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Wolf Hall, Arkansas and New Zealand #WeAreApostates

Mark Gattis as political priest Stephen Gardiner in Henry VIII’s court.

There’s a tryptych that doesn’t seem to go together, eh?

On this side of the Atlantic, there wasn’t that much of a big deal about Wolf Hall, the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s two novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. If you haven’t had a chance to see the series, check out PBS before it’s too late and you won’t be able to find the episodes on it’s unnecessarily complicated website.

One complaint I have about the television version is that it was too short. It could have easily been three times longer. It left out several characters that I liked, like Thomas Wyatt, and skimmed over the enigma of Jane Seymour.  And then there was the impact of the Renaissance and international banking on the medieval, feudal world. It’s the three estates all over again. What was lost was the reality of who ran the government, what little there was, back then. Primarily, it was the nobility who were appointed to their offices through birth. “Oh, yes”, you say, “I learned that back in 8th grade. There’s nothing new about that.” I thought that too until I really understood what that meant. It meant that all you needed to become the treasurer or whatever was to be born into the right family. You didn’t need any other qualification. You could be perfectly shitty at your job. Didn’t matter. Your inherited wealth and status gave you automatic access to the Privy Council. A self-made, educated man who rose on his merits, had no real right to be there.

Same with the clergy. They ran a good chunk of England. During the Peasant’s Revolt of the late 14th century, the abbeys and monasteries did not side with the peasants. No, no, no. They were as much a part of the feudal aristocracy as the nobility and had even less of an incentive to cooperate with any national government. Their liege lord was in Rome. In order to bring England into the 16th century, Cromwell had to strip them of their power locally. You can bet they had their daggers poised for him after that.

Mantel has been praised for her research on Cromwell and what he tried to accomplish. He thought wars were a waste of money and thought that infrastructure projects would be a better way of keeping the population calm and under control. He was opposed in this by the nobility and the clergy who thought that poverty was God’s divine will. Why mess with it by taxing the rich? Somewhere recently in a podcast I’d heard that the stronger the social safety net in a country, the less religious it is. That’s because the common person doesn’t have to continually turn to God and charity to have his or basic needs met.

Well, the religious will have none of that. No wonder they joined up with conservative and politically connected rich people in the 30s to undermine the New Deal. You can read all about it in nauseating detail in the book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America invented Christian America.

So, you know, nothing new under the sun. And we’re still fighting the same wars between the aristocracy, the clergy and the commoner.


I’ve never been a Duggar fan, as many of you well know. Still, I find it really sad that this family has been brought down by their actions 12 years ago when their eldest son Josh was found to have been forcibly fondling his sisters while they were sleeping. First it’s sad because if he were just a regular kid instead of a TV celebrity, he might have been forced to register as a sex offender. This is what the Duggar fan base would have demanded of any other person. Secondly, but no less importantly, it’s sad for his sisters who were brought up to consider their bodies as a no touch zone for any other reason than procreation. I can only imagine what they were thinking. Were they now impure? Would any man want them after that? Instead of getting family counseling, they probably were cautioned to not tempt their older brother.

And let’s just be honest here, although he was 14-16 when this all happened, it’s probably not all that uncommon. It’s serious because it went on for a long period of time and the parents did almost nothing when they became aware of it. But I still don’t think that makes Josh the kind of pedophile that some Christians would like to make him out to be. I think it made him a troubled young person in the middle of adolescence with a ton of younger siblings and parents who admit that they parentify their older kids. That’s negligence on their part. What’s awful is that the Duggar parents have isolated these young people in an artificially created world where they imagine the only hormones their daughters will come in contact with will be from the outside world through the discerning curating eye of their father. It’s insane. Something like this was bound to happen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot more going on between the siblings than we think, even without Josh present. It could happen. They’re not allowed to date, they’re not in proximity with future mates for long enough to make their own choices. Should we be surprised that some of them turn to each other? They’re human beings, not model Christian soldiers. And with 19 kids in the family, some of them are going to be gay. Whether the parents approve or not, whether that poor kid(s) has to stay in the closet for a very long time, gay is going to be there. That kid or kids knows that the minute they are exposed, they’re going to be permanently ostracized or retrained. That’s sad.

But what really annoys me is that all of the focus is on making Josh Duggar to be some kind of pedophilic monster at the age of 14 when he really needed a good psychologist, and almost no attention on the radical, reactionary, mean spirited messages that his work with the Family Research Council promoted. Specifically, he and his family has gone on a tear hooking up with right wing politicians to portray LGBT individuals as disgusting, sex-crazed pedophiles who do not deserve equal protection under the law.

So, let this be a teachable moment for Josh. A lot of the godly types will find it in their hearts to forgive him for his adolescent indiscretions. But there will be quite a few who will now insist that he’s a sick, twisted sex addict who shouldn’t be allowed to be around children, whether or not his hormones have achieved their proper balance and outlet or not. Ah, yes, the backlash has started already. So much for Christian redemption. Once a 14 year old violator, always a 14 year old violator. Let’s see how he likes being treated like a paraiah by the fear conditioned Fox News junkies who used to worship his family.

They thought the Duggars had self-control. Apparently not. That smells like betrayal. Will it make them sit and think about why it is so important that right wing religious leaders feel it’s important to make the poor, women and the LGBT community out to be lazy, subservient and disgusting and how that might be tied to a 80 year initiative by the wealthy and religious to take back their feudal rights and getting rid of programs they hate like Social Security?

Probably not. That requires changing the channel.


I recommend to you another podcast from John Dehlin’s amazing podcast, Mormon Stories. (I wish I could donate, John, but no permanent full time job yet. Sorry.)

I can’t stress how good Dehlin is in terms of interviewing people. But it’s more than that. Mormon Stories is about the evolution of religion through the experiences of one man as he journeys out of the faith of his ancestors to, well, we don’t know what yet but it’s very exciting.

His latest podcast is with Gina Colvin, a half Maori Mormon from New Zealand. The first part of the podcast is about Gina’s background. It’s very colorful and entertaining. But the second part is the one that got my attention. In it, Gina describes her interaction with “Utah” Mormons, which are very different from Kiwi Mormons. She expresses her surprise and anger with the way that American Mormons are using their power to export an extremely conservative religious and political brand on the rest of the world. In one instance, she recounts how the Utah Mormon church has been trying to rouse its Christchurch Mormons to oppose gay equality in New Zealand. That, Gina says, was a lost cause. Gay equality and marriage in New Zealand was already part of the constitution. There was no going back, no way for the local Mormon church to oppose it and, more importantly, nobody cares.

She also says that a Utah Mormon official told her that Mormons are politically conservative. They are not allowed to be lefties. You just need to hear it to get a sense of how determined the unholy alliance of religion and right wing politics is to spreading its messages of fear, exclusion and cruelty around the world.

True story.

I liked this podcast because it was so cheerful and optimistic at the end, in spite of the crazy excommunications.

Worth a listen. Check it out here.

I get the feeling that the tide is turning against the religious right. It might be finally happening that it’s iron grip on the world is starting to slip. The world is evolving without them and getting impatient.

I especially like this brief post about Puritanism over at Lance Mannion’s blog:

Is this what we want, a grim, self-accusing, self-scolding, self-denying, self-abnegating, perversely and masochistically stoic, fearfully church-going citizenry, jealous, suspicious, defensively accepting of their lot in the certain, complacent, and stubborn knowledge that things could be worse without considering that they could also be better and asking why they’re not and how they could be made that way?

I’ve asked myself the same question for four decades. The answer is no, but how we reduce the influence of the Puritans without reprogramming is going to be very hard as long as we as a country reward the religious, no matter how fundamentalist they are.

Getting ahead of myself

I have been busy, oh best beloveds. Busy, busy, busy.

The place where I am working is undergoing a phase transition. That’s the best way to describe it. They’re changing the way they work and it is getting crazy, KRAZZYE. I am like a Mag-lev train, a TGV, boys and girls, picking up more and more speed as we leave the station.

Honest to gawd, I didn’t realize what time it was this afternoon. Five hours passed in a blink. Woah, that went fast.


Stuff outside of work is tending towards a chaotic state though. My Dropbox says it’s full. There are still bags of mulch on my flower bed-unopened. I guess it will keep the weeds down anyway, right? And the temp in the Burgh is getting up to almost 90 by Thursday and Friday. I have nothing to wear to work because I spent 25 years in jeans in a lab environment and now I have to wear heels. It’s just confounding. Well, at least for a little while longer.

Anyway, here’s to working in the zone and feeling your cheerios, like Brittany at 2:51:

What did you do today?

Bernie Sanders’ Good Points

Here’s an interview from Greg Sargent at WaPo’s Plum Line with Bernie. He makes some good points. Noted are his comments about Hillary’s ties to Wall Street firms. Very true. But if her ties were that strong and she was so willing to do what they wanted, why did they put their money behind Obama in 2008? He couldn’t have gotten the nomination without their help. So, if Hillary was so pliable and beholden to them, why didn’t they back her to the hilt instead of trying so hard to defeat her in the primaries? I’ve asked this question repeatedly since 2008 and the left has not given me a satisfactory answer. It’s like they’ve got their hands over their ears singling “La-la-la! I can’t HEAR you!”

(It’s called denial)

But point taken, Bernie. I would just ask everyone to read his answers very, very carefully because he’s not ruling out taking money from Wall Street either. He’s very good at avoiding the question but realistically, he can’t completely rule Wall Street money out. One of those firms might just wake up in time to see it’s in its best interests to, you know, not be so insanely, obscenely greedy because it’s a short term strategy that can’t last.

It could happen.

That being said, there’s a lot of good stuff in this interview that I like. Take this exchange:

PLUM LINE: Should the Democratic nominee offer a platform that goes considerably farther than what the president has done?


PLUM LINE: What would that look like?

SANDERS: It would look like a tax on carbon; a massive investment in solar, wind, geothermal; it would be making sure that every home and building in this country is properly winterized; it would be putting substantial money into rail, both passenger and cargo, so we can move towards breaking our dependency on automobiles. And it would be leading other countries around the world.

PLUM LINE: You think the Democratic nominee should campaign on a platform like that?


I couldn’t agree more. I would love to see more mass transit and broadband. I would include nuclear as well because I’m realistic. So, let’s hear a lot more about that from all the candidates.

Ok, I’m going out to cut the grass.

Later, taters.

The Hawk Debate

Back in 2008, I took the step to ban certain words here. For example, if you used the word “racist” in a comment, your comment was auto-moderated. The reason was that whoever was operating the Obama campaign had gone on the offensive and insulted and humiliated innocent bloggers and commenters in order to shut them up. They did this by calling the dissenters racists. It didn’t matter whether we had legitimate reasons for refusing to jump on the Obama bandwagon that had nothing to do with race. An accusation of racism is extremely powerful and they knew what they were doing.

There are a few other trigger words that will get you auto-moderated. I leave discovery as an exercise for the reader. Banning the words doesn’t mean you can’t discuss the issue here. It’s just that taking specific words out of the comments section meant that no one can take the easy way out. You can’t just come here, poop in the punchbowl, and leave thinking you’ve done your job putting the old, uneducated working class Roseanne Barrs who flock here (your perception, not mine) in their place. You know, drop the late consensus reality shaping meme, use the buzzword du jour, put mean spirited peer pressure on these people and watch as they all come groveling back to your side. Nah-gah-happen. We didn’t get to 52,000+ page hits per day during the height of the nauseatingly brutal 2008 campaign season because we took the easy way out and ate our poisoned mushrooms so we would fall into line like TalkLeft and Taylor Marsh and The Left Coaster and Digby’s Hullabaloo. No, we watched what was happening, were thoroughly horrified and took it without flinching. 

As time went on, and the insults and aggression piled on, I became even less likely to vote for Obama. So, there, guys (and you were almost all guys). Good job. You pointed out to me that there was almost no level of offense or character assassination that Obama would not sanction. It spoke volumes about who was supporting him and what he was prepared to overlook in the future.

So, now we come to the topic of the day. This is a debate I have been having with Monster of the Id, who I dearly love and have no intention of banning. It’s about the word “hawk” and why it is always applied to Hillary Clinton.

It has become another one of those words. I am getting ready to auto-moderate comments featuring the word. As stated before, you can argue all you want that Hillary is the biggest supporter of the military industrial complex on the planet. But you’re going to have to show your work. You will not be able to just fling that word around willy nilly because that’s what everyone is saying about her.

Let’s recognize this word for what it is. It’s a mental shortcut that bears little resemblance to actual reality. Here’s my latest comment to Monster after he tried, once again, to explain his ambivalence towards Clinton due to her perceived “hawkishness”:

You’re missing the point. You can vote for whoever you damn well please. For all we know, Arkansas will go D in 2016, or Green or Commie. You don’t know what will happen and I don’t either.

The point is, don’t make up your mind based on the consensus reality of your side. That’s what the left did in 2008 and look who got elected? Was Obama the liberal messiah the left wanted? It fell for the whisperings and mental maneuverings and dogwhistles of the Wormtongues.

Wormtongue says that Hillary is a “hawk”. Oh really? In what way is she a hawk? What does it mean to be a hawk? What are the qualities of a hawk? How many military engagements does a person have to vote for in order to get this designation? Why isn’t John Kerry also called a hawk? Is Hillary more or less of a hawk than John Kerry or John Edwards? To what degree? Is she more or less a hawk than Lindsay Graham?

I only ask.

That’s the problem. Too few people on the left ask. They just accept. Well, someone on the left must have studied the problem, some Juan Cole person must have dug up the records and figured it out. There is no doubt in their minds that Hillary is a hawk, based on some criteria, right? Some authority figure who the left trusts did the math.
But what if no one on the left actually did?

What if it’s just a clever earworm planted there by someone with less than honorable intentions? How would you know?

Consistency is key.

Don’t try to get out of the dilemma you’re in by claiming that your vote doesn’t count or making light of it. What counts is whether everyone has an honest, consistent, unobstructed, unfiltered view of the candidate without shortcuts that terminate the thought process with facile categorization.

If she ends up wanting after you have discarded the shortcuts, fine, at least you will have done your job. But don’t cop out and tell me you can’t trust yourself to make those calls on your own.

The left bungled it badly in 2008 because it didn’t bother to do its own thinking. It became as gullibly pliable as the stupid hicks on the right that it always insists are the authoritarian followers who will swallow any moronic, self-defeating message their right wing leaders throw out there. We Conflucians watched as previously smart people on the left fell for love bombing and conversion diaries, peer pressure and trigger words. They did not distinguish themselves.

Don’t let it happen again.

Like I said, you can vote for whoever fills out your dance card. Make a matrix, put the names of the candidates on the Y axis and the issues you care about on the X axis. Check off the boxes, based on what you hear directly from the candidates or have read about from the most neutral sources you can find. Then, vote for the person who gets the most checks on the grid.

One thing I will predict right now: you’re going to have to figure out what the definition of hawk really means before you check that box for Hillary.


I read with dismay yet another stupid story in the NYTimes about Hillary Clinton this morning. It’s going to be a long 18 months.

This time, it was about how progressives are pressuring her to kiss their asses. I wonder why she is even bothering at this point to give them any attention at all. They’re never going to like her, trust her, believe her, even if she really is the best thing they’ve got right now. They can’t see her for what she is and can’t appreciate what she’s got to offer them. It’s almost as if they’re under some kind of spell:

If you ever wondered what happened to Wormtongue, he left Meduseld “to spend more time with his family” and went to work for the NYTimes after working for a marketing research firm on Wall Street in 2008.

This sentence cracks me up:

Mrs. Clinton cheerily welcomed Mr. Sanders into the race, even as she works to deny Mr. Sanders or any other liberal an issue on which to bloody her from the left.

Are you serious? Sanders entering the race is the best thing that could have happened to Clinton. Now, there is another credible person on the left. Sanders is passionate, he speaks well, he’s rational. He doesn’t have the air of dweeb about him like Kucinich and he doesn’t come off as being an unrealistic “knit your own sandals” type who is going to make us eat a raw vegan diet with a heavy emphasis on organic beets. His concern is primarily about the very real erosion of the standard of living of most working Americans today.

He adds weight to the left side of the field. The longer he stays in the race, the better for Clinton. That means it won’t be six silly nobodies trying to out-mean each other on the right sucking all of the air out of the room and one woman defending the left all by herself. It means that issues might actually get discussed that aren’t all on the ultra conservative right. It means she won’t have to be so defensive. It means there will be a clear difference between the two political sides.

Damn straight she’s cheery.


But the left is convinced that she’s with the enemy. In a way, I kinda understand it. They were completely taken in by Wormtongue in 2008. That was a disaster.

Still, the real enemies have almost won. It’s bad out here. And here the left is, sitting in its golden hall, lapsing into a coma like some crusty old dude enchanted by some evil wizards. Utterly feckless and hostile to the people who are begging it to get its act together and fight back. It’s almost like someone doesn’t want people with a common cause to become allies…

Suit yourselves. I’m going with the white haired guy and the blonde lady.

Forth Eorlingas!

A call to action from John Dehlin: Are Sunday Assemblies enough?

Mormon Stories is a podcast and community created by John Dehlin who started  the podcast  when he began to wrestle with his faith in Mormonism almost ten years ago. Through the years, he has interviewed hundreds of Mormons, both faithful and apostate, and challenged the church to come to terms with gay Mormons and women who wanted equality in the church.

Recently, Dehlin was excommunicated and Mormon Stories has started to explore alternatives to religion. Or, is there an alternative to religion? This is the focus of his most recent podcast interview with Micah Nickolaison, former host of A Thoughtful Faith and also a former Mormon, now atheist. Together they discuss the recent trend in the New Atheism’s Sunday Assembly. They both like the initiative in the Sunday Assembly but feel something is missing. That missing thing is the glue that could bind a certain segment of Nones and former Mormons into a more cohesive unit and would provide them with an identification.

So, John’s latest podcast is a kind of call to action to anyone who is interested in taking it to the next level. He says, and I agree with him here, that the old bronze age religions are dying and this is reflected in the rise of the nones. But the psychologist in him recognizes that community is necessary for collective action and mental health. Also, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the other Four Horseman may be doing atheism a disservice by not recognizing this need in most people.

John says we are at an evolutionary point. How do we evolve away from these old religions while maintaining the ritual and ceremonial aspects that bind communities? It’s a fascinating podcast for those of us in-betweeners who pretty much find Abrahamic religions silly and anachronistic but can’t do the full Dawkins.

Whatever it is that comes out of this, let it be a potent antidote to fundamentalism, which is the real threat to all of us.

Here are Dehlin’s conversations with Micah Nickolaison of Strangers in Zion on his transition away from Mormonism and brainstorming the next evolutionary level. (If you want to skip all the background story, go directly to part 3. But if you want to hear a gifted interviewer do his thing, listen to John lead Micah through in parts 1 and 2)

Music to Clean By

Or with.

The Treniers sing Ragg Mopp:

Add your favorite music to clean by in the comments.


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