Shocked and Persuaded


Separating Fact From Fiction

Back Off Westboro Baptist Church

Last year we had a group of visitors here in Burlington from Topeka, Kansas affiliated with Fred Phelps‘ Westboro Baptist Church. For those not familiar this group you may be familiar with some of their pleasant slogans such as “God Hates Fags”, “Thank God For Dead Soldiers”, “Thank God for 9/11”, “Thank God for IEDs”, “Fags are Beasts, “God Hates Jews”, “Fags Doom Nations”, etc, etc. The list is long and oh so thoughtful. When this group came to Burlington they brought with them their signs and their children to protest Vermont being “most ‘gay’ friendly spot in DOOMED america.” This was not the first time they visited little ol’ Vermont they came a couple of years earlier to spew nonsense during the funeral of a Richmond man killed in Iraq by one of those IEDs they like to scream about so much.

During their most recent visit the anti-Westboro contingent was large, persistent, and peaceful following them from Montpelier to Burlington and all around town just letting them know we didn’t agree with their tactics or the hateful rhetoric that came forth from their mouths and those of their children. BUT I don’t know one person involved in the Burlington section of the anti-Westboro crew that thought they didn’t have the right to say what they wanted wherever they wanted. As common defense of Howard Stern goes: If you don’t like him change the station?

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Convenient Thomas Jefferson Fidelity

I just received an amazingly convenient reading of Thomas Jefferson today and I would like for the record to address some of the convenient stuff. First I am listing my rebuttal and below you will find the quotes from the email. Enjoy!

To All
I just can’t let this lauding of some of TJ’s work go without parsing the other side of the story.
OK I understand the admiration for TJ as I have tons myself, but keep in mind he was a willing owner of slaves.
This idea that there are tons of folks out there not willing to work and looking for those that are to bail them out is nonsense. The people that received the biggest bail out weren’t the bottom half or bottom 99% it was the top 0.001Percenters. Look at AIG, Goldman, Citi, hedge funds galore. They got bailed out because much of what we feel is sacrosanct about capitalism failed that is undeniable. I for one would be happy to work full-time for way less than the folks at the Big Banksters get paid PER WEEK!! But because the financial industry collapsed under CDOs, CDSs, leverage, and real-estate BS I can’t get a job and I know tons of folks like me. This argument that this all comes down to Obama and it is all his fault is so much nonsense if you believe honestly that what just happened stems from the last 2 years IN ISOLATION your crazy and need heavy dose of rationality. I know Socialists, I know Marxists, I know liberals and conservatives. Obama is hardly a left-winger and would laugh at the thought of embracing socialism I am sure. Read the rest of this entry »

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” File

Seriously does it get any better than this?

Ohio: Lightning Destroys 6-Story Statue of Jesus


I chuckle as I write because I was struck by the materials used in this wonderful project at Solid Rock Church$250,00 worth of Styrofoam and fiberglass at 16,000 feat and 62 feet high.

In case your interested here is a picture of Pastor Lawrence and Darlene Bishop. What a cute couple! Judging by the First Couple of Solid Rock’s attire they are big fans of St. Augustine’s famous quote “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet”.


I’m sorry I have to do this as this is a must read from the original citation in The Times when Big J as it is referred to was built:

“MONROE, Ohio – Jesus first appears in a flash, a white statue rising from the flat cornfields 40 miles north of Cincinnati. Then he is gone, hidden behind a gas station.

Drive another quarter-mile up Interstate 75, past the billboards for Bristol’s Strip Club and Trader’s World Flea Market, and suddenly the image appears in all its full dimensions. Jesus, depicted from the waist up, is six stories tall and seems to burst from the ground, as if he might gather a tractor-trailer in his Honda-size hands and lift it to heaven.

After dark, the figure is illuminated by spotlights from below. “It sort of looms out at you, especially at night,” said Aaron Andrews, a trucker from Milwaukee.

The statue, erected in 2003, was the inspiration of Lawrence and Darlene Bishop, evangelical Christian pastors of the 3,400-member Solid Rock Church here, which spent $250,000 on a project that did not go smoothly.

The image’s steel frame was built in nearby Lebanon, Ohio, and the body, made of Styrofoam and fiberglass, on the beach in Jacksonville, Fla. The body was then trucked north. But when workers started installing the statue on an island in a man-made reflecting pool behind the church, they found that the head and arms were too small for the chest.

The builder, James Lynch, then spent three months ripping the fiberglass apart and recasting the outstretched arms and upturned face. The completed figure weighs 16,000 pounds and, at 62 feet, stands 20 feet taller than originally planned, though its skin is so thin that it bends to the touch of a finger.

Some congregants say the statue keeps watch over a section of freeway that was once among the most dangerous in Ohio. Twelve people died along that 15-mile stretch of I-75 in the two years before the image was erected, eight of them killed after cars jumped the median into oncoming traffic. Since the statue went up more than two years ago, there have been no such crossover deaths.

“Can’t too much go wrong next to a big statue of Jesus,” said one member of the church, James Nelms, 23.

Officials at the Ohio Department of Transportation attribute the improved safety to a $1.1-million high-tension cable that the department built in the freeway’s median about the time, coincidentally, that the statue was erected. Cars have hit the cable 183 times since then, and in three of those cases, crashes have occurred within three-tenths of a mile of the church.

There is also a running disagreement over the statue’s name. Postcards for sale in the church’s gift shop refer to it as the King of Kings. Many locals call it Touchdown Jesus, since, a bit like the famed mural at the University of Notre Dame, it resembles a robed and bearded referee signaling a score at the goal line. Others call it Super Jesus, MC 62ft Jesus (for the technomusician of a similar name) or simply Big J.

The Bishops’ original idea was for a sculpture of Jesus that was no larger than life-size. That it turned into something much bigger than envisioned was entirely apt, given the couple’s own lives.

Mr. Bishop, now 63, was born in the Appalachian village of Zag, Ky. He bought his first horse for $25 at the age of 10 and, though it was blind, sold it for $250 and went on to become one of the nation’s biggest quarter horse dealers.

He opened Solid Rock Church with 12 members above a fire station in 1978. Together with his wife, he built it into a megachurch on a 100-acre campus with its own Bible college and music amphitheater.

Four years ago Mr. Bishop wrote his first song, for church. Now he has recorded five hits. On Nov. 10, he went to Nashville to perform at the Christian Country Music Awards Show. He was nominated for three awards, and won one of them, as music evangelist of the year.

As for Mrs. Bishop, who dropped out of high school at 17 to marry him, she now has her own Christian talk show for women, called “Sisters,” which appears nationally seven days a week on various cable television channels.

Solid Rock Church, with its atmosphere of unplanned gigantism, is one of the few places where a 62-foot statue of Jesus could fit right in. In March, the Bishops squeezed a 1,000-seat balcony into their worship hall to accommodate all the new members who have joined their rapidly growing church in the last two years.

“God ordained all of this to happen,” Mr. Bishop said. “I never even wanted to be a preacher.””

Hypocritical Activism

I wonder if when Senator Sessions refers to “a nominee…that is so activist like Goodwin Liu…if it’s somebody like that, clearly outside the mainstream…” is he on the same page with a presumed conservative partner-in-arms like Jerry Falwell Jr. who when asked about the objectives of Liberty University School of Law said it is “…to transform legislatures, courts, commerce and civil government at all levels.” (The Times, R. Shorto “How Christians were the founders?”, February 11, 2010)? I would hope not because otherwise this would make for an awkward moment if such a conflict of ideology were brought up by another member of the Judiciary Committee (Hint: Earth to Senator Leahy!).

Whats good for the flock is apparently not good for the herder.

Land of the Rising Sun

I was just reading an awesome piece in The Economist on the death of an 800 year old Ginko Tree (Ginko biloba) in Japan when I came across the following quote:

“nature is to gods and man what God is to nature and man in Western religions.”

Do we have it backwards here in the West?

It seems as though Western religion – especially given the recent Catholic redux – could use a little dirt beneath its nails.

Instead of Finding Religion they could do themselves good by Finding Mother Nature! It is God’s Green Earth after all isn’t it?

Quote of the Day

From Ross Douthat’s latest opinion piece in The Times (Note: Not a big fan of this guy but he is dead on many regards with this latest observation):

“During a frustrating argument with a Roman Catholic cardinal, Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly burst out: “Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?” The cardinal, the anecdote goes, responded ruefully: “Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.””

Between this latest issue in Wisconsin and the Pope’s issue in Germany along with the Evangelical association in Uganda (i.e., Homosexual cures!) where they want to kill all homosexuals you have to wonder: What would Jesus think?

Update On Iraq Geography

Just another great map from The Economist. Refer back to the map in a previous post regarding The Trigger Line as it is called in Iraq. Here it is essentially the line separating the Two Shades of Iraq.


Iraq Geography Lesson

This is truely an informative and needed reminder of the nuanced divisions in Iraq. It is from The Economist ( The article basically is discussing the issues surrounding NE Kurdistan and the rest of the nation. The author discusses how the Kurdish v. Arab tussle may be of more long-term importance than Sunni v. Shiite, which is the classic struggle we hear about in the west. The Shiites being the party of El-Maliki. However, the Kurds in the NEastern section of the country guard what they call “The Trigger Line”, because they were burned by Saddam Hussein and feel as though with their oil riches Hallibur…Oops I mean Exxo…Kidding I meant El-Maliki wants desperately to divide and conquer the region. The article makes the point that with General Odierno et al leaving at the end of this summer it will be worth keeping an eye on “The Trigger Line”.


Quotes of the Day II:

“Defense…has become this mantra…and once people hear the word defense they stop thinking.” Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Rabbis for Human Rights, Israel

Evangelical Hypocrisy & The North/South Divide

I was recently reading through some postings on Dr. Tiller’s assassination (How do you discern between assassination and murder?) and found the below diatribe from the mouth of George Carlin. As usual Mr. Carlin pretty much nailed it on all fronts.

Why, why, why, why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t want to fk in the first place, huh? Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own.

Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fd.” (carlin-diatribe)

Say what you will about 3rd term abortions but the fact remains that there is a sector in this country that is very angry and getting angrier. The Tiller murder reminds me of when I started to see this whole thing begin to come to the surface nationally….It all started with John McCain’s pit bull Sarah Palin and her pandering to “real America”. I remember being very disturbed by her use of the 15minute platform handed her by the Arizona senator. I was even more disturbed that he did not condemn her comments.

I contend now given Mr. Tiller’s untimely death, the mowing down of three police officers in Pittsburgh and related hate crimes blood is on the hands of of Ms. Palin and Mr. McCain, along with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. They knew the consequence(s) of their words, knew the vulnerability of their audience, and also knew that the latent sense of racism that pervaded their rallies and that such comments would only stoke the dark side of there constituents.This type of mentality doesn’t belong in politics but seems more suited to The Jerry Springer Show. These types of fissures are coin of the realm in right-wing thinktanks and what amazes me is how flippantly people like Mr. Limbaugh and Karl Rove throw around words like socialism and patriotism. We are still in W’s “with us or against us” mentality in this country and nuance seems to have been kicked to the curb oh so subtly.

The individual responsible for killings in Pittsburgh “…feared that the Obama Administration would take away his guns.“(;;

It seems Mr. Strother Martin’s Cool Hand Luke character Captain was prescient when he said

What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

We need some north/south cross-pollination with dialogue centered on understanding the exact mechanisms used by the the Political (PIC) and Media Industrial Complex(MIC) on the right and left to divide and conquer us! They are using our own fears and more importantly our growing apathy and naivete against us. They are doing it quite well and even in this tough economic time President Obama and DC writ large are telling us to get out there and consume. Isn’t this a similar message to that forwarded by Bush immediately following 9/11? The answer is yes and the idea that our savings rate may creep over 6% is very scary to the PIC and MIC as they rely on our insatiable appetite for stuff to power our economy to the tune of 72% of GDP.

As long as we remain divided we will remain perpetually subservient. This doesn’t mean we need to take up arms but rather we must pursue dialogue without ad hominem attacks understanding that religous, social, and economic diversity the engine that drives productivity doesn’t need to be scrapped but rather is in desperate need of refueling.