Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout Thoughts

And this week, Secretary Paulson and his Wall Street friends sing a variation on the Janis Joplin classic:
Oh politician, won't you pay for, my Mercedes Benz? The taxpayers all drive Yarises and Hybrids, I must make amends. Fleeced the public all my lifetime, with bigtime government friends. So politician, won't you pay for, my Mercedes Benz?
I wrote those four lines during an IM session with a friend. Derivative? Yes. Still, it's not bad for off the cuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quotable | Leadership

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” -- Antoine de Saint Exupéry, French author and aviator (1900 - 1944). Saint Exupéry is best known for the novella, The Little Prince.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Toxic Political Statement

Septic truck with sign on tank (click for larger view). Message reads:
CAUTION: Vehicle May Be Transporting Political Promises!

Modern Day Hobbits in Wales Fought the Law ... and Won

OK. My apologies to Mr. Tolkien and his fans. The villagers in this story are not really Hobbits. But they have been living in straw and mud huts that appear to be perfectly suited to the tiny denizens of Tolkien's fantasy classic. Unfortunately, these folks had to go up against their own version of a dark lord bent on their destruction. In 1993, Julian and Emma Orbach set up an eco-community on their 180-acre farm in the Preseli mountains of west Wales was set up. They thought they had waved their final goodbye to the rat race, let alone judicial issues. But that changed when a survey plane spotted a a bit of sun glinting off a solar panel. Officials were baffled -- they could find no records for this village. No planning permissions had been granted for this green haven. So it was ordered to be torn down.

But, after enduring a decade of inquiries, court cases and planning hearings, the 22 villagers are celebrating a victory. Take a look at the full story, which includes a few photos of the village's buildings. This might be what some Heathens mean when they wistfully speak of getting back to the land.

Read more: Lost middle-class tribe's 'secret' eco-village in Wales spotted in aerial photograph taken by plane | Mail Online

Julian Orbach Architectural historian Julian Orbach in front of a village roundhouse

Palin and the Kenyan Witchhunter

I'm sure there were stranger news stories about Sarah Palin or even Kenya this week. Certainly, there are more important news stories what with the financial fall-out occurring this week. But I just have to post this piece from the Times Online because, if there is only the slightest bit of truth to it, I find it highly disturbing. And it's one more reason for me to vote against the rise of the Theocratic Party (read: GOP) this November.
Palin Linked Electoral Success to Prayer of Kenyan Witchhunter (September 16, 2008)

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The pastor whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witchhunt against a Kenyan woman who he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells.

Muthee_400156gAt a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Mrs Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid.

In video footage of the speech, she is seen saying: “As I was mayor and Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he’s so bold. And he was praying “Lord make a way, Lord make a way.”

“And I’m thinking, this guy’s really bold, he doesn’t even know what I’m going to do, he doesn’t know what my plans are. And he’s praying not “oh Lord if it be your will may she become governor,” no, he just prayed for it. He said “Lord make a way and let her do this next step. And that’s exactly what happened.”

She then adds: “So, again, very very powerful, coming from this church,” before the presiding pastor comments on the “prophetic power” of the event.

An African evangelist, Pastor Muthee has given guest sermons at the Wasilla Assembly of God on at least 10 occasions in his role as the founder of the Word of Faith Church, also known as the Prayer Cave.

Pastor Muthee founded the Prayer Cave in 1989 in Kiambu, Kenya after “God spoke” to him and his late wife Margaret and called him to the country, according to the church’s website.

The pastor speaks of his offensive against a demonic presence in the town in a trailer for the evangelical video “Transformations”, made by Sentinel Group, a Christian research and information agency.

“We prayed, we fasted, the Lord showed us a spirit of witchcraft resting over the place,” Pastor Muthee says.

After the spirit was broken, the crime rate dropped to almost zero and there was “explosive church growth” while almost every bar in the town closed down, the video says.

The full Transformations video featuring Pastor Muthee’s story has recently been removed from YouTube but the rest of the story is detailed in a 1999 article in the Christian Science Monitor, as well as on numerous evangelical websites.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, six months of fervent prayer and research identified the source of the witchcraft as a local woman called Mama Jane, who ran a “divination” centre called the Emmanuel Clinic.

Her alleged involvement in fortune-telling and the fact that she lived near the site of a number of fatal car accidents led Pastor Muthee to publicly declare her a witch responsible for the town’s ills, and order her to offer her up her soul for salvation or leave Kiambu.

Says the Monitor, “Muthee held a crusade that “brought about 200 people to Christ”.” They set up round-the-clock prayer intercession in the basement of a grocery store and eventually, says the pastor “the demonic influence – the ‘principality’ over Kiambu –was broken”, and Mama Jane fled the town.

According to accounts of the witchhunt circulated on evangelical websites such as Prayer Links Ministries, after Pastor Muthee declared Mama Jane a witch, the townspeople became suspicious and began to turn on her, demanding that she be stoned. Public outrage eventually led the police to raid her home, where they fired gunshots, killing a pet python which they believed to be a demon.

After Mama Jane was questioned by police – and released – she decided it was time to leave town, the account says.

Pastor Muthee has frequently referred to this witchhunt in his sermons as an example of the power of “spiritual warfare”. In October 2005, he delivered ten sermons at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the audio of which was available on the church’s website until it was removed around the time Mrs Palin’s candidacy was announced. The blog Irregular Times has listings and screen grabs of the sermons.

It was during that these sermons that Mrs Palin, who was then preparing for her gubernatorial run, was anointed by Pastor Muthee. His intercession, she says, was “awesome”.

Her June 8 speech was to mark the graduation of students from the Wasilla Assembly of God’s Masters’ Commission, which, as Pastor Ed Kalins explains, believes Alaska will be the refuge for American evangelicals upon the coming “End of Days”. After her speech, Mrs Palin was presented with an honorary Masters’ Commission diploma.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Asatru/Urglaawe Meetup is an Editor's Pick!

I'm involved in a Meetup group for local and not-so-local Heathens in Eastern PA and NJ. We use the Meetup.com website to organize and promote activities ranging from ritual observances to discussions. Our members run the gamut of reconstructionist expressions and we don't necessarily keep under the radar. Still, I was surprised to see Philadelphia Weekly further publicize our upcoming discussion ("How Relevant Are Seasonal Observances in a Post-Agricultural Society?") with a humorous review as an Editor's Pick: Editor's Picks - philadelphia weekly online Just in case the link goes cold down the road, I've archived the text of the review below. That Viking picture to the right of the writeup? Yes, it appears in the review, too!

» Faith-Based

Philadelphia Area Asatru and Urglaawe Meetup Group

Fri., Sept. 19, 7:30pm. Free. Germ Books and Gallery, 2005 Frankford Ave. 215.423.5002. www.germbooks.com

“Urglaawe” isn’t just the noise a peasant makes when you stick a spear in his throat; it’s also Pennsylvania German for “primal faith.” We’re talking modern-day Viking god botherers, basically. And what a crazy lot of gods they were. Odin (aka Wotan), Thor, Freya, crafty old Loki. Then there are the Vikings themselves and their crazy kickass Germanic cousins. What a scary bunch of permanently pissed bearded nutters. When they’re not raping and pillaging and discovering the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus, they’re debating the relevance of even knowing what an equinox is when you live in an industrialized society. (Actually, I thought the lack of debate about “the relevance of seasonal observances in a post- agricultural society” was one of the major flaws in that 1958 Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis movie The Vikings.) And yes, there will be snacks—the parboiled heads of Saxons and the children of Christians roasted on spits. Or maybe just some chips and sammies. Hang on, a bookstore? By Odin’s balls! What folly is this? Why the hell isn’t this being held in a pub? (Steven Wells)

Supervillain-Friendly Running Mate?

OK. This is kind of silly, but I still find the concept rather entertaining. The International Society of Supervillains rates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden on a number of qualities (media depictions, rhetoric, laugh, past crimes, hobbies, etc.) to determine which ticket is the most supervillain-friendly. International Society of Supervillains: Palin or Biden: Who's the Supervillain Running Mate? [Warning!]: I feel I must provide some warning to the gentler souls who might read Prophet or Madman. Under the discussion of hobbies, the write-up for Palin says she "shoots wolves from airplanes." Why am I posting a warning when this bit of information has been bandied about the internet? Because those aforementioned gentler souls will likely be horrified by the accompanying photo of a dead (presumed shot) wolf trundled up below an airplane's wing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Review | Frey, God of the World

[Cross-posted to Amazon and my Facebook profile] In this concise look at the various source materials (it is less than 80 pages), Sheffield has laid out a compelling case for moving Frey out of the commonly held, albeit limiting, description of "fertility god." Sheffield uses excerpts from lore -- paying particular attention to various translations -- to show Frey as fulfilling the roles of gift-giver and sacred king/divine ancestor. She then expands on those roles, showing how Frey -- as a sacred king -- is instrumental in maintaining prosperity, sacred inviolability, and fecundity. A brief overview of Dumezil's three functions is included for reference, aiding the reader's understanding of the comparative religious studies approach to Indo-European spiritualities. The book is footnoted throughout and includes an extensive bibliography. http://brainwise.org/Images/star.review.gifhttp://brainwise.org/Images/star.review.gifhttp://brainwise.org/Images/star.review.gifhttp://brainwise.org/Images/star.review.gif

Thursday, September 11, 2008

They Crashed the Planes and Changed the Rules

"They crashed the planes and changed the rules." -- GrooveLily, Live Through This (Are We There Yet?), Are We There Yet?. QMR, 2003
Seven years ago this very morning, the world changed. You may take that as an overstatement, or, conversely, as overly simple. But wherever you lived at the time, a shift in perspective occurred. That shift was all the more dramatic and palpable if you were a U.S. citizen. I don't want to dwell on the attacks themselves. But I do want to take some time to recall what happened in the wake of that dreadful event. Forget -- if you can, even if for only for a moment -- just forget how you feel about the war in Iraq, conspiracy theories, and Republican versus Democrat (or any other "them versus us" political division). Recall, instead, the great communal sense that slowly seeped into our national fiber even as the weight of sorrow and shock seemed all too powerful and crushing. Remember neighbor comforting neighbor, even in cases where those neighbors had not known each other very well prior to that morning. Remember the outpouring of support and sympathy from around the world. And remember that shared conviction that, although we would never forget the tragedy, we would recover ... grow stronger ... and become ever more connected as a nation. Are we there yet? Now, I know many terrible and stupid things also occurred in the wake of 9-11. To suggest otherwise would be naive. And I would never suggest that we should simply gloss over the darker side of our all too human nature. It is my belief, however, that we can recover even from the damage we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. So the cases of post-911 ignorance and bigotry are not the focus of my post today. They would only serve to drag us back down to the things I asked you forget in my second paragraph. And what is my focus? What's the point of one more 9-11 post on a blog? Well, I wanted to provide something a little different on this solemn anniversary. You see, in my opinion, Americans were offered a choice seven years ago. We had a chance to abandon partisan politics and all the other petty things that keep us from truly working together. We saw a glimpse of the society we could have, one that celebrated differences instead of drawing lines. A nation of people united by a common desire to be their very best, and give their very best. That desire trumped pain, loss, and even differences in ethnicity, gender, politics, religion, etc. Are we there yet? I think you will agree that we are not there. Our current election season is a perfect indicator of how far we have fallen from that vision. But I hope you will also agree, or at least choose to see, that the door which opened in the aftermath of 9-11 has not yet closed. We can still achieve a truly united, yet beautifully diverse, nation. A nation not necessarily blessed by this, that, or the other god, but blessed by its citizens and their actions. Can we get there? You tell me.

Theater Blog Post

New post over at Confessions of a Serial Theater Lackey: Things I Learned During the REEFER Tech

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Knowledge@Wharton: The Candidates on Taxes

There are a few interesting notes in a recent piece from the Knowledge@Wharton newsletter, published September 03, 2008. Here is a snippet:

This is the first in a series of articles examining the various economic and fiscal proposals of the two candidates for president: Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain. The articles will appear in each issue of Knowledge@Wharton running up to the November election.

They may paint themselves as agents for a new, more bipartisan attitude in Washington, but John McCain and Barack Obama both tend to adhere to their parties' usual approaches to tax policy.

McCain would cut overall income taxes for the top 1% of American earners, according to recent data from the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. Obama would raise taxes on those in the highest tax bracket, while reducing them for low- and moderate-income families.

[Here is the kicker!] The TPC study says both candidates' tax plans would substantially increase the national debt over the next decade, though the candidates themselves have made general promises to reduce the deficit and eventually balance the federal budget. The study also says that neither candidate articulates how they will do this. As for the tax cuts, McCain says he would renew the package of cuts initiated by President Bush (due to expire in 2011), while Obama says he will keep only some of those cuts...

Read the whole thing: The Candidates on Taxes: Finding the Devil in the Details

A Few Quick Thoughts on Palin

It's the day after Sarah Palin's big coming out party (otherwise known as her VP nominee acceptance speech at the RNC). I could not watch it live because I was doing my second job, hanging lights at the theater. But Mrs. Brainwise saved it on the DVR for me and I tried to watch some of it before I went to bed. So this is an incomplete review, if indeed this can be called a review at all.
  1. Was her performance impressive? Yes and no. She was polished, read off the prompter like a professional, and connected with the audience. I, however, have a difficult time listening to her voice. There is just something about its register or pitch that makes me physically recoil. (Full disclosure: I have the same negative reaction to Hillary Clinton's voice).
  2. While I give Palin some leeway regarding her performance, the content of her speech was overly negative and distasteful. For contrast, I refer to the recent speeches by Barak Obama and Joe Biden. Yes, they were both argumentative against John McCain's positions and proposed policies. But they were also complimentary of McCain as a person and admitted a degree of respect for him and his military service. I saw no such bipartisanship in Palin's presentation (though, as I have admitted earlier, I have yet to view/hear it in its entirety).
  3. I am still surpised at the hypocrisy I perceive in the Republican Party. In the 2000 primaries, John McCain was harpooned as a crazy war vet and POW. In 2004, John Kerry's service was called into question (as was the very notion of needing military experience because Bush and Cheney had none). Now, they are all about John McCain as the "good soldier". Bringing this back to Palin, the hypocrisy centers on her daughter's pregnancy. Mother Palin is quick to say (more or less) "respect my family's decision", yet she is asking us to elect her so that she can remove that aspect of choice for all other families in a similar position.
  4. Having made my previous point, I am also stunned and appalled at the way media outlets have attacked Sarah Palin on a personal level. Yes, I believe the way a person behaves on a personal level does reflect something of how that person will handle him or herself on the world stage, in the political arena. But don't single out candidates from one party for all the venom. Dig up dirt on all of them, or ignore everyone's dirt, please.
Susan Estrich's recent editorial -- No place for personal attacks against Palin -- speaks volumes regarding my last point. Consider her closing words, which will be chilling indeed for Obama supporters, and gravy for the McCain camp:

Obama is right in saying that he finds the attacks on Palin and her family offensive, but those who support him don't seem to be listening. They should. Keep this up, guys, and major backlash is sure to follow. Sarah Palin may be no Hillary Clinton, but if she faces the same sort of sexism that Hillary did, she may yet capture many of her supporters.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Quotable | Caesars and Napoleons

In light of Election Season 2008 gearing up (or simply continuing to gear up, as the Rs have their convention this week), I felt that this quote was rather timely. I saw it this morning in the A Word A Day email from Wordsmith.org.
So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable. -- Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)