Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sarah Palin's Appeal to Right-Wing Pundits: Sex?

This time of year, I expect Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to be going on about the "War on Christmas," a fiction coined (or at least heavily discussed) by the conservative pundit where the evil "secularists" are out to take away your decorations, holiday music, and ability to have those terrible white elephant gift exchanges and "Secret Santa" at the office.

But now a new cause has found Bill: Sarah Palin.

Yes, if you listen to Bill O'Reilly (and I try not to), he'd have you believe St. Sarah is somehow the victim of an organized campaign and hate mob consisting of the "mainstream media" (for which O'Reilly works, I must point out), "liberals," and God-hating atheists and Christmas-banning secularists.

And let's not even get started on conservative windbags Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck and their opinions of the gubernatorial quitter ("El Drugbo" described her rambling book the most substantive political work he's read, if that tells you anything).

The right-ring punditry of hacks like Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glen Beck seem to have made Sarah Palin their cause celebre, building the short-serving former Alaska Governor into a Christ figure being persecuted by the rest of the terrible, cheese eating, wine sipping, socialist world.

Or maybe a big blow up sex doll.

You'd never get them to admit to that, but much like the most stringently homophobic evangelists and Republican moral police in Congress, you know what's really on their minds. Yes, it's my thought that the blowhards at Fox News and the hypocritical drug-addled windbags of Boca Raton, FL, secretly all all harbor their professed admiration of "Saint Sarah" not for her confusingly-stated populist beliefs or core neoconservative principles but rather out of some almost-Freudian fantasies.

It's not just that she's a pretty face, but that somehow these hacks feel that if she were in power, they as "manly men" would in fact be in charge, for all good ultra-conservatives know that a woman's place is to speak only when spoken to and to be subservient to men in all things. The Bible says so, dontcha know? (I'm serious. Look it up. 1Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-12, among others and along with all the misogyny of the Old Testament, like stoning women who were raped inside the city limits since they "could have called for help" etc.)

It's almost amusing, if in a pitiful sort of way, to see how Fox News' Bill O'Reilly leaps to defend the gubernatorial quitter from imagined slights. Darwin had his bulldog (in T. H. Huxley) and even his rottweiler in modern-day biologist and writer Richard Dawkins; perhaps O'Reilly should be called "Palin's chihuahua" the way he virtually foams at the mouth anytime someone calls Palin on a misstatement, fabrication, exaggeration, demagoguery, and the like.

Not, mind you, that screaming at the top of his lungs about each completely imaginary foes to a straw man "American way of life" is anything new to Bill O'Reilly. As I said in opening this entry, prior to John McCain's great blunder (let's talk strategy vs. tactics, Senator!) in picking Palin as his running mate, Bill's one true bugaboo in life was the "secular war on America," whereby those massive hoards of atheists secretly plotted to take away your right to put up a Christmas tree or hold Easter egg hunts. (If I exaggerate, it is but by the slimmest degree--there's a reason I lost all respect for O'Reilly several years ago.)

I just don't see how the Republican punditry can have such an utter fascination with the woman outside of her sex appeal (and mind you, attendees to otherwise-staid Republican rallies have been sighted wearing pins proclaiming "GILF" about the grandmother and former governor--I'll let you figure out what they mean by that). There are far stronger candidates who have just as strong of conservative principles and who actually stand a chance of winning the moderate vote in the United States. (I'd have put Mike Huckabee on that list previously--as much as I despise what he stands for, he's a likable guy otherwise--but then he went off and pulled a Mike Dukakis with the Seattle copkiller.)

Maybe they just delight in how she gets so under the skin of Democrats (all while fantasizing about how they can get into her... er, I'll leave it at that). But I'm betting on a more carnal attraction being what drives the conservatives to leap to Sarah's every defense, when they should in fact be running as far from her as they can and trying to salvage a party that as an independent I voted for several times. And except as a pin-up, Sarah Palin is not the answer they need.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Preaching Hatred: The Dove Church in Gainesville, FL

This past weekend, Beth and I made a trip to Florida for a wedding. Driving into Beth's mom's neighborhood, we came across the following signs on the grounds of a local church:

'Islam is of the Devil' proclaim the signs on the grounds of the Dove World Outreach CenterBeth's mom gave us the scoop; the local church--which I'd jokingly remarked on previous visits as being a "compound" and likely filled with some radical sect like Branch Davidians--have decided to express their particular brand of fundamentalist hatred by labeling all Muslims as devil-worshipers. This goes back to at least July (the date of this Gainesville Sun article on the original, one-sign display), and subsequently the church supplemented their Burma-Shave-esque trio of signs with an effigy of an Islamic person hanging a Christian. The latter, according to Beth's mom, was burned by outraged vandals (and not by the church itself).

I'm not making excuses for Islamist extremists and their terrorism, nor for the way women are treated in many basically-theocratic Muslim countries (though, to be fair, plenty of fundamentalist Christian sects are pretty misogynistic, too). However, the preaching of hatred by churches of any of the legs of the Abrahamic triangle of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity is equally despicable and indefensible. And for extremist Christians, whatever happened to Matthew 5:44 and Jesus' command to love and do good to one's enemies?

The Dove compound sign and another warning 'Fort Hood is only the beginning'
The church had added another sign to the grounds when we visited Gainesville this past weekend: "Fort Hood is only the beginning," it read. I'm not quite sure what to make of that one--what, exactly, do the church's leaders and members seem to think is the appropriate remedy to violence that they equate with an entire religion? Outlawing a religion has never had much success, and I can only imagine that conducting any sort of organized campaign against Muslims is only going to stir up such hatred and violence from extremists so as to leave us playing out all the bad events from bad movie Invasion: USA minus Chuck Norris to save the day--all while punishing countless innocents.

To top things off, according to the Gainesville Sun, the church faces accusations from former members that the pastor used parishioners to make furniture sold by the owners' for-profit business on eBay. If there's any substance to these accusations, it's possible that the owners/pastors could end up facing tax charges--like fellow Florida fundie pastor "Dr. Dino" Kent Hovind, currently in the federal pen. Even if no charges are forthcoming or warranted, taking personal profit from a church for one's worldly comfort seems just a tad bit un-Christian, don't you think?

Perhaps though the days of the Dove in the neighborhood are numbered; from the Gainesville Sun articles linked above, the 20 acre compound is up for sale, including the furniture factory, at the relative bargain price of $4 million.

Incidentally, am I the only one to see the irony in a church named for the bird symbolizing peace slandering an entire religion whose name translates as "peace?" The actions of this fundie church do no justice to doves everywhere; perhaps vulture would have been the better mascot for Gainesville's preachers of hate.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Celebrating One Year at Chateau Papillon

This post is a couple of days late, but we celebrated one year as happy homeowners at Chateau Papillon on Tuesday. We closed last November 10th and thus began the first phase of of what we hope to be many years of making the home our own, from the travails of taking out glued-down carpet and installing a slightly too-wide gas range to installing bamboo floors

We've still got many more renovations planned, including a "wine bistro" in the cellar, painting the guest bedroom (and adding to it a walk-in closet for much-needed storage space), and eventually adding a deck and balconies to overlook our back yard. Everyone says, "You'll still be working on things 30 years later," and given my mom only got her baseboards put in some 30 years after the house had been built, I'm sure they're right.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The Painted Wall at the Black Canyon of the GunnisonLast weekend, I took a brief trip to Montrose, Colorado--flying out Saturday and back Sunday--primarily for the frequent flier miles (the flight, after a voucher I had, cost me $50!), but rather than a pure "mileage run" where one flies out and immediately back, I did spend a little bit of time on the ground.

I drove up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which features the Painted Wall, the highest cliff in Colorado, a portion of which is pictured above. Volcanic inclusions in the rock walls result in the lighter-colored strips in the stone where the canyon walls had been eroded away over the eons.

Vertical aspect of the Painted Wall
The Gunnison River plunges at a rate far steeper than the Colorado River does in the Grand Canyon, making for some very steep canyon sides indeed--in a couple of places, the drop to the river below is well over 2000 feet! In the photo above, consider the trees atop the cliff on the left for a sense of scale and perspective; even though the shadows cloak the river far below, the visible portion of the canyon wall alone is taller than the Empire State Building (which would reach just over halfway up from the Gunnison River).

The Elk Mountains in the distanceThe weather was perfect, with temperatures on the ground in Montrose in the upper 60s and in the park itself the low 50s--though snow was still extant in several places in the shade, as well as atop the Elk Mountains in the distance, off toward Telluride, CO.

Some interesting rocks at the Black Canyon of the GunnisonThe park as a whole was beautiful, offering in addition to the gorgeous views of the canyon itself many natural scenic features, like the lichen-crusted boulders above and the many plants adapted to the semi-arid conditions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tyranny of the Masses: Referendums Need to Go

In yet another state, gay marriage was brought to referendum and defeated tonight in Maine; every single state which has held a "direct democracy"-style referendum has dealt a blow to gay rights by outlawing same sex marriage. "The people have spoken; it's the will of the voters," the bigots who defend this abhorrent abridgment of human rights claim--which is, quite frankly, a view completely ignorant of the history of democracy in the United States. I'll be up front: it's time for referendums and other vehicles for voters to directly decide policy issues to go for the incredible threat of tyranny of the masses they enable.

Worse, in Maine, the elected legislature had expressly legalized gay marriage; there was no wiggle room for conservative bigots to shout about "activist" judges. Rather than undertaking the proper representative democratic process, through which unhappy voters would campaign to unseat supporters of the enacted law and replace them with representatives who could then enact legislative change, the mob mentality prevailed yet again.

Our founding fathers--heroes one and all to the conservatives who are so hell-bent on depriving honest couples the legal codification of their relationship--expressly opposed direct democracy and instead favored representative democracy, where voters elect representatives who in turn vote to enact or repeal legislation. This mechanism serves as a powerful check on demagoguery and mob rule and works to help ensure the minority groups (be they by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or even political philosophy) are not trampled upon by the majority.

Once again, too, the churches played a huge role in the political process--a move which should cost them their tax-exempt status and could be seen as a violation of election law. Where the Mormons dumped cash and deceptive activism into enacting California's Proposition 8 last year, in Maine it was the Catholic church who played the primary role. Both from within the state and across the country, the Catholic church itself sent millions of dollars to support this anti-gay-marriage miscarriage of fundamental rights.

(Let me indulge for a moment in a bit of anti-Catholic jeering: just ponder the irony of a church which has a documented and extensive history of enabling sexual perversion and pedophilia and harboring its guilty practitioners spending millions on ad campaigns which made such outrageous claims as gay marriage would mean sexual predators in schools, kids being taught to embrace gay marriage, etc. It's rather sad when you think of it, and it's little wonder to me why there's so much anti-Catholic hatred out there when such a large and supposedly benevolent organization continues to practice such rampant discrimination and hurt.)

And a hint to the opponents of gay marriage who make the (potentially dubious) claim that they stand with the majority: the majority once supported slavery, too. The majority once opposed interracial marriage (and ridiculously, at least one moronic public official in Louisiana still does...) How about you lead and choose to stand on the right side of history for a change? Don't the churches claim they made a big deal in helping end slavery? Wouldn't it be a feather in their caps to be able to say, "In the interests of human rights and justice for all, we as Christian leaders feel it is time for the discrimination to end."

Personally, as a straight, married man, I don't get what the big deal is for all the folks who get their panties in a wad over gay marriage. For those citing religious reasons, hey, think about this for a moment: the Christian Bible also says the cure for leprosy involves sacrificing several birds, and that women should be subservient to men in all things. But mainstream Christianity has rejected those (and many other) ridiculous notions--so how about rejecting the utterly ridiculous notion that gay marriage is evil? No one is going to make you get married to someone of the same sex, and the notion that allowing gay marriage will require your kids be taught to embrace homosexuality (or will allow pedophiles into schools--or even that gays are somehow all pedophiles) is simply ridiculous and an insult to anyone of intelligence.

So, back to my original point: we have representative democracy (a republic, as conservatives are so wont to point out when it's convenient for their purposes); even our President is elected indirectly via the much-loathed Electoral Congress rather than directly by voters. What we saw last year in California and now this evening in Maine are proof of just why we have representative rather than direct government, and why referendums like this need to go.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finally, the First Warbler: Chateau Papillon Bird #53 (Yellow-rumped Warbler)

Although I'm sure the towering trees of Chateau Papillon's backyard and the county nature preserve behind us played host to several warblers during spring migration, neither Beth nor I spotted the elusive little neotropical migrants--and the few possible calls I heard weren't clear enough for me to identify with any certainty.

Finally, though, with the tail end (no pun intended) of fall migration passing with a long, dreary storm that's dumped several inches of rain on us, I confirmed our first warbler at the new home. Though he may be the most common warbler in eastern North America (if not the continent as a whole), the male Yellow-rumped (Myrtle subspecies) I saw in the branches of one of fall-bare trees was a welcome sight indeed. Now, if only the rain had given me a better shot at a photo...