaths of the 220,000 victims of the tsunami.

Odd that even in tragic situations where sympathy and kindred spirits should be shared amongst humankind, we still find a way to place each other in rank and file, value based on income, nationality and percieved superiority.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:40 PM ~~ 2 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Little to say today, as I spent the whole weekend either packing, lifting, moving, or dropping boxes. But the move from Red Deer (aka Dead Rear) to the storage facility known as my parents garage is complete and went well, on account that dollies are the greatest invention ever.

Next move is to the new house, September 15-ish, depending on the lawyers etc. This will be our last move ever, as I plan on being buried in the backyard or maybe in the basement, sometime around 2060 or so.

Next weekend I am doing absoultely nothing. Except drinking beer on a patio or something to that effect. Anyone interested? I'll be at the Elephant & Castle Friday at 415pm until Sunday at 900pm. Come one, come all.

Hey Cadrin, call me. Hoser.

Al, don't call me. Just kidding. Hoser.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:24 PM ~~ 2 bonsai trees

shout out out out out out


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