Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prayer in Pickens County

Note the specific wording of the following report from the Anderson Independent Mail. There will be a quiz later.

Pickens County school board changes prayer policy

PICKENS COUNTY — The Pickens County Board of Education passed a new policy Monday to allow only nonsectarian prayers at the beginning of school board meetings.

People turned out to the school board meeting Monday night to make final pleas for the school board not to change the policy that had been in place. The school board was strongly divided in its vote, which was 3-2 with one member abstaining.

“Please vote to be right, not safe,” Pickens County resident Vicky Gibson said.

Another resident said, “The point I’m trying to make tonight is we are giving up without a fight.”

School board member Jim Shelton said, “This board has sold your soul to protect themselves.”

Discussion about the new policy began after the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue the school district regarding the practice of student-led, sectarian prayer.

“Taking a stand like you’re suggesting will be a legal defeat, and it will be costly,” board member Alex Saitta said to those who wanted the district to keep the past policy despite the threat of a lawsuit.

The new policy doesn’t satisfy the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and it still may sue the district.
And now, note the title of this Facebook page, created in direct reaction to this event: I Support the Pickens County School Board Continuing Student-Led Prayer. The page is described as: Let's share to help get the word out. We can make a difference. Let's continue contacting Board members to voice support for the student-led prayers. (1324 'likes' so far.)

Do you see the discrepancy between the news account, and what the Facebook page claims? This deliberate misreading has been going on throughout upstate South Carolina media, since Monday night.

Nobody said they couldn't PRAY, they just have to be NONSECTARIAN prayers. But to some Christians, unless it is Christian prayer, it doesn't even count as prayer. It is rendered utterly invisible. (Or maybe they are illiterate and really do not understand the difference?)

And doncha love that "Please vote to be right, not safe"? If someone gets beat up for not having the same religion as the majority of Pickens County and not bowing their head on cue, oh well. BETTER RIGHT THAN SAFE.

When you are in the majority, you don't have to worry about safety, do you? Let those nonChristian punks worry about safety, galdurnit! This is PICKENS!

Stay tuned, sports fans.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Amazing Race lays Hanoi-sized egg



If you have ever watched "The Amazing Race" TV show on CBS network, you know the protocol. A diverse collection of two-person teams race around the world at breakneck pace, stopping at various tourist traps, landmarks and special events. At these colorful pit stops, they are usually required to participate in various contests and exercises: scaling mountains and walls and ladders into the stratosphere; dancing some intricate local tribal dances or engaging in some arcane ceremony; answering questions and quizzes about the history of wherever they are, and so forth. After they perform some telegenic activity (whilst inevitably arguing with each other about who is going to do it, who is right, etc)... they pick up the sacred clue to the next location, and off they go. The last pair to arrive at each locale is eliminated, until finally, there is one pair left, who are thereby proclaimed the winners.

Needless to say, it probably isn't easy to find distinctive, cool places to send the contestants. There is a bit of a travelogue on each show, as narrators quickly explain local history and customs, and provide interesting details, such as how many feet into the air they will have to climb, or how far away they are from such-and-such or so-and-so. It all tends to run together, so the challenge is to make each new location stand out and become uniquely interesting to the viewer.

Sometimes a locale is obviously chosen strictly for its emotional or political value, to stop viewers from getting bored and picking up that deadly remote. Or to get some drama going from the contestants' reactions to such a place.

On the March 17th show, it was Hanoi. HANOI.

H.A.N.O.I.

I was somewhat dumbfounded.

As soon as I saw the smashed-up B-52, I thought, oh shit. I saw that coming like a freight train.

And then I instantly wondered... who is working for CBS? Who is working for "The Amazing Race"? Do they not associate with regular people out here in the American heartland? Do they understand the emotional reaction to a downed American B-52 from The Vietnam War? Good Lord.

Well, John McCain did, and a bunch of other veterans did, too. The shit hit the fan in short order.

From Yahoo:

Usually, it is "Amazing Race" contestants with loose lips that stir up controversy for being insensitive, offensive, or ugly Americans while dashing around the less scenic or underprivileged countries of the world on the competition reality show. But with last week's Vietnam-based episode, it was the producers and network that found themselves on the receiving end of public backlash.

Veterans, conservative newscasters, politicians like Arizona Sen. John McCain, and plenty of the show's fans were upset that the show filmed at the site of a crashed U.S. B-52 bomber, and featured a segment where players had to listen to a pro-communist anthem being sung in front of a portrait of Ho Chi Minh and then find one of the song's lyrics in a sea of propaganda posters. Vietnam War veteran and American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz sent a letter to CBS Thursday, asking that the network apologize for "its disgraceful slap-in-the face administered to American war heroes. We only wish that the network would not be so eager to broadcast anti-American propaganda."
And yes, they got their official apology.

From the National Post:
Senator John McCain is among those who have accepted CBS’ apology for a passage on The Amazing Race where contestants visited the wreckage of an American B-52 bomber in Vietnam, writing on Twitter that the “issue is closed.”

The national commander of the American Legion, James Koutz, has also accepted the apology. Commander Koutz said said he believed it was sincere and heartfelt.

The segment aired March 17 and angered many veterans, particularly those who served in the Vietnam War. As part of its scavenger hunt game, contestants on the show had to visit the site in Hanoi, which Vietnamese authorities turned into a memorial.

Before this Sunday’s edition of The Amazing Race, host Phil Keoghan read a statement apologizing to veterans and families who may have been offended.
For my part, I continue to be amazed at the mainstream media's general cluelessness about such matters. I could have easily predicted this reaction, as everyone I know could too.

As I asked, above: WHO works for these people? Didn't anybody on the show's staff speak up and say, "Hey, ya think maybe this isn't such a good idea?"

Monday, March 25, 2013

Greenville Candlelight Vigil for Marriage Equality

... tonight at the Unitarian Universalist church.

Candlelight vigils and supportive demonstrations are taking place throughout the nation tonight, and all week long. Legal arguments before the Supreme Court will begin tomorrow, for and against the constitutionality of gay marriage. From NBC:

The U.S. Supreme Court this week takes its first serious look ever at the issue of same-sex marriage, considering two cases that raise a fundamental issue: does the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection allow legal distinctions between same-sex couples and those of the opposite sex?

The greatest potential for a ruling with nationwide implications comes in a case from California, to be argued Tuesday, brought by proponents of Proposition 8. The following day, the court will hear a separate case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where they are legal.

Approved by 52 percent of California voters in 2008, Prop 8 amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. It was placed on the ballot after 18,000 couples had been legally wed there.

A federal judge in San Francisco declared the ban unconstitutional, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the ruling. Once a state grants a fundamental right like marriage, the appeals court said, it cannot later take it away, even by voter initiative.
Photos of our vigil below, and you can click to enlarge all photos.

I hope you will also take part in one locally. Like the signs say, "Equality means everyone."



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Another Bob Jones University sex scandal



From WSPA--Bob Jones Administrator Suspended For Soliciting A Prostitute In 1991

Greenville, SC - An administrator with Bob Jones University has been indefinitely suspended from his position for having a prior criminal background.

University spokesman Randy Page issued a statement saying that Dr. Joseph Bartosch was suspended from his position as Chief Brand Officer on Friday, March 15 by school officials. Page states that school officials learned on the same day that Bartosch had been charged with soliciting a prostitute in another state two decades ago and prior to his employment with Bob Jones University.

Bartosch confirmed the allegations to school officials and put himself at their disposal, Page stated. School officials will gather facts about the incident and reach an appropriate decision as soon as possible about Bartosch's employment status.

According to online records obtained from the Superior Court of California, Bartosch was arrested and charged with misdemeanor solicitation of a prostitute in 1991. The records indicate he served three days in jail and was later sentenced to three years of probation.

Bartosch's biography indicates that he graduated from Bob Jones University in 1982 and joined the Administration in 2012. He finished with a Master of Counseling degree in 2006 and an EdD in Curriculum and Instruction in 2007. He lived in Sacramento from 1990-2004 and was Head Master at Sacramento Preparatory Academy.
The official statement from BJU can be read HERE. If you wanna listen to edifying sermons by the fascinating Dr Bartosch, they are HERE.

This new sex-scandal comes directly on the heels of multiple scandals plaguing the school since the 2011-12 academic year, during which rape-apologist Reverend Charles Phelps resigned from the BJU board, amid protests, outrage and general disgust. Accompanying this media-foofaraw, student Christopher Peterman organized a demonstration in support of sexual abuse survivors, and was summarily tossed out of BJU, just a few days before his graduation... supposedly for watching "GLEE" on his laptop. This incident made it to CNN and beyond.

After that blew over, more or less, there were alarming accounts of sexual assaults at Bob Jones University, made public and demanding immediate follow-up. On January 10th of this year, BJU called on a non-profit Christian outfit called GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to do an independent, third-party investigation. This investigation/inquiry will continue until April 30th. However, it seems to be proceeding in the usual BJU-half-assed manner; although the school dutifully posted this info on their website, it is benignly-labeled a review rather than an investigation. In addition, they haven't alerted students and former students, nor parents, faculty, staff or alumni, that there is a survey being actively conducted. [*see edit below]

According to multiple accounts, the BJU-admin was asked to publicly announce that there was a survey and investigation underway, but they have declined to do so. (sigh) Well, of course they have.

~*~



Minding my own business in a shopping mall, when ... YOW! Accosted by Bob Jones University yet AGAIN!

As I have said here many times, they virtually RUN the upstate.

~*~

Bob Jones University, bane of our existence here in upstate South Carolina, has reacted to recent, multiple sleazy scandals (and persistent rumors) by feverishly gussying up their image. They suddenly have billboards everywhere, featuring fresh-faced, happy kids who could be students anywhere... and these groups of laughing students/poster kids invariably include ONE STUDENT OF COLOR. ((shock)) If anything shows how hard the unrelenting criticism of the past decade has hit BJU, that might be it.

When I moved to Greenville 25 yrs ago, there were NO billboards (and what kind of worldly nonsense is THAT?) and absolutely no advertising for BJU. The overriding sentiment was, they didn't want just ANYbody attending their exclusive fundamentalist enclave. If you called the place to ask admission questions, they would not answer you. You had to be recommended by godly personages and go through specific channels. They kept the majority of people out, and they were proud of it.

When BJU finally produced some cursory mainstream ads, websites and the occasional billboard--the all-white student line-up was blinding. Embarrassing, too, since Greenville is only 62% white. Apparently, BJU didn't notice the discrepancy. It was a joke all over town. People joked that you could tell whose billboards they were from a half-mile down the road: the kids are all white, must be BJU.

They have changed that, at long last. They got the memo. (At least, in the billboards and advertising; I am doubtful the school itself has integrated in any real way.)

Next up, they sold their weird radio station (that once specialized in a strange fundie-android mix of 50s-muzak and KJV-only scripture). BJU also decided to get some SPORTS going on, which they hope will draw more students and sports fans:
[Bob Jones University] plans to become part of the National Christian College Athletic Association and have intercollegiate sports in place by the 2012-2013 school year.

"We really look at intercollegiate sports as rounding out the educational opportunities here for our students here at Bob Jones University," Brian Scoles, spokesman for the university, told WYFF. "Not only will it help them for developing Christ-like spirit on the athletic field, but it's also an opportunity for the community to come to campus to view one more program that we have here."

By next school year, Bob Jones plans to have men's and women's soccer and basketball programs. The athletic opportunities are expected to grow from there, starting in the fall of 2013.
So, they are tarting themselves up! They are getting their act together and taking it on the road.

Specifically, they are trying to pump up enrollment, which is currently dropping like a rock. Various reports (all fiercely disputed by BJU officials) claim that the school now has only a third of the enrollment it had during its pre-internet heyday.

And the fact that they can't even provide decent background-checks on their own employees, isn't going to help. Apparently, the students and food-service employees are subjected to stricter background checks than Bartosch was.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

~*~

*EDIT: 3/24 - Sometime in the last 10 - 14 days, BJU updated the front page of their website's link to the investigation page to read "G.R.A.C.E. Independent Investigation" instead of the completely dismissive and confusing "G.R.A.C.E. Initiates Review" that had been the previous link since January. (thanks to Jeffrey Hoffman for the correction!)

First Caturday of Spring

This is my very BEST photo of Cyril yet, by far! (Yes, Mr Daisy's man-legs are in the photo, but I think that's why Cyril is so mellow, too; he likes to sit by Dad.) The second kitty is the venerable Peace Cat, official cat of DEAD AIR.



Here we have Peace Cat AND Cyril together... Again, pardon the man-foot.




I finally remembered to post kitties on Saturday... and I was wondering: who decided the old tried-and-true feline meme, Friday Cat Blogging, needed to be updated? And why was it moved up one day?

And yeah, I got ANSWERS!--

Actually, they appear to be dueling memes: Friday Cat Blogging is clocked from March 14, 2003 and just celebrated its 10th anniversary as an internet meme. It was even written about in the New York Times.

Caturday dates from December 12, 2006, when cat photos were posted every Saturday on 4Chan. (A personal blog by the name CATURDAY dates from 2005, but does not appear to be connected to 4Chan.)

So, I guess you can pick whichever day you prefer. I am moving to Caturday since I love the sound of it.



As always, you can click photos to enlarge. Happy Caturday, everybody!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Odds and Sods - Watch out for those rats edition

Although I realize the rest of the country is covered up in wetness of one kind or another, the weather here has been great, and I've been spending virtually all of my free time outside. Apologies for ongoing blogular negligence.

Below--graffiti on my beloved Swamp Rabbit Trail. (as always, you can click to enlarge all photos)



I also realize its been awhile since I did an Odds and Sods post, so here we go.

[] Starting off with an in-depth "first principles" (Right vs Left) political discussion I am having on another blog, which you all may find interesting. We're SO polite!

[] More apologies: I keep forgetting to post a follow-up to The History Project. I promise to rectify this sorry state of affairs before the end of the month! In the meantime, check out my first History Project post. (What kinds of 'progressive history' would people like to see, in particular?)

[] Tuesday evening, I attended an information session up at Furman University, featuring David Lochbaum, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Nuclear Safety Project. Mr Lochbaum discussed the uncomfortable, but inescapable, facts that the Oconee nuke is more at risk from earthquake and fire damage than the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan was.



Lochbaum believes that nukes would be generally safe if, you know, greedy corporations did not try to cut corners (and employees) and the regulating agencies actually did some regulating. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is funded by the nuclear industry, which means they are financially beholden to the industry they are supposed to be regulating. Good work if you can get it!



And today, we learn from the New York Times that a RAT was partially responsible for the nuclear accident at Fukushima, following the earthquake.

I guess nukes are safe if you can make sure no stray rats get in!

[] ANNOUNCEMENT of PUBLIC HEARING: April 4, 2013 (Speak up for the Broad River!)

The proposed WS LEE Nuclear Power Plant in Gaffney, SC needs an NPDES wastewater discharge permit to dump chemicals and heated water into the Broad River at 99 Island Reservoir. Folks concerned about the health and social impacts of this plant will attend the hearing to make public comments and request denial of this permit to protect downstream communities. JOIN US!

Restoration Church
1905 N. Limestone Street
Gaffney, SC 29340


6pm: A presentation by Dept of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) with questions & answers
7pm: public speaking begins
View the draft permit (PDF)
General information on Clean Water Act permits
from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

**Stay tuned for information on ride sharing from North Carolina communities.**

[] I fussed about Tumblr on New Years' Eve, and got my ass fried in short order by some youngsters who hate grandma (and what did I expect?)... so I haven't said much else or picked a fight with the Tumblrites. But I have since done some snooping, and I ain't the only one who thinks the place is a swamp.

I discovered the highly-amusing Tumblr blog "The Best of Social Justice"--and its a stone gas, as the late Don Cornelius would have said. (Note: Don't forget to read the FAQs, which contains a handy-dandy, useful glossary of social justice blogging-lingo. I've been waiting SO LONG for this! Thank you, whoever you are!)

I guess I should be embarrassed that these Tumblrites are (supposedly) social justice folks, but instead, I am simply relieved someone is subjecting their dopey excesses to ridicule. At this point, they are doing much more harm than good; thus I am far more embarrassed by the spectacle of their wallowing-in-oppression ('oppression') and their constant meddling/policing the language of the Left (which inhibits involvement by newbies and/or uneducated people who don't know the intricate insider-lingo), than I am embarrassed by exposing them in the first place. If anything, I think more such blogs are in order. They are laughable, so let's laugh at them.

Also, let me make it clear, I think lots of them are total fakes. Others are gifted exaggerators, obviously addicted to melodrama.

Which brings me to---

[] Back in July (yes, I only came across it relatively recently, she admitted), Shae McDonovan finally wrote what we have all been thinking: Pretending You’re Oppressed: The New Internet Fad. This is a must-read for progressives who hang out on social justice blogs, tumblrs, LJs, forums and other opinion-oriented websites:

Personally, I think they all suffer from plain old “being boring” oppression. You know, the kind where you’re dull and you watch too much TV and you feel a desperate need to be cool, different, part of a group. One could almost say that “interesting” people are oppressive, flaunting their interestingness in your face, telling stories of suffering and pain, while you know you live in a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment your mom and dad paid for, drive in a car that you’ve never had to personally get fixed, and the most harassment you ever received in your life was being told you were weird that one time you wore neon orange lipstick and spandex to your junior prom in high school.

But besides being all very ridiculous, it does have a clear-cut, damaging effect to legitimate oppression, those where people are actually dying, becoming homeless, being forced into prostitution, and living in dire poverty, unable to get a hand up. When you take the words of those who truly suffer, not because they feel emotions while sitting in their middle-class home behind their thousand dollar computer, but because they spent 15 years in jail on a trumped up charge they didn’t even commit, and are now unable to get a job due to stigmatization that doesn’t apply across the board, those people now receive less of the sympathy and help they need to survive. For every person that complains that a disagreement on the internet about their catbunnyanimusparklegirl status triggers them (despite them continuing the argument until the wee hours of the morning), someone who is so triggered they can barely breathe, curled up, reliving trauma, is invalidated, ignored, and not provided what they need.
[] I talked about our new Pope Francis on the radio, and therefore did not blog about him. The whole show is HERE, in which I also talk about the history of the Jesuits at some length.

Another good show, concerns Governor Nikki Haley refusing federal Medicaid money, thereby forfeiting $4.1 billion (in our taxes!) to other states. I DID blog about that one, and yeah, I am still pissed off about it.

~*~

Tomorrow our show will feature 2012 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, so we hope you will tune in. Local phone is 864-751-1033, so feel free to call and comment.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Occupy Journey says nice things about us



Its me, yall! I'm a superstar.

Above photos are from a video of our anti-Keystone XL Pipeline event last month. I don't know WHAT I was saying, but I'm sure it was important.

Occupy Journey, a homeless Occupier, comments on Occupy Greenville:

OK, since this is suppose to be about Occupy Greenville, lets talk about them for a minute. The six people I met were out of this world. They were very helpful with supplies when all of my gear was stolen by replacing some of it. They even helped with cash to get the bus ticket for the next city. All of this makes it difficult to say that like many other cities I’ve seen, I wish they were doing more to support the community. They really are a GREAT bunch of people in Greenville, homeless (for the most part) and the occupies.
I'll take that as a compliment.

Yes, we certainly DO need to do more... but as he also points out, we are down to about a half-dozen, albeit a terribly brave half-dozen. We feel stretched to the limit. Nonetheless, we know where we need to increase our efforts and thank you for the kind words and gentle criticism.

I miss you Mr Occupy Journey, come back and see us soon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SC funds other states' health care, instead of our own

Yes, you read the title correctly.



From The State:

COLUMBIA — Imagine someone offered to give you $4.1 billion over three years, and if you did not take it, your neighbors would get the money instead.

That is the situation South Carolina is in with the federal government, according to S.C. House Democrats who are pushing for the state to expand Medicaid – the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
We covered this today on Occupy the Microphone, if you want irate, anti-Republican rants from me and my co-hosts.

The SC House rejected the expansion of Medicaid:
COLUMBIA, SC — House lawmakers refused to expand Medicaid in South Carolina on Tuesday after hours of debate that echoed the conflicts of class, race and religion.

For nearly five hours on Tuesday, Democrats quoted statistics and scripture in arguing for an amendment to the state’s $22.7 billion spending plan that would make 500,000 more poor people eligible for taxpayer-funded health insurance. They even proposed an amendment that would require any lawmaker voting against the expansion to forfeit their own taxpayer-funded health insurance.

But Republicans – who control the state House of Representatives – said the plan would cost too much and questioned if it would improve the health of South Carolinians. Amendments were defeated with a series of votes along party lines.

"If more money and more government produced healthier citizens, Americans should be the healthiest population on the planet – but we’re not,” House Speaker Bobby Harrell said in a news release. “The current system is clearly broken but instead of trying to fix this broken system, Obamacare simply makes it bigger.”

The expansion is an optional part of what’s formally called the Affordable Care Act. Expanding Medicaid would provide health insurance to anyone in South Carolina who makes 138 percent or below the federal poverty level. That’s about $15,000 a year for a single person and $32,000 a year for a family of four.

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first three years – about $4.1 billion. After that, the state would gradually start paying for a small part of the expansion while the federal government continued to cover most of it.

But even covering that small part of the expansion would cost South Carolina between $613 million and $1.9 billion by 2020 – depending on how many people signed up for the program and how much the state had to pay doctors.

Democrats tried to make expansion a moral issue. Rep. Leon Howard, D-Richland, said it was “a common thing” for seniors in his district to decide between paying their utility bill or buying their medication. Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, showed lawmakers how a person making $15,000 a year does not make enough to cover their expenses.

And Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster, told lawmakers how a man came to her law office carrying four grocery bags filled with $500,000 worth of medical bills for his wife, who has breast cancer. She said 60 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. are because of medical debt.

“It is our moral obligation, it is a duty that all of us are bound, because we are Christians, we believe in God and God tell us to treat the least of these as you would him,” House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said from the House floor. “Denying them access to health care, denying them insurance, is not how anyone should be treated.”

House Republicans were notably silent during Tuesday’s debate, not once challenging the Democrats who were speaking. At various times during the morning, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, posted to his Twitter account that House Republicans were “prepared to stand strong & defeat all budget amendments opting SC into Obamacare expansion.”
Republicans are notoriously bad Christians, though, so I don't know why Rep. Rutherford thought an appeal to their religion would help.

Where is Governor Haley?
Even Gov. Nikki Haley, who canceled her appointments on Tuesday to spend time with her mother who had been admitted to the hospital, issued a news release thanking House Republicans for “fighting to protect South Carolina from the looming public policy nightmare and fiscal disaster that is ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.”
Does Haley's mother, Ms. Raj Randhawa, have health insurance? Apparently so. I say, let's take it away. Not a problem, right? I mean, if that is considered acceptable for the poor and disabled of South Carolina, I am sure it's acceptable for Governor Haley's mother. After all, according to the Governor's 'biography'--the USA is the land of equality! (maybe she didn't even read her own biography)

Let's subject the Haley family to the same conditions 500,000 poor South Carolinians are subjected to and see how Haley feels about that.

Then again, since she has no heart, she probably won't feel a thing.

As of today, Governor Haley is crazy busy hobnobbing with rich people in Florida, instead of dealing with pressing issues at home--whether it is her mother or the rest of us. She is auditioning for future lobbying-gigs at the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors dinner in Boca Raton. God knows, those dinners are far more important than either a sick mother or the people of South Carolina getting our hard-earned taxes sent to other states, which is what will now happen. (To my out-of-state readers: you're welcome. Send your thank-you cards to Governor Haley, who has generously given you OUR earmarked tax money.) After all, if she was HERE AT HOME (which she so rarely is), she'd have to face the music and actually answer questions... and Haley is so inept and incompetent, she can't even give local interviews, preferring to talk to THE VIEW and VOGUE.

If this dinner was in a less-photogenic, less high-profile or more wintry location, bank on it, Haley wouldn't be there. Free trips to FLORIDA during winter! (Last week, Haley spoke in Orlando to 4,000 representatives of companies that supply Walmart stores.) Good work if you can get it.

Haley denies 500,000 people health care, but be assured, she denies herself NOTHING.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DIY Greenville space - Garaj Mahal

The new DIY Greenville space, known as the Garaj Mahal, had their first show last night. It was epic! I am SO PROUD of these kids. They are very open, accepting, and intensely committed to diversity and creativity. They are ready to try anything, the whole DIY ethic brought to life. Daisy hereby gives the whole endeavor a big fat A plus.

The new space is in an old garage near Paris Mountain; the "before" photos show a piled-up dump of furniture and detritus right out of the TV show "Hoarders" ... the DIY collective jumped in with aplomb; cleaning, hauling trash, scrubbing, building, installing a usable toilet and importing the requisite stinky old couches required by punk rockers everywhere (there's a law somewhere, I'm certain of it). When we arrived, the place was staffed with eager young volunteers with hula hoops and balloons-- as well as the occasional baby and dog.

The overall vibe really reminds me of the days of 70s Deadhead culture, people selling (or giving away) their own handmade comics, patches, buttons, t-shirts and zines of all descriptions. Although the music is (mostly, not entirely) punk, I can distinctly remember a violent, repellent, scary skinhead/biker atmosphere in the days of 70s punk, which often served the purpose of keeping women and gender-variant people away. Neo-nazis invariably showed up at 70s punk shows, usually sporting biker chains, swastikas, racist patches sewn on their butts ("Drop the Bomb and let God sort em out" was a real favorite) and other unfriendly paraphernalia. (It was due to this default-racist atmosphere within punk, that the Rock Against Racism movement was born, which I was proud to be part of.)

By contrast, the young folks in the current DIY movement seem more like the artist-rebels at an event like Burning Man. They are lots of fun, dedicated to advancing anti-corporate culture, and very positive.

And not a single swastika.

~*~


Photos below, and as always, you can click to enlarge.

Hay Fever, featuring lovely singer/guitarist Amber and drummer Ryan.



~*~

Weapon Y/Z



~*~

I was thinking that this guy brought the freaking house down with his bang-up Broadway-stripper version of Total Eclipse of the Heart, and I thought Who is he? And whaddaya know, he's already one of my Facebook friends! Small world, huh?

I also heard the opening bars of "Nothing compares 2 U" and I was really disappointed he didn't tear that one up as well.

NEXT TIME, Jake Xingu! I'm holding you to it!



~*~

From Indiana, Ghost Mice--lots of fun!



~*~

Below, the Ghost Mice fiddler with her significant-other and adorable little leopard-clad baby; dancers; hula-hoopers, etc.

And the very last photo, a man who certainly needs no introduction here at DEAD AIR: my fabulous radio co-host, DOUBLE A, rock and roll diehard.



And a splendid time was had by all!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Atheism and (lack of) morality

Are atheists more moral than those of us who do not classify ourselves that way? I often think they are. Perhaps this is why they aren't unnerved about the long-term effects of atheism; they are doing fine, and they assume everyone else will, too.

The 'new atheists' are basically moral and well-behaved, so they don't realize that some of us are moral and well-behaved simply to keep from burning in hell for all eternity.

If there was no God or no law or no karma, we would SETTLE SOME SCORES.

I started thinking about this after participating on an atheist blog some years ago, when I was still identifying as Christian. I was struck by the fact that one of my serious questions was thought to be a joke, or at the least, a sarcastic rejoinder. It wasn't. I was dead serious. But the atheists didn't think I was serious, and that is what I found alarming: this means they do not understand what a serious matter it is.

Once again, I felt we were trying to communicate across a huge abyss.

I asked, "What about the fact that believing there is a God, keeps lots of people from killing each other?"

HAHAHA, they all responded, virtually as one unit. Well, they sneered back, one can learn not to kill someone without God. They acted like it was a simple decision, not a seductive thought that one consciously wrestles with (as in Woody Allen's great movie Crimes and Misdemeanors); an act that you eventually logically decide is... not nice. And so, you don't do it.

But why not, in that case? I asked what would be the deterrent, if there is no hell-fire? No bad karma and/or no punishment? Again, they sneered and thought I was joking or being a wise-ass. (It is also notable that they apparently assumed I was talking about someone else, i.e. The Bad People, rather than myself and other regular people like me.)

I wasn't. I was being rational. Belief systems (various kinds) have kept a lot of us from going off on people and committing violence. If there is no divine retribution, no holy justice, no guarantee the evil will be punished... do you understand how dangerous such an idea is?

Let me be very clear: Do the privileged understand that if the poor stop believing in God, they will no longer be safe? Are they ready for that world? Because I don't mind telling you, I'm not.

"Are you saying God is the only reason people act morally? What does that say about you and your view of humanity?"

My view of humanity is utterly realistic: humans have enslaved each other, pillaged, raped, and committed mass genocide. There have been Final Solutions, prison camps and Gulags. People have killed each other for insurance policies, parking places, brand-name shoes and having the wrong tattoos. And this has been possible even though the perpetrators DID believe in divine retribution and everlasting hell-fire. What if they stopped? What if all that matters is only what we see right in front of us: what you can get away with?

Will that be a better world? Doesn't it frighten you?

I don't think it frightens the atheists, because they are intrinsically moral people. This is why they can do without Gods, while the rest of us have floundered, made serious moral errors, became addicted or went to jail ... we have messed up again and again. We have had to pray late into the night, to be delivered from soul-devouring anger, envy or desires for revenge. We have suddenly left crowded parties because if we didn't, we were going to grab someone by the hair and throw them into the wall, before they even knew what hit them. We can taste the blood; we want to HURT people. We want to make them PAY.

And then, we tell ourselves, wait, that isn't up to me: Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. (This phrase has the effect of deflating my anger immediately.) Karma, we assure ourselves, will deal with that individual. It isn't up to me. "What goes around comes around"--we remind ourselves and everyone around us. The overriding concept, of course, is that there WILL be justice. Therefore, I do not have to be the one to administer it.

But you atheists are telling me--it IS something I should administer myself, or it won't get done? You tell me justice will not inevitably happen?

This is something I wrote about in an old post, first quoting bell hooks:

[Quote from bell hooks]: my grandfather [was a black] sharecropper, and definitely the white man was on his back, but what I remember about that, when this man would walk through his fields and see his vegetables that he grew, he’d say, “See these vegetables. White men cannot make the sun shine. They cannot control..”

I mean here’s a black man who did not go to school, who did not have an education. But he found a sense of self that transcended the idea of him as a victim. Because he could say “yes white men have power over my life. They exploit and terrorize me, but at the end of the day, there’s a power higher than white men that I can lend my imagination to.”


[my comment]: And I would add, this is one reason why belief in god(s) has such a hold on people. To some, it is a synonym for a higher justice, a higher truth, a higher law--above and beyond unjust earthly authorities that dominate us on a daily basis.

When the atheists sneer at that, it can be experienced by non-privileged believers as endorsing the material world as it is (with oppressive powers intact) and negating the self-preservationist experiences of the oppressed.
What do the atheists intend for us losers who use religion and sky-fairies to feel better? (If religion is indeed the opiate of the masses, do atheists think believers will happily greet the people who propose to take away our opiates?) What do they have to put in its place? Will it serve the same purpose(s) and properly spur us to leave the party when we see the person we want to throw headlong into the wall? Or will we think, hey, fuck it, NO GOD, NO MASTERS, and follow them into the restroom where there are no surveillance cameras and dunk their head into the toilet repeatedly, as in LA Confidential?

Why not?

~*~

For some of us, morality has not been easy. We have had to work at it, think about it, study it and dedicate our lives to it. We study theology and religion, because we are obsessed with morals. If you rip the rug of theology/religion/rules/myth out from under us, it would leave us empty, since this is where we initially got our morality from (in a way that we could understand) and how we learned to integrate it into our being. Some of us really do need the rules... because if there aren't any, we will go hog-wild. We know this, since we already have. We have to engage in continuous remedial education about the rules, and the reasons for them, to keep us from breaking them again and again.

I think the 'new atheists' underestimate the importance of God/belief systems in keeping us moral. Is it possible that the atheists are more moral than the rest of us, and do not need rules to govern their behavior? How can we impress upon them, that for some of us, it is in the interests of society that we adhere to these beliefs, or there could be unbridled chaos, Lord of the Flies?

And why have so few believers made this argument? Probably because believers like to think they are moral. This is likely because we think about morality a good deal; I think this is because WE HAVE TO, TO STAY MORAL.

The reason so many religious adherents believe atheists could not be moral, is because WE cannot imagine ourselves moral in the same existential circumstances.

~*~

At the end of Flannery O'Connor's short story, Good Country People, the simple country man posing as an innocent Bible salesman is suddenly uncovered as a freaky, abusive sociopath. The educated, atheist PhD in the story, has accepted him at face value ... right up to the end of the story, when he unexpectedly and cruelly humiliates her. "You ain't so smart," he schools her, "I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!"

The end of this story, and those words, have always chilled me to the bone. Because whenever I read all the highly-educated atheist discussions on the net; whenever I read ultra-smart authors like Steven Pinker; whenever I admire the smart, self-sufficient, rational atheists who know where they are going and how to get there... I suddenly remember the sociopathic Bible salesman. And I worry that the 'new atheism' may be more successful than it should be. It might branch out from the moral, rational, educated people like Steven Pinker and Dan Fincke... to sociopaths-in-training, like O'Connor's Bible salesman... and to morally-struggling (and/or morally-confused) people like me. I think I am a fairly average person in many ways, and I know that the overall message we take away from the New Atheism, may not be the fresh-faced utopian vision of ideological and intellectual freedom, that the new atheists obviously wish for us. The atheists believe that their cleansing experience of rationality would also be ours, but our experience might not be anything remotely like that.

It may be the experience of finally doing those things that we have always held back... because... well, why not?

...


And I wish they would start taking that idea seriously.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday Tunes

Bad Sneakers - Steely Dan



~*~

It's a long instrumental, but its real purty, too. ("Richard Betts pickin on that red guitar!") Relax, breathe, and visualize yourself right next to a waterfall.

It won't be hard to imagine at all.

High Falls - Allman Brothers Band



~*~

I've heard this one a lot on this blog's namesake, the indispensable Uncle Dave's Dead Air. GREAT STUFF!

Ride Mighty High - Jerry Garcia Band

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bradley Manning nominated for Nobel 2013 Peace Prize

Political prisoner and free-speech hero Bradley Manning has been held under inhumane conditions for over 1000 days, and I am hoping this nomination means that the international spotlight will finally be turned on the conditions of his imprisonment. Since he is currently on trial, this is coming at the best possible time. Out of 259 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize, he is probably the most well-known and 'notorious' name.



Bradley Manning Nobel Peace Prize Nomination 2013

Dear Norwegian Nobel Committee,

We have the great honour of nominating Private First Class Bradley Manning for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and a lack of respect for the sovereignty of other democratic nations by the United States government in international dealings.

These revelations have fueled democratic uprisings around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on the foreign and domestic policies of European nations, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S.troops from the occupation in Iraq.

Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for more then 1000 days by the U.S. Government. He spent over ten months of that time period in solitary confinement, conditions which experts worldwide have criticized as torturous. Juan Mendez, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has repeatedly requested and been denied a private meeting with Manning to assess his conditions.

The documents made public by WikiLeaks should never have been kept from public scrutiny. The revelations – including video documentation of an incident in which American soldiers gunned down Reuters journalists in Iraq – have helped to fuel a worldwide discussion about the overseas engagements of the United States, civilian casualties of war and rules of engagement. Citizens worldwide owe a great debt to the WikiLeaks whistleblower for shedding light on these issues, and so we urge the Committee to award this prestigious prize to accused whistleblower Bradley Manning.

We can already be reasonably certain that Bradley Manning will not have a fair trial as the head of State, the USA President Mr. Barack Obama, stated over a year ago on record that Manning is guilty.

Sincerely,

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Member of Parliament for the Movement, Iceland

Christian Engström, Member of the European Parliament for the Pirate Party, Sweden

Amelia Andersdottir, Member of the European Parliament for the Pirate Party, Sweden

Margrét Tryggvadóttir, Member of Parliament for the Movement, Iceland

Þór Saari, Member of Parliament for the Movement, Iceland

Slim Amamou, former Secretary of State for Sport & Youth (2011), Tunisia

Bradley Manning statement (UK Guardian)

Bradley Manning, Malala among Nobel Peace Prize nominees (CBS News)

Opinion: Bradley Manning trial shows disconnect between transparency and treason (The Daily Reveille - LSU)

Bradley Manning called 'traitor,' 'hero' after Nobel nomination (MSN News)

The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention (Salon)

We Must Not Fail Bradley Manning (Counterpunch)