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    • Hope Is Bullshit
      I am unintersted in “hope.” Or as we called it in the Obama bullshit years, Hopium. Hope is not a plan. Hope is bullshit. Luck is real, but you don’t count on luck other than in the sense that the harder you work, and the more things you do, the more likely you are to […]
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St. Albans and the Dissolution of the Monasteries

Wat Tyler gets bedazzled and be-deaded by the king and his retinue.

Recently, Juliet Barker gave a talk at a history weekend in England on The Peasants’ Revolt. Short summary for those of you not familiar with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. It took place in the reign of Richard II at the end of the 14th century. By that time, the population of England had been decimated by successive waves of plague. As a result, social lines had been shifting. The aristocrats had a “how are you going to keep them down on the farm” after all the other serfs had died problem. Some farm laborers, serfs and freemen, were looking for higher wages elsewhere. Then, John of Gaunt, the king’s uncle, tried to raise taxes for national defense via a poll tax. He actually set it up to be fairer to the poor but as a result, the nascent middle classes got squeezed and carried the heaviest burdens. The middle stratum saw itself caught between the landed class that wanted labor to go back to the way things used to be before the shortage of labor brought on by the plague, while at the same time paying for their defense network. There’s more to it than that and Barker doesn’t delve too deeply into all of the political and social causes that lead to the revolt. If you’re interested, you can read her book or check out Tony Robinson’s documentary on the subject on YouTube.

Barker says that it’s a myth that the revolt started in Essex. It was nationwide. The peasants had a lot of scores to settle. What I found most interesting was the story she told of William Grindcobb of St. Albans. Back then, the priories were landlords and also had tenant farmers and serfs working of them at subsistence wages. The prior of St. Albans had denied his tenants the use of hand mills to grind their flour, confiscated the hand mills and required all tenants to grind their grain at the priory’s more expensive flour mill. It also denied Grindcobb his claim of land and that he was a free man. Essentially, the priory turned him back into a serf. Grindcobb was a literate man with some degree of advanced education. He petitioned the king regarding his right to land and freedom. The king ruled in his favor. Grindcobb presented his documents to the prior. As a result, Gridncobb, and several other petitioners, were executed by the priory as an example to other potential upstarts.These nonviolent rebels were hung and the priory had ordered them not cut down before the corpses had rotted. But the bodies were cut down and buried. So, the priory ordered the corpses dug up and rehung. Barker says the queen eventually put a stop to the desecration of the bodies by the priory of St. Albans.

In the lead up to Wolf Hall, I’ve been trying to figure out why the Dissolution of the Monasteries didn’t pique the ire of more average people. The monasteries were some of the only places where charity was distributed in England in the 16th century. They were also some of the only places where education was offered. This was especially the case for women who went through a sort of educational wasteland after the Dissolution. But now that I’ve heard about how the priories had the ability to abuse the general workforce, I’m not surprised that so few people stuck up for them. In protest, there was the Pilgrimage of Grace in the north but, in general, people didn’t seem to be too upset to see the monks go or to see their property confiscated. Henry VIII may have acted out of revenge and greed but many people may have felt the monasteries had it coming. They had grown rich off the labor of ordinary English people and they didn’t feel they were accountable to anyone but the Pope in Rome. So, they lost their property. Karma and all that.

Not that anything like that could happen now.

Besides, Richard II lied to the leaders of the Peasant’s Revolt, went back on all his promises, and had the leaders executed. From what I can remember, Wat Tyler et al got all deferential and awed by the power of the king when they finally met to issue their demands. While Tyler and his rebels were star struck by the celebrities, the king moved in for the kill and the aristocrats regained the upper hand.

Stupid lefties.

It’s -2 Fahrenheit. Time to put the baby outside for a nap.

In Finland.

It’s tradition there to stick the kid outside in the pram for a brisk 2-3 hour nap in subzero temps. Check out this BBC Soundcloud for all the facts.

Of course, if you are in Finland, you will have received a Baby Box when your kid was born, containing snowsuit, mittens, hats, sleeping bag, etc, so you can safely leave it outside without worrying about it turning into a totcicle.

Here are the contents of a typical official Finnish Baby Box that every Finnish kid gets just for being born. Yes! Even the rich babies get them. They have no idea whether they’re going to grow up to be parasites on society.


Americans are cautioned not to do this. The neighbors will report you to CPS.

OhFerPetesSakes, Alexis Tsipris is not the Antichrist

The Syriza swish-star logo makes a cool “mark of the beast”.

The headlines at many Rapture sites are claiming that the new head of Greece is he-who-shall-not-be-named. I mean, he came out of nowhere, although, I have to admit that this site was almost three years early. I’m not sure if they’re tuned into the End Times or are really good at political forecasting. Maybe Hillary should hire them. (Wait, could a woman become an anti-christ? Now, that would be unexpected.)

But anyway, Tsipris met with the Pope. His supporters are called The Earthquake. He might bring down the Euro! Dogs and cats living together! The Signs! The Signs!

Oh, please.

Alexis Tsipris is like, what, the 20th possible antichrist? Whatever happened to Juan Carlos of Spain? What about Obama? HE came from nowhere and was backed by some mysterious, nebulous group to become leader of the most powerful empire on earth, right? And now he’s being upstaged by some dude in rinky-dink Greece?

In all likelihood, Tsipris is NOT the antichrist (again), the End Times are NOT coming, the “signs” are a collection of unrelated events, and endtimers are going to die regular deaths like every other person on the planet. Christians wanting to go to heaven while seeking to avoid the prerequisite step are acting against the central doctrine of their faith. Even Jesus had to do the whole death and resurrection thing.

Get a grip.

We need an antidote to fundamentalism

It’s a shame that so many Americans are not aware of how the world sees them. They have such a high opinion of themselves and think that Parisians still piss in holes in the floor. They don’t see the sleek TGV’s racing across the French countryside, the modern architecture of European cities interspersed with communal gathering places of plazas and outdoor cafes.

They have no idea how embarrassing it is to know that the rest of the world is laughing behind their hands at American’s poor grasp of math and science, our denial of evolution and climate change, our total ignorance of who they think is the growing power in the world (they think it’s China).

Jane Caro, the social commentator from Australia says the world watches in horror as Americans roll back rights for women. That was a revelation to me. What Republicans are doing to women’s rights in this country is making the rest of the developed world’s women grateful that they don’t live here. We can’t blame that all on the GOP though. It was the way Democrats used sexism as a tool in the primary and general election campaigns, and fear of losing abortion as a cheap trick, that has accelerated the setback for women.

In general, we are looked on as stupid and greedy. But mostly stupid.

Our most conservative fundamentalists and “fools for Jesus” don’t particularly care. We can turn the rest of the world into a glass parking lot if anyone challenges us. Well, that ought to warm the cockles of everyone’s hearts. What makes us different from the Taliban at that point?

I’m only mentioning this because I’m sure there are people out there wondering why I spend so much time on fundamentalism and religious narcissism. I’m not anti-religious. There is no way I can peer into another person’s mind to discover what they believe or don’t believe. It’s none of my business as long as I’m left alone to follow my own conscience. I don’t have a problem with most practicing people. Most of them are good, charitable, kind and generous. But I do take issue with fundamentalists from any religious tradition.

When Obama pointed out that violent extremism is not limited to Muslims, I almost had a warm thought for him. Then it passed. But he’s got a point. What I really worry about is the fact that so many fundamentalist Christians have been conscripted into politics. They’ve been flattered and cajoled and have undermined what keeps us together as a nation. The Sovereign Citizen movement is one case in point. They’ve gone beyond states rights. They hold their children hostage, depriving them of citizenship. How is that different from owning slaves? What about taxes, their responsibility to vaccinate their children or any other obligation they have to the rest of us when times get tough?  When they have so much power to drag the rest of us kicking and screaming back to the 19th century, they also have the power to reawaken the worst abuses of that era to the rest of us economically.

Going into the 2016 election, I worry that there won’t be a powerful antidote to fundamentalism or that the candidates will be too timid to take it on. Someone better think of something fast. The rest of us need to reassert our right to live in the modern world otherwise we could become the next threat to it.

The Pennington Point: a case study in narcissistic parenting

Oh, Wow, some of the ex-Quiverful people at Patheos, No Longer Quivering and FreeJinger have been following the Pennington family for some time and they have collected some of Lisa Pennington’s parenting tips.

Yesterday, I wrote about the case of Alecia Faith Pennington who is unable to prove that she is a US citizen, or even that she actually exists, because her parents refused to submit a form for her birth certificate or SSN when she was born. There is a bit more information about this case that I can fill in. It seems that on top of being uber-“Christian” homeschoolers like the Duggars, the Penningtons are attempting to go “off the grid” with respect to secular government. That is, they don’t recognize the sovereignty of any governmental authority over them. They also consider social security numbers as “the mark of the beast”. None of this should be unfamiliar terminology to anyone who grew up in an eschatological religious sect. What is different is that these people take the admonition to stay apart from the world very literally.

That would be bad enough for Alecia but her parents are totalitarian nut jobs. I’m sorry, Alecia. You can’t open this bag of worms without harming your parents and they deserve to have their reputations ruined. Alecia Pennington is not responsible for the bad press that her parents are now facing. Her parents did this to themselves. None of their posts are private. They were posted all over the interwebs for their followers to see and worship. They held themselves up as models of “Christian” piety, perfection and discipline.

Before Alecia decided to get out of Dodge, Lisa Pennington, Alecia’s mother, was posting frequently about the regime she put her adult children through. It’s clear that her primary mission was complete control of their lives and convenience to her. She repeatedly uses the words that a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder would use throughout her posts. She says her adult children don’t have any right to live in her house, eat her food or drive her car. They have no right to privacy. She expects them to comply without question to any demand. And they are expected to feel grateful. That’s the key word here. Narcissists use it frequently. The keep account of everything they have ever done for you. Most parents believe that children should be cared for without any conditions or expectations. Narcissists think differently. To a narcissist, a child is lucky that the child is born at all and that incurs a lifelong debt to the parent that can never be remitted. Any provision of housing, nutrition or education is something they are not entitled to as her children but should feel enormous sense of gratitude to her.  She is bestowing her largess not on her children but on some subservient entity. They are suppose to glorify her.

Alecia leaving the compound and making a big stink about having an independent life without her is harshing the mellow she’s been in since she started writing about her perfect Christian life. Her lack of empathy is obvious in her post about Alecia leaving. She can not understand how Alecia could do this to the family or what possible reason she could have for leaving in the first place. Alecia is an extension of herself, therefore, whatever Lisa thinks must be what Alecia is thinking. Alecia does not have her own feelings and desires apart from Lisa.

Anyway, read these posts from Patheos and make up your own mind. These are not nice people and none of them deserve to be held up as pinnacles of perfection by getting their own TV shows.

The Pennington Point on Adult Kids Living at Home (from Love, Joy, Feminism by Libby Anne)

Homeschoolers Anonymous’ post on Alecia’s documentation problem calls it “identification abuse”. It’s not dissimilar to what happens to enslaved sex workers or what rich Kuwaitis do to household servants from South Asia. Their papers are taken away from them so they’re powerless to seek the help of law enforcement. This is what Alecia’s parents are doing to her. Alecia says she is getting the help of a lawyer now but this has been dragging on since September of last year.

Meanwhile, because the Penningtons may have used an unlicensed midwife who didn’t file the birth certificate forms in a timely manner, they may be subject to fines. It’s $500/offense and they have nine children.

They’ll probably claim that it’s a religious liberty issue and appeal all the way to the US Supreme Court (which they don’t recognize).

You heard it here first.

Religious narcissism and its effects on children: an extreme example

Oh those daffy Duggars! Nineteen kids out there in a compound in Arkansas getting homeschooled. Look at how polite, well behaved and self-controlled they are. And they play instruments too. They play violin, piano… and violin. None of them do ballet. That’s interesting. No it isn’t. They have to dress modestly and you can’t look modest in a tutu. Ballerinas in tutus could be defrauding (that’s like being called a tease). Besides, dancing is unbiblical- or something. There’s touching involved. Touching leads to wild, lustful sex as soon as the chaperones leave the room to take a pee… Wait, where was I?

Anyway, you know the drill. People who admire the Duggars and families like them see no harm in what they are doing. It’s all about God, blah, blah, blah.

And then comes the case of Alecia Faith Pennington. Here’s her story:

This is shocking to the rest of us who aren’t slavishly devoted to fundamentalist ideology. Can you imagine parents who wouldn’t assist their children in establishing that they are citizens of the country in which they have been born and lived all their lives?

You’re shocked because you aren’t seeing this situation in the same way Pennington’s parents, or even the Duggars, see it. THEY see a disobedient and defiant daughter. To these families, Alecia isn’t entitled to any rights. She’s not entitled to her own life. She’s not even entitled to be angry about the choices her parents have made for her. She’s not entitled to her own feelings.

Her mother, on the other hand, is entitled to become hysterical with grief. She is wailing and screaming about how awful Alecia has been. It’s like the death of her daughter. (Well, that’s because she has to shun her in order to save the other kids) The rest of the family can’t understand why Alecia has left. She must be possessed by the demonic influence of a woman from the world. But even though the family has been devastated, now that she’s made an independent decision, they have no other choice but abandon her and try to make her life miserable by withholding the information she needs to get her birth certificate. They simply can not allow her to get away from them without suffering the consequences of what she has done to their happy family that now has a hole blasted through it. If only Alecia would return to them, they wouldn’t have to ruin her life.


It’s all about them. Note that the most significant thing to ruin Alecia’s life at this point has been the intentional actions of her parents to deny her the crucial information she needs to do what every other nineteen year old in the country is allowed to do by law. What is more awful than having someone deny you the right to make a living to support yourself? Really, these parents should be arrested for negligence and abuse.

I was surprised to read that Alecia’s case is not rare among the religiously homeschooled. When these children reach 18, they’re legally allowed to leave but their parents can hold them hostage. Without proper documentation, they’re stuck in a legal limbo and without outside support, they may never be allowed to leave what they consider to be a cult and prison. Would their parents refuse to sign their financial aid papers if they decided to go to college? Yep. Or they might be disinherited, although in Alecia’s case, when she does finally get her documentation, she might be the only one of her siblings to prove her identity and, as a result, might inherit everything. You never know.

The people supporting Alecia are hoping that public pressure will cause her parents to relent and they will help her establish her identity. But the Penningtons take Duggardom a step further. They believe the US Government has no sovereignty over them, or some such nonsense. This is a deep held belief. It’s part of the reason why they chose to use unregistered midwives to deliver their children and why they didn’t register their birth certificates. For all we know, the Penningtons will assert that Alecia is only 17 and must be returned to her parents. Wait, are we sure they are her parents? Where’s the documentation? In the meantime, Alecia is staying with her grandparents who seem slightly less unhinged.

This is an extreme form of religious narcissism but all of the characteristics are there. The Penningtons are “Christians” whose refusal of the world has set them apart as “special”. They’re more holy, more worthy of respect. You should be more deferential to them because they have God on their side. They have The Truth. You don’t. They do not see their children as independent beings. Their children are part of an unbreakable family unit. They do not have independent agency. They must submit to their parents’ choices for them and that is to serve God and the family.

The Penningtons have a newsletter where they tell the world how perfectly they are adhering to The Truth and God’s plan. By going public, (OMG, YOUTUBE!!) Alecia has ruined their reputation among other families like the Penningtons because she has decided she didn’t want to live in the perfect world that her parents had created for her. There goes the admiration the Penningtons crave. Maybe Alecia should threaten to write a book. That ought to bring her parents around toot sweet.

So, she must be punished. She can’t just leave. She doesn’t have a right to leave. She doesn’t own herself. She is property of the family. This is a major feature of narcissists. They do not respect the boundaries of others. Alecia has decided she doesn’t want to live like a religious fundamentalist away from the world and subject to her parents who will choose her husband and decide her future. For this, she must be punished and she will be declared dead within the family. It’s all about the Penningtons. It’s not about Alecia.

The Penningtons say they will give her what she needs but as with all religious narcissists, that help is going to come with strings. Alecia will probably have to return home and go through some counseling with them so that she, once again, sees the world through their eyes. They have to have one more chance to shape her mind, subject her to one more lecture on the dangers of the world, put one more oppressive guilt trip on her before they symbolically kill her and shun her forever from their presence. Because they love her.

Apparently, this love does not extend beyond the fence around their compound. They can not love her from a distance. They can not love her if she decides to get an education, save the world or marry someone she loves who her parents did not choose. She is ungrateful and disobedient. There’s nothing worse. She could be a bad influence on the other children. She might give the others ideas. Therefore, her independence poses a real threat to their peace of mind. She will have to be excluded from their presence. This is what will happen to any of the Duggars who dare to step out of line.

Not so charming anymore, is it?

*It’s bound to come up but as far as I know, the Duggars have had their kids in hospitals. That’s because Michelle Duggar has had so many children that she should have a zipper on her C-section incision. Labor became difficult and in some cases, dangerous, for her ever since she had her first set of twins more than twenty years ago. Physician attended deliveries have become necessary for her. But she started popping out the brood more almost thirty years ago. Who knows how she might have done things these days? The Quiverful movement has moved towards home births in a big way, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the midwives are professionals, registered and have an admitting hospital nearby in case of an emergency. the Penningtons have decided that is too restrictive for them and they are apparently not alone among the fundamentalist community. So, presumably, the Duggar kids all have their birth certificates, or can access them if they ever get a moment to themselves and can put together an escape plan. But in every other way, the Duggars are just as oppressive as the Penningtons.

Snow and Chocolate

It snowed all day today in Pittsburgh. It’s not too deep outside. The snow is light and fluffy. I’ve already taken the top layer off. But it did keep me indoors all day. The snow plough passed through a couple of times. The snow closed around its wake and within a half an hour, the road was covered again.

In the meantime, I kept myself occupied with audio books and scouted YouTube for good recipes when I ran across this one. It’s for a spiced chocolate pudding. I had every ingredient except the whole milk. But I’m making it tomorrow for sure. Imagine snuggling up to the fire with a good book and a bowl of this: