Sunday, May 6, 2012

I Heartily Apologize To Readers

Yes, I've been REALLY remiss in postings lately. I know you're out there thinking, WTF? Well, I have to say that my OpEdNews posts have literally taken on a life of their own and the viewership makes it necessary. And it's difficult posting for numerous venues. Nonetheless, I apologize for the neglect. 

So here's a round-up of recent posts - the links will lead you to them.

For a Good Time, Call ... Your Local Church Lady. Leslee Unruh is an insane abstinence-only freak.

The Monday Sermon: Why We should Keep The Wall Between Church And State to Tear Down The Walls Of Bigotry And Hatred. Jefferson had motives.

Fighting The Richteous Right with 300 OpEdNews Articles. Was It Worth It? Boy, am I tired!

Fighting The Righteous Right With 300 OpEdNews Articles: Was It Worth It?

There is something to be said about a passion for exposing hypocrisy.

"... and then Dr.Meade thundered, losing his temper: 'Our men have fought without shoes before and without food and won victories. And they will fight again and win!...Think of - think of Thermopylae!'
...'They died to the last man at Thermopylae didn't they, Doctor?' Rhett asked, and his lips twitched with suppressed laughter."
Articles on religion and politics are like warriors in the culture wars: they can attack or defend whenever necessary. So when my number for OpEdNews came to 300, I could only think of : Thermopylae...
and Rhett Butler.

I have a thing for Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, not only for the feisty character of Scarlett O'Hara, but for the wit and cynicism of Rhett Butler. A close examination of the characters reveals that Mitchell gives every character a certain amount of depth by revealing what their thoughts are, but not Rhett - he is observed in detail, but his inner self and motives are always mysteries left to the imagination of the reader. I like to think that his motives, his cynicism, his passion run too deep for analysis. Rhett Butler is passionate about life, people and beauty in the world, but he never lets on. He must be a tremendously frustrated, closeted writer.

That is one of his personality traits I differ with: I am certainly not reticent to write about my passion.

Passion. The culture wars do not lack for passion. OpEdNews makes a writer's work look serious and effortless in the same tome and at the same time. That's because there so much passion. Writers like Chris Hedges go about skewering the Right with an intensity and passion that seems almost inbred and the writing seems effortless. Would that were really so, at least with my own fare: an article can take me from 5 hours to three days.

Yes, every day writing about the culture wars can be said to be filled with passion, yet there's irony in that each day's writer's routine (at least mine) is frustrated by a tedium which must be endured to form the next soldier.

News Feeds: The Culture Warrior's Life's Blood and The Near Death Of His Soul. 

I often wonder if people realize how many news feeds a culture war writer has to go through each day to cull the best ideas - or how demoralizing news feeds are to someone who has to deal with the exigencies of the culture wars created by Rightwing politics and the Christian Right. They're a dream and a curse: emergencies on the screen occur as if they are there to personally frustrate writers like me. Yet each morning I wake up to a string of headlines for AP, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, LGBTQ Nation,  Firedog Lake, Crooks and Liars, Joe.My.God., Religion Dispatches, Right Wing Watch, Think Progress, The Daily Dish (Andrew Sullivan), OpEdNews and my own blog, The Devil and Dan Vojir (to prove to myself that I actually lived through yesterday). After perusing them with as much elation or rancor I can stomach, I can finally savor my morning coffee - usually my third cup.

News feeds can kill the creative spirit, however: the barrage of news is frightening and it often looks as if absolutely EVERYTHING has been written already. The soul is almost fatally challenged. I keep reminding myself that writers like Chris Hedges, Andrew Sullivan and Joe Jervis must also endure the same barrage of news, commentaries, trivia, anecdotes, and WTFs. They sift through it all to come up with ten, twenty posts a day. All original. God! Sometimes I hate their prolific, creative asses.

The State of Religion and Politics Today: The Rise Of Demonizers and The Fall Of Reason

One might think that writing on religion and politics presents a constant inner, suicidal struggle: to kill yourself now by means of sheer depression or to kill yourself later by means of uncontrollable laughter. Yeah, it's true. With the machinations of Cindy "Japan-is-shaped-like-a-dragon" Jacobs,  Anne Coulter(geist), Pat Robertson, Bryan Fischer, Rick Santorum, Pope Benedict XVI, Concerned Women of America, the NRA, the GOP and FOX/Faux News, it's a wonder that any progressive writer is still alive.

I chose the latter form of suicide: I figure that laughing AT them all while I'm going to my death can cause the most damage: "Against The Assault of Laughter, Nothing Can Stand" - Mark Twain. Yep, I'm going to take as many of them with me as I can.

And I have so many, many potential victims: the demonizers who feed their righteous arrogance by spouting hatred and fake morality are on the rise. Crouching behind the rise in hate groups is the growing number of what Andrew Sullivan calls "religionists" or "Christianists", those people for whom separation of church and state is the greatest biblical "abomination" outside of  homosexuality and women's reproductive rights. They are joined by coat-tail demonizers such as Tea Party Obama-haters.

And with their rise, comes the fall of reason: Kentucky's Creation Museum has spawned a $175 million Noah's Ark theme park (sans dinosaurs, of course). The State of Tennessee has flown in the face of reason by passing an "abstinence only" (non)sex education bill. The GOP denies that there's any war on women while BOTH parties pay their women staffers less than men. To the rest of the world, America has become one big WTF? and is now hiding its conservative and over-religionized head in the sand.

3 years - 300 articles - 250,000+ words - 464 comments - 410,000+ page views

All this begs the question: is any of it worth it? The long days and even longer hours. The frustrating feeling  that one is tilting at windmills. The never ending string of bigots and hypocrites. The constant nurturing of a snarky attitude.  Is there any encouragement? Is there any sense of accomplishment? Is there any sense of ... self?

The drive to communicate in some people (like me) is defeating in that we rarely stop for a response, so a venue like OpEdNews  let's us experience encouragement in many ways: thank God for OpEdNews readers. And as for my own  sense of accomplishment, to me, exposing hypocrisy is exhilarating to the point of orgasm.

You could say that exposing hypocrisy is its own reward.

Dealing With The Depths of Contempt and The Heights of The Orgasms

I have a small black named Katie Scarlett (of course). She has a special perch attached to my desk -a slideout topped with a pad from an old footstool. She routinely scratches at my shoulder to demand attention or treats. But most of the time she lays across the pad with her head slung slightly over the edge of her spot. It may not seem a taxing job for a writer's cat, yet she works tirelessly at being my guardian, my critic, the mirror of my tired soul. She is the innocence I lack. Her presence helps me deal with the highs and lows of writing against the Christofascist Right and Conservative Clowns. She sees me through the depths of contempt and the heights of those orgasms brought about by sadistically skewering hypocrites.

Thank you Katie. Thank you OpEdNews readers.

BATTLE OF THE BULLIES!!: Dan Savage and Brian Brown To Fight Over ... "Bullsh*t"

(Author's note: Why didn't I get as much attention for calling some beliefs "crap"? Some people have all the luck!)

At a high school journalism convention, anti-bullying and gay activist Dan Savage (founder, It Gets Better movement and creator of the neologism "Santorum"), as is his want, made a crude remark making a point we all know: parts of the Bible are simply ... bullsh*t. However, he didn't say that the Bible was ALL bullsh*t, just parts of it, especially some of the laws of Leviticus. Some students showed their disdain for Savage's comments by walking out.*

Now people (aka FOX News) are calling Dan Savage a bully
...and THE WAR has begun.

Glenn Beck's THE BLAZE:

Front and center in the phalanx of Christian Right critics is Brian Brown. The National Organization for Marriage's president became absolutely incensed at Savage's "savaging" (Brown's wit is astounding) of the Bible. Yes, that's the same National Organization for Marriage (NOM) that tried unsuccessfully to boycott Starbuck's for its support of same-sex marriage.***
Let me lay down a public challenge to Dan Savage right here and now: You want to savage the Bible? Christian morality? Traditional marriage? Pope Benedict? I’m here, you name the time and the place and let’s see what a big man you are in a debate with someone who can talk back. It’s easy to make high-school girls cry by picking on them. Let’s pick on someone our own size!
You will find out out how venal and ridiculous your views of these things are if you dare to accept a challenge.
The response:

FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2012

Confidential to NOM's Brian Brown: You're On, Motherfucker

posted by  on FRI, MAY 4, 2012 at 2:02 PM

I will name the time and the place, per your offer, as soon as possible. Looking forward to it, NOMnuts.

Lines have been drawn. Souvenir dueling pistals are being made. National bookies are taking bets. People are praying that the event take place near their home so that they won't have to break their bank accounts on airfare to attend the event. Forget the upcoming election debates - this will be the one for the history books.

The uproar even spawned some critics who are usually Savage's biggest allies, but most of that criticism resulted from what they considered Savage's being "crass" and not the message itself: that parts of the Bible are pointedly ignored because they are WRONG. 

But what exactly is this "war" about? The horrendously rotten, bullying, evil, persecuting passage of Dan Savage's speech:

“People often point out that they can’t help it. They can’t help with the anti-gay bullyings because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans that being gay is wrong. We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things.
The immediate context of the offending speech is here. Savage points out the strict Leviticus laws concerning slavery and stoning women who have been found not to be virgins before marriage ("Calista Gingrich lives") and focuses on the fact that we totally discount such concepts while taking the one concept of homosexuality and making discrimination against gays legitimate. He was making the bullying point of "you're going to hell" ridiculous, i.e:  "bullshit." 

What the incident brought out, however, is that an enormous over-sensitivity to anything dealing with the Bible is...bullshit. Students began walking out once the Bible was mentioned. Their brains shut down before Savage's point could even be formed. The possibility of the entire walk out having been staged has been discussed: knee-jerk reactions can be suspicious.

Note in the clip below, the fact that FOX News' Steve Doocy says nothing about the applause and laughter Savage's speech also created. In fact, the amount of students in agreement far outnumbered the dissidents, conveniently making "Christianity" look like a persecuted minority.

For the convenience of Savage's critics, I created a Wordle with a graphic that NOM can use, it being in the form of a wedge - NOM's favorite shape. It's too bad that the word "bullsh*t" wound up to be so small because Savage only said it about three times. (If you click on the actual Wordle below it, "bullsh*t" is easier to read).


So the uproar is really it's own "bullshit" - but the debate promises to spawn super bullshit from the losers: Odds are on Savage to win, but "belief" and twisted reasoning will belong to Brown in the end. Leave it to the likes of Glenn Beck and Steve Doocy to see to it.  

*Some people think the walk-out was suspiciously contrived since, you will notice in the video, students began to walk out BEFORE the offensive term.
**Evidently being called "pansy-assed" is extreme cursing. (NOTE: this article was posted under the heading of "Science" WTF?)
 *** Starbuck's stock remains at an all-time high.

The Monday Sermon: Why We Must Keep The Wall Between Church And State To Tear Down The Walls Of Bigotry And Hatred

The most chilling thought about America's future is a Cindy Jacobs as President.
Some walls exist to keeps things in. Some walls exist to keep things out. But one wall stands to help other walls fall: the wall of separation between church and state. It keeps the bigots at bay and gives us time to assess their bigotry and belie their hatred.

There is a movement afoot to erase the separation of church and state: it's boldly proposed by the "lunatic fringe" - people like Cindy Jacobs who has fashioned herself and her colleagues as "New Apostles" (the NAR, or New Apostolic Reformation), but it's more prevalent in the "We Are A Christian Nation" circles headed by pseudo historian David Barton.

"We Are A Christian Nation" - therein lies the seeds to dark times ahead. For Dominionists like Barton neglect to insert an important word into the slogan: "only." America is to be a Christian ONLY nation: we caught a glimpse of the vehemence with which Dominionists and Reconstructionists hold their "truths to be self-evident" when Pastor Dennis Terry's introduction of Rick Santorum created a firestorm, telling liberals, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists to "Get Out!" Terry's subsequent backpedaling of "I was misquoted. I'm a Christian, so of course I love everyone," fell on deaf ears - only his congregation believed him.

It is ironic to think that the very reason for America's freedom of religion is the thing that today's Christian Right is trying to destroy: without separation of church and state there can be no freedom of religion, only freedom of a few Christian sects to worship the One True Religion. They say that wouldn't be so, but given an inch, and a mile of hatred for other sects, other religions would be taken: there would be nothing to stop them.

Perhaps the best reason for Separation of Church and State is that the fighting between Christian sects and denominations should be kept among themselves. We've already seen how - in disregarding the wall - candidates' "Christianity" has come into play and how, if left to certain denominations (like the Southern Baptist Convention), candidates would be disqualified simply because they are not "their" kind of Christian. They want to build a theocracy, but not on the shoulders of someone like Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum got as far as he did with his campaign simply because he painted himself as more righteous than the Catholic Church - something that pleased the Protestant Christian Right immensely.

The Wall, properly in place, would eventually disqualify the disqualifiers.

Jefferson, The Architect of The Wall

David Barton's latest tome, The Jefferson Lies has been widely criticized as one of the most disingenuous books ever written about Jefferson, valiantly trying to convince people that Jefferson was really VERY Christian, he could not have fathered Sally Hemmings' children and that - most importantly - he was never a critic of Christianity or religion. And never really meant that crazy idea about separation of church and state.

But some people have believed Barton's fictional look at our third President. It's considered a bestseller.*

The problem with Barton's revisionist history: quotes, especially Jefferson's. You can't change them, nor can you give them too much of a relativist slant. They're there for all the world to judge them on face value, and with Jefferson's quotes, with writings from the man who constructed the "Jefferson Bible" because he did not believe in the miracles of the New Testament, Jefferson himself belies any attempt to make him into a founder of a Christian Nation.

  • History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
  • Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
  • Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law. 
  • In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. 
  • (...and the one to which I identify most): Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."
  • - Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.
And the coup d' gras:
"I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."
Back To Barton ... and his ilk.

The bigotry displayed by David these last several years is undeniable: when rendering everything good as "Biblical" and everything else bad as "secular" Barton has himself set up a wall of "Us vs Them" and ramped up religious bigotry to new levels:

Right Wing Watch:
Barton, who has warned the public schools are trying to “force” students “to be homosexual” through “homosexual indoctrination,” concurred with host Diana Crews said that she sees “Hitler” in “the likes of Kevin Jennings,” whom she claimed is promoting a “very dangerous that the agenda is really leading kids away from God.” He went on to attack California’s SB 48 and claim that textbooks there will teach kids the debated claims that George Washington Carver and Abraham Lincoln were gay, contending that “public schools are more into indoctrination than they are into truth or knowledge.”

How many are in Barton's group? Unfortunately, enough to make Freedom of Religion very difficult and put other freedoms (e.g. women's reproductive rights) in jeopardy. It's a group that could decide that any theocrat, no matter how inane, would be better than none - and a good start to establish a true Reconstructionist state.

Without a Wall of Separation Between Church and State, immense walls of bigotry could force us to face the fact that someone like Cindy Jacobs could indeed become President.

*The criterion for "bestseller" still stands at overall bookstore and online sales, regardless of any one group buying it en masse. If, for example, a book about the state of Texas were to become wildly popular with Texans, and sell, say 75,000 copies in one week, it could conceivably be termed a "national bestseller."

For A Good Time, Call ...Your Local Church Lady!

"They have long-term relationships. They have better marriages. They make more money. They're happier. All the data is there..."

In order to give credence to Tennessee's walk down the road to the Middle Ages*, abstinence-only advocates are coming out of the woodwork and making outrageous statements:
"All the data is there, and it is time for everybody to recognize it, both in the church and in the public sector that you know what, the church ladies are having the best sex!" - Leslee Unruh, founder of Abstinence Clearinghouse.
"All the data" meaning that something in Christian literature states that abstinence until marriage will reduce unwanted pregnancies much more than sex education combined with birth control. "All the data." Where? To most everyone on the planet, that data is coming out of Unruh's own private place where the sun doesn't shine. 

Last Monday Sermon, we talked about faulty research used to further the goals of the Righteous Right. This example, however, goes beyond those lies because Unruh is citing research that's too twisted for words. 

And twisted research doesn't count. 

The most pertinent study for AO advocates has been, of course, twisted to tout absolute success: the study showed that AO education for 12-year-olds delayed intercourse for only two years - certainly not until marriage. The study group was also held in question as not quite applicable to the question of AO. Of course, if you google "abstinence only studies" this one pops up a lot because of its popularity. 

Earlier in the interview, Unruh stated an even more unbelievable premise: that sex education is "really based on profound ignorance about human nature and what makes for a healthy family." This WTF? moment indicates that Ms. Unruh has been living on Pluto and is as far away from earth's reality as you can get: since the beginning of time, man has always had sex whenever and wherever he wanted. The Church - not man - has set its own limits on sex, creating guilt complexes and suicides.

Oh, and the part about relationships and money, sorry Leslee: you failed to mention that the church ladies also have a higher divorce rate than non-Christians and atheists**, their relationships don't last, and they make less money than their male counterparts, speaking of whom, don't get enough sex. 

At this point, a pertinent paragraph about Unruh - who is now considered the Queen of Abstinence Only - might be in order:

Unruh's obsessions include pedophiles, rape, molestation, pornography, disease, peer pressure to have sex and the idea that having multiple sexual partners automatically makes sex less intimate. She swears her daughter never even kissed her own husband until her wedding day. She thinks that taking birth control pills that limit menstruation is an effort to turn women into men. She also loves to hand out dolls of baby fetuses.
Life with Leslee Unruh must be so much fun!

So the best teen pregnancy prevention program is really not to talk about sex at all, right?

Right. Comparisons of AO programs to no sex education revealed the same results in teen pregnancy. And remember "virginity pledges"? They worked really well! One study over a five-year period showed that not only were virginity-pledged teens having just as much sex, they were having more unprotected sex than teens who didn't take the pledge. 

Tennessee and Utah:  Be Prepared!

It has never occurred in their righteousness just what the consequences of failed abstinence only programs will be, and while it may seem hyperbolic to say that Tennessee and Utah better be prepared for baby booms and playgrounds teeming with misinformation, the grain of truth in the statement is more like a rock. Very much like the rocks in Leslee Unruh's head, for she'll think that abstinence only is working - while she continues to hand out fetus dolls.


*[JURIST] The Tennessee House of Representatives [official website] has passed a bill[HB 3621, PDF; bill summary] that augments the state's abstinence-only sex education curriculum to allow parents to sue school teachers or organizations that promote "gateway sexual activity."

** Some interesting stats: Born-again Christians 27% Other Christians 24% Atheists, Agnostics 21%

SAVE THE RICH! Garfunkel and Oates Sing For The Beleaguered One Percent!

Sometimes it takes the brilliance of people like Garfunkel and Oates to point out life's absurdities: one of which is FOX News' support of the One Percent and still operating under the slogan "Fair and Balanced". 

Their new video, SAVE THE RICH is done in We-Are-the-World fashion.