Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blood Moon Apocalypse Fail

I took this picture of the lunar eclipse from my front yard. Of course, even a good cell phone camera doesn't do it justice.

Remember last spring, when minister John Hagee predicted that the upcoming run of unusually frequent lunar eclipses would mark the End Times? Well, it didn't, as I expected. The last of these four lunar eclipses took place Sunday evening in my time zone, and was nicely visible from my front yard. It was a great opportunity for talking science with the kids, and well, that's about it. No fire, no brimstone, no end of days. Just a funky celestial event.

The so-called Blood Moon Prophecy has been around since 2008, and was originally advanced by another minister, Mark Biltz, who believed that the "great tribulation" would begin in that year, followed by the return of Jesus right about now. He was wrong. But Hagee picked the notion up and ran with it, predicting that the final "blood moon" of the tetrad - last Sunday's - would mark the beginning of the End Times rather than the return of Christ.

The idea of a "blood moon" serving as an omen of the coming of the end times comes from the Book of Joel, where it is written "the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes."[4] This phrase is again mentioned by Saint Peter during Pentecost, as recorded in Acts,[5] although Peter says that date, not some future date, was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. The blood moon also appears in the book of Revelation chapter 6 verses 11 - 13,[6] where verse 12 says " And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood".

Around 2008, Biltz began predicting that the Second Coming of Jesus would occur in the fall of 2015 with the seven years of the great tribulation beginning in the fall of 2008. He said he had "discovered" an astronomical pattern that predicted the next tetrad would coincide with the end times. When the prediction failed, he pulled the article from his website, but continued to teach on the "significance" of the tetrad.

Hagee would later seize on Biltz' prediction to write Four Blood Moons, which would become a best seller, spending more than 150 days in's top 150 by April 2014.[3] For the week ending March 30, 2014, it was the ninth best selling paperback, according to Publishers Weekly.[7] By mid-April, Hagee's book had hit No. 4 on the The New York Times best-seller list in the advice category.[3] Hagee's book (and subsequent sermon series at his home congregation, Cornerstone Church) did not proclaim that any specific "end times" event would occur (as did Biltz in his original prophecy), but claimed that every prior tetrad of the last 500 years coincided with events in Jewish and Israeli history that were originally tragic, yet followed by triumph.

And, in fact, nothing like that happened either. Pretty much the only result of Hagee's prediction seems to have been him selling a lot of books. I would hope that those who bought into his pile of nonsense are feeling pretty dumb right now, but that assumes that they have reflected upon their purchases at all. Research has shown that sometimes, paradoxically, people presented with evidence disputing their beliefs react by clinging more tightly to them.

But seriously, am I the only person with a reliable memory that has followed these clowns and their failed predictions? Every single time, since William Miller in the 1840's, these people have been wrong. Every single time. To me, it suggests that they're trying to answer the wrong question, and implies that either the Revelation is an allegory for events that occurred far in the past, such as during the Roman Empire's attempts to suppress Christianity, or it's not intended to be a prediction at all.

It won't surprise me one bit when the next of these false prophets come forward, and when, just like all the others, their prediction proves just as false as all the others. But as this keeps on happening, it does surprise me a little that significant numbers of people still take the idea seriously.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lying About Enochian

I recently came across this article on one of the Facebook Enochian discussion groups, and found it to basically be the biggest bunch of nonsense I've read about Enochian magick in quite some time. While it's true that some of the claims in the article could be simple ignorance, some of it is so blatant that I think it does rise to the level of "lying." A simple Internet search, which the author apparently did not bother to do, would have dispelled much of it.

A warning: this turned out a lot longer than I originally intended, because there's a whole lot of crap to get through. But at the risk of venturing into TL;DR territory, let's start at the beginning.

Angels? Demons? There's no such thing as either! Welcome to the 21st Century. That doesn't stop a lot of people from trying to contact angels though.

So, no surprise, the author is a complete skeptic who doesn't believe in summoning spirits of whatever sort. I disagree, of course, but it is true that if you don't think there's any such thing as angels or demons there's not much point in studying or practicing Enochian magick.

JOHN DEE (1527-1608) invented Enochian "Magick" and tried unsuccessfully to get the spirits to bring him money.

This is the first bit of the bullshit I alluded to in my introduction. It is technically true - Dee did try on a couple of occasions to obtain money and find buried treasure. But it was a tiny percentage of the work that he did, and not his primary focus. For most of his life, Dee received a salary from Elizabeth's court and was not impoverished. His main interest in contacting angels was to gain an understanding of the nature of the spiritual universe, which is quite clear from his diaries.

Dee told Princess Elizabeth she would someday become the Queen, which was a prediction that was certainly possible, considering she was royalty, even though she was an unwilling guest of the Tower of London at the time. It’s unknown how many other nobles he might have also told a similar prediction about gaining the throne, figuring one of them would pay off.

Again, this story is accurate up to a point, but the snark at the end has no basis whatsoever in fact. Sure "nobody knows." But so what? The comment is a meaningless jab without any basis in fact one way or the other. "Nobody knows" whether Dee sacrificed live kittens to ancient Canaanite gods - but is such a thing even remotely likely?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

No Book Deal for Kim Davis

Recently a number of news sources reported that Kentucky clerk Kim Davis signed a big book deal with a Christian publisher, telling her story of standing up to "the gays" by refusing to follow the law and do her job. But fortunately for those of us who believe that nobody should be rewarded for basically just being an asshole, the story is completely false. It was published by National Report, a satirical news site. But many media outlets took it seriously.

Kim’s tale of standing firm against “the forces of sodomy” and “going to jail because I’m a Christian” is expected to sell big this holiday season and advance orders from Walmart and Sam’s Club are already flooding in.

It will be interesting to see if Davis will take time off from her clerk duties to do a full-on book tour or if that will even be possible. It’s still very much a possibility that Davis could return to jail for violating her condition of release set by Federal Court Judge David Bunning.

I’m a Survivor is a deeply personal journey through one woman’s stand for religious liberty. Ms. Davis opens up about her checkered past, becoming a Christian, and giving herself to The Lord. Presidential contender Mike Huckabee penned the forward of the book and is expected to join Davis in its promotion.

The book’s title -I’m a Survivor- is raising eyebrows by some who believe it’s a dig at the classic rock band Survivor who are currently suing Davis and Huckabee for “unauthorized public performance” of their 1982 smash hit Eye of the Tiger, which Huckabee had no permission to play during his support rally for Davis.

I'm kind of amazed that anybody was taken in, given that some of the other stories on National Report include such gems as "Trump’s Hair Seized by FBI, Thought to be Mane of Cecil the Lion" and "Nestle’s New 'Air Plant' to Start Charging California Residents For Oxygen." But I suppose in the fast-paced world of viral news, nobody bothers to check stories that seem even vaguely plausible.

There's actually an easy way to prevent people like Davis from cashing in. GoFundMe has already instituted new guidelines to prevent raising money for people who have broken the law, and there have been statutes on the books for a long time that prevent criminals from capitalizing on their crimes. Davis' refusal to obey a judge's order was clearly found to be illegal, so that statute should apply as written.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Truth About the Winchester House?

Recently this article has been going around the Internet purporting to tell "the truth" about the Winchester Mystery House, the famous sprawling mansion built in San Jose, California by Sarah Winchester, who was heir to the fortune built on the sales of the Winchester repeating rifle. Winchester commenced work on the house in 1884, and construction continued until her death in 1922.

The official story goes that the house was designed using ideas obtained from spirits during seances, which explains its bizarre design and its never-ending construction. Having worked with the sort of earthbound spirits that seances generally attract, I can tell you that this story is quite plausible. Such spirits are usually bored and will do whatever they can to keep you talking, and if you are asking for architectural plans they will keep giving them to you. The article, on the other hand, tells a different story.

The evidence (both historical and archaeological) shows that Sarah Winchester strongly identified with the great genius Francis Bacon, and very likely saw herself as the reincarnation of Bacon, the details of which are specifically demonstrated with Bacon’s symbols and numeric cipher code lavishly displayed throughout Mrs. Winchester’s Grand Ballroom—particularly in the “Shakespearean Windows”.

I would very much like to see this evidence, but the article does not present it. The only piece it presents is a couple of phrases that appear in stained-glass windows in the home's grand ballroom. I also don't know how the author managed to reach the conclusion that Winchester not only admired Bacon, but considered herself his reincarnation. If she wasn't a spiritualist, as the author claims, the reincarnation angle is a bit of a leap.

Moreover, like Bacon, Sarah Winchester was a Rosicrucian and a Freemason (yes, there are women Freemasons). The House she built is overflowing with Rosicrucian and Masonic symbolism. For example, the so-called “Séance Room” (located in the precise center of the House) was actually Mrs. Winchester’s Rosicrucian “Sanctum”, a special place where Rosicrucians typically practice meditation and study at or near the center of their homes.

There's a lot to unpack here. First off, while there are indeed women Masons (my wife is one, as a matter of fact) I would very much like to know which group Winchester was affiliated with and what records show that she was a member. This shouldn't be that difficult, as there have never been very many active Masonic groups that admit women. I would like to know the same with regards to her alleged Rosicrucian connections.

A few authors have claimed that Bacon was a Freemason, but there's actually not much evidence to that effect. It's not even clear that there were Freemasons, or anything that we would recognize as such, during Bacon's lifetime. Back then, "Masonry" referred to guilds of professional stonemasons, whereas today "speculative masonry," which involves esoteric symbols and allegories rather than stone-working, is the norm.

The United Grand Lodge of England, the first Masonic Grand Lodge, was founded in 1717 and the first recorded admission of a "speculative mason" dates to 1634, eight years after Bacon's death. Bacon was probably an adherent of the Rosicrucian philosophy, as he makes reference to the movement in his well-known New Atlantis. However, whether or not any sort of organized Rosicrucian movement existed during the Elizabethan period has likewise been questioned.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Other Other White Meat

So evangelist Jim Bakker really, really wants people to buy his potato soup. Bakker explained on a recent episode of his television program that unless you buy his soup, in the End Times your neighbors will eat your babies. Because it says so in the Bible! He also advises anyone who does buy his soup to keep it a secret, so that "the gangs" won't steal it when everyone in the world is starving. And eating babies.

“The Bible says they’re going to eat their arms, the Bible says they’re going to eat their babies, then it says they’re going to eat their children,” he warned. “That’s what people do when they get hungry.” In order to prepare for this, Bakker encourages viewers to buy buckets of food that he advertises on his show but not inform their neighbors that they have done so.

Having food during the End Times, Bakker claimed, is not the only benefit of buying his food buckets; in the event that the government collapses for any reason, he said, basic necessities are all that is going to matter. “If the social security checks don’t come, what are you going to do?” asked Bakker. “The government is already broke! … How can we trust a country that’s broke?”

Bakker explained that although some pastors are urging their congregations not to listen to him, he feels a moral obligation to sell his food buckets: “When you’re huddled in a corner with your grandbaby and they’re screaming and crying and there’s no food – I don’t want that blood on my hands.”

As longtime readers of this blog know, I'm extremely skeptical of "End Times" apocalypse claims. Everyone who's ever predicted the end of the world has been wrong, and the idea that the End Times are imminent is actually a relatively new idea in Christianity, dating back to the Millerites of the mid-1800's. And William Miller was simply wrong. He tried to apply his formula for dating the End Times twice and was wrong both times. The Jehovah's Witnesses tried several more times, and were also wrong. Regardless of how elegant the method seems, it just doesn't work.

Even though the risk of a large-scale disaster is low, it's not necessarily completely nuts to store food in case something does go horribly wrong with the system. However, what makes Bakker's schtick look more like a scam is that little of the food he's selling is of the sort that actual survival experts recommend stockpiling, or packaged in a way that makes sense. The potato soup, for example, comes in a single gigantic bucket - once you open it, the whole thing is at risk of going bad.

This also means that once you receive the bucket, you can't open it until the apocalypse. That means practically anything could be in it. I mean, it probably has to be safe for human consumption, but my guess is that to maximize profits it's made with the cheapest possible ingredients and probably tastes terrible. Since you can't open it until the end of the world, you'll just never know.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lawsuit Filed Over Topless Protest

Remember this story from about a month ago? Nine years ago an Ohio church, New Beginnings Ministry, launched a series of protests against the Foxhole, a local club that features topless dancers. In August, supporters of the club finally retaliated by staging topless protests outside the church.

Even though members of the church harassed the club and its patrons for nine years before its supporters struck back, after only a month the church has filed a lawsuit against the counter-protesters. It seems that like most Christians who refuse to mind their own business, they can dish it out fine but can't stand a dose of their own medicine.

The war between New Beginnings and the Foxhole began nine years ago when church members protested outside the club, taking down patron’s license plate numbers and imploring them to repent. The owner and employees retaliated by staging their own protests outside the church on Sunday mornings with some of the dancers appearing topless while holding up signs accusing parishioners who called them “whores” of being judgmental.

According to William Dunfee, the pastor of New Beginnings, the strippers have now gone too far and are threatening the churchgoers while exposing parishioner’s children to their uncovered breasts. The lawsuit states that protesters traumatized and intimidated children at the church with “ sexual slurs, nudity and obscene language” as well as scaring one family off.

My guess is that it's legal for women to go topless in this part of Ohio, as it is in more of the United States than you might otherwise think. Otherwise Dunfee would have just been able to call the police and have any female protesters who were topless removed. If it is in fact legal, then it would seem to me that the church has no case.

Beyond that, I continue to be mystified that so many religious folks seem pathologically unable to mind their own business. In the overall scheme of things, how does having a topless club in town affect the church in any way? I can see where it would be reasonable for Dunfee to preach against attending the club to his congregation, but what about all the folks in town who don't share his beliefs?

If we really are going to respect everyone's right to practice their beliefs as they see fit, the solution here is obvious. The church should just leave the club alone. That should shut down the topless protests right there.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hexing Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump remains the frontrunner for the nomination despite his complete disregard for what are generally considered common-sense rules of campaigning. Trump has issued offensive statement after offensive statement, but somehow his supporters seem to love him all the more for doing so. It's almost as if the guy is using magick - or, I suppose, his skill at manipulating the media.

A group of Brooklyn spellcasters recently became fed up with Trump's continued success, and set out to send a volley of curses his way. They compiled snippets from their various rituals into an entertaining video called "Brujas Hex Trump," which they then shared widely via social media. According the standard rules of campaigning no candidate would ever address something of this sort, but we are talking about Donald Trump here, so you never know.

Yeni Sleidi gathered her fellow brujas, asked them to perform a series of curses on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and recorded footage of the rituals. The end result is an energetic video titled, “Brujas Hex Trump.” Yeni, a writer and activist from Brooklyn, was inspired to make the video after chatting with her Santeria-practicing mother.

Yeni asked if there was anything she could do, spell-wise, to thwart Trump’s electoral efforts. “We’re both Cuban immigrants and his misguided attack on Mexican immigrants hit close to home, so she was happy to help.” Her mom gave instructions on a traditional “name-in-the-freezer” hex, and the video shows Yeni invoking the “Ice Queen” to freeze Trump’s idiotic cabeza.

As the saying goes, there’s always strength in numbers, so Yeni’s friends contributed an array of spells for ol’ Trump. The magical menu included a hex to silence him, another to protect people of color from his evil and one that would make him mourn the loss of his infamous comb-over. That’s right—a hair loss curse.

This video is much more fun than, say, the one that the Salem folks made of cursing Charlie Sheen, in part because it comes off as mostly tongue-in-cheek and in part because it's much better produced. Still, even though some of the rituals depicted look silly, others appear to be legitimate examples of folk magick techniques. So starting today, I'll be watching the Trump campaign for any bad fortune that seems weird enough to possibly be paranormal.

And if Trump's hair falls out, I'll consider that a definitive sign right there.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nigeria's "Satanic Foundation?"

It is no big secret that the country of Nigeria has had significant economic problems for much of its modern history. The country fought a civil war that ended in 1970 and was controlled by military juntas until 1999, when a democratic government was finally established. Given all that turmoil, it's unsurprising that the country's development has been hindered. But Femi Fani-Kayode, who has served as Minister of Aviation and Minister of Tourism, has another explanation. In a Facebook post, he explained that Nigeria has problems because it was founded by Satanists.

Fani-Kayode, who also served as the Minister of Tourism under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the manner with which Nigeria was created in 1914 was the reason the country was still struggling.

He said both Lord Fredrick Lugard, who was the first Governor-General of Nigeria; and his wife, Flora Shaw (later Flora Lugard), who gave Nigeria its name, were worshippers of Satan.

Fani-Kayode said, “It is generally agreed though not commonly admitted that both Lugard and Flora Shaw were Luciferians who practised the black arts and all manner of satanic rituals.

“He (Lugard) was a ‘High Priest of the Freemasons’ whilst they were both avid followers of Aleister Crowley, the leading satanist of his day and the self-styled ‘world’s most wicked man.’”

“This explains a lot. It also explains why Shaw gave us the name Nigeria – a name which has questionable roots. Anyone that doubts this should consider the literal translation of Nigeria into Latin: it means “the area of darkness” and there is a deep spiritual and mystical reason why she gave us that name.

I went ahead and looked up the biographies of Lugard and Shaw and found no evidence whatsoever of them being Satanists. Lugard may have been a Mason, as Freemasonry was common at that time among the British aristocracy. However, no matter how many tracts Jack Chick spits out, Masons are not Satanists and never were. Furthermore, I can't find any evidence that either of them ever corresponded with Crowley. It's possible that such evidence exists in Crowley's diaries, but I haven't seen it.

So unless someone with access to the Crowley archives corrects me, I think it's safe to say that this whole thing is basically made up. The name "Nigeria" has no occult roots and was simply derived from that of the Niger river which flows through the country. The origin of the river's name is uncertain, but it dates back to long before Aleister Crowley came on the scene. Ptolemy made reference to a "Ni-Gir" river in Africa.

The whole idea that anyone who is rich and powerful must be an occultist is completely laughable to practitioners like me, and these accusations sound like the same sort of thing. Occultist is a fringe subject and has always been a fringe subject, and I've seen no actual evidence suggesting that the percentage of practitioners is statistically higher among the wealthy and powerful than it is among the general population.

And just to be clear, I'm not trying to argue that only the poor and powerless use magick, as a commenter awhile back asserted when I made this point previously. My point is that only a small percentage of the population has ever been interested in seriously practicing magick. Even in Africa where belief in magick is widespread, people generally go to professional spellcasters rather than doing it themselves.

Maybe Fani-Kayode is right that it would be helpful to rename the country, but not for the reasons he states. It would constitute a break from the nation's colonial past, and it would help to counteract the fact that most people in the west these days just associate Nigeria with advance fee scams and the like rather than legitimate business opportunities. But Satanists and Aleister Crowley wouldn't have anything to do with it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Only Baptists Need Apply

Despite all the noise being made by Christians who claim persecution in modern-day America, the reality is that statistically speaking, nobody is being passed over for employment or public office for being Christian. In some cases such as that of Kim Davis, Christians have been sanctioned for refusing to perform required job functions, but that's hardly the same thing. On the other hand, in some states atheists are not even allowed to hold public office.

In addition, in some parts of the country employers pass over applicants for not being Christian, or even for belonging to the wrong denomination. A case is now going forward against Williamson County, Texas, over allegations that the county had a religious test for applicant seeking employment as constables. Not only were applicants asked about their views on abortion and same-sex marriage, but according to statements from the plaintiff's attorney they were only interested in hiring Baptists.

Video depositions obtained by KVUE show Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman and other commissioners admitting that applicants were asked about abortion and marriage.

“I asked a question on their view on gay marriage to all the applicants for Precinct 3 Constable and their view on abortion,” Birkman says in her deposition.

Lloyd’s lawyer, Wayne Krause Yang, asserted at the press conference that the commissioners refused to hire applicants who were not Baptists.

“If you don’t go to the church that they go to, you can’t have a job as a public employee in Williamson County,” Yang noted.

At least two other applicants have come forward to say that they were also asked religious questions by the commissioners.

So far the county has only admitted asking religious questions of applicants, and it's not clear what evidence the plaintiffs have that the county only hired members of a particular church. Still, the former is bad enough. One of the job-hunting books I read back in the 90's recommended that if asked about political beliefs, reply that you are in favor of lower taxes and think what is going on in Washington is just terrible. Then do not elaborate. But clearly there's no workable dodge like that when asked directly about such hot-button issues.

This sort of thing that needs to stop as soon as possible. Religious tests of any sort for public employees fundamentally violate the Constitution and have no place in a free society that, at least in theory, allows its citizens to practice their religious beliefs as they see fit.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Don't Disturb the Fairies!

A pharmaceutical company building a factory in the Irish town of Waterford has been warned that bad fortune will follow them if they destroy an ancient "fairy fort" that stands on the plant's construction site. Local folklorist Eddie Lenihan has recently written a letter to the company explaining the potential danger posed by angering the fairies.

“I am no campaigner, I just like to see things respected. I said to them [West Pharmaceutical Services], in that letter, that if that factory is built, and I hope the factory is built on another location because Waterford needs the jobs, but if it is built there, wait and see what happens.

“It’s not a matter of if it will close but when it will close. People will think you are a crank if you say something like this and there will be much laughter.

“I’d like it to be on the record anyway so that people can look back when something happens and see that they [the owners] were warned and didn’t pay attention.

“It will be more than bad luck, there are stories after stories of it. I’d be the first to be skeptical, I’m not one of those people who believes everything they hear. I’ve been collecting folklore for 40 years and a lot of the stories are bunkum, but not all... You can have one coincidence or two coincidences... but after awhile you realise that it can’t be a coincidence.”

If nothing else, that description certainly sounds like the way real magick works. Unlikely events keep piling up until some sort of paranormal influence starts to become a reasonable-sounding explanation.

So as an operant magician, it interests me to see whether such things will actually happen to the company once the fort is destroyed. On the other hand, the fort in question is an ancient ruin that the historian in me would much rather see preserved, even if gets in the way of experimental data.

I don't know if there's some option that would allow the company to build their plant while leaving the ruins intact, but that would seem to be the best solution for all involved, humans and fairies alike.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Tomb of Jesus?

According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified and entombed in Jerusalem, where he is said to have risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples. But according to a set of apocryphal religious writings, Jesus actually escaped the cross and fled to the village of Shingo in Japan. There he fathered three children and lived to the ripe old age of 106.

The whole story sounds incredibly fishy. Apparently now in addition to "Jesus was a white guy" Christianity and "Jesus was a black guy" Christianity we now have to contend with "Jesus was Japanese" Christianity. Or, at least, Jesus was a middle easterner who somehow found his way to Shingo. Nonetheless, the locals still maintain the burial site that is said to be Jesus' tomb.

According to apocryphal religious writings known as the Takenouchi Documents, it was not Jesus who was crucified on that bloody Golgotha, but in fact it was his younger brother, Isukiri. After being captured by the Romans, it is said that Jesus escaped by switching places with his younger brother, taking only a lock of the Virgin Mary's hair and one of his brother's ears while he fled to Japan. After settling down in Shingo, Jesus is said to have had three children with a local woman before dying of natural causes at the age of 106. It is even believed that many of the village's current inhabitants are the descendants of that holy blood.

It appears that the Takenouchi Documents, (found in 1936 and conveniently destroyed during World War II) were the work of cosmoarcheologist Wado Kosaka who would later gain fame by attempting to contact aliens on live television. A reproduction of the documents is on display at the nearby Jesus museum, yet the work is still thought to be a hoax. Despite how outlandish the story seems, many believers point to variations in speech, custom, and even eye color in the villagers of Shingo as evidence of Jesus' Anglo-Christian influence among the people.

So basically it sounds like these "ancient religious documents" found by a "cosmoarcheologist" are a flat-out hoax. It's not impossible that a few westerners might have made their way to Japan a couple thousand of years ago. But the odds that said westerner was the historical person (or perhaps one of several) who inspired the Jesus myth is vanishingly low.

Still, the tomb is maintained as tourist attraction, so if you're ever in Japan you can go to Shingo and see for yourself. Maybe the place really does have some special spiritual presence that convinced the locals the story might be true.

Friday, September 4, 2015

No GoFundMe for Kim Davis

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk charged with contempt over her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses in violation of the law, has been all over the news this week. Perhaps you may find it a little surprising that the story didn't wind up on Augoeides right away, but that was very deliberate on my part.

One of the big problems with trying to expunge Poor Oppressed Christianity from government offices is that there are a whole lot of them out there. And the last few times the government has made a move against these assholes, they've put up GoFundMe pages and raised tons of money from their brethren. Part of the reason I held off on the Kim Davis story was to keep from adding to the viral frenzy that might help her raise money.

I'm happy to say, though, that Salon has an article up today covering the work that crowdfunding platforms have been doing towards shutting down fundraisers for folks like Davis. Not only that, the work they're doing seems to be getting some results.

The expectation that part of the Davis strategy included playing the victim card and letting the donations roll in has been a real and present aspect of the case. But crowdfunding has come under deeper scrutiny lately. Earlier this year, the FTC began taking a closer look at platforms like Kickstarter. This summer, Baltimore homeowner Julie Baker’s campaign to fight back against an alleged homophobic neighbor via a “relentlessly gay” display raised $43,500 in a few days — and serious questions about whether the whole thing was a hoax.

But perhaps most relevant to Davis and her acolytes, back in the spring GoFundMe canceled a fundraising campaign for Aaron and Melissa Klein — the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who’d recently been fined $135,000 for refusing to accommodate a wedding cake request for a gay couple. In a statement, GoFundMe explained, “After careful review by our team, we have found the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign to be in violation of our Terms and Conditions. The money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal…. The subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”

So while Davis may still be able to raise money from Poor Oppressed Christians who support her, she won't be able to do it nearly as easily. Online platforms like GoFundMe can reach much larger audiences than, say, church funding drives. The sooner that they can take control of situations like these, the better.

After all, it's a heck of a lot easier to be a flat-out bigot when there's a real possibility in the back of your mind that it might help you get rich quick.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cthulhu Unbound

I probably should have done this awhile ago, but I am finally getting into the intricacies of producing self-published ebooks. My first title is a short story called Cthulhu Unbound, a satirical take on H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. You can buy it in Kindle format from Amazon and other ebook formats from Smashwords.

A few years ago I submitted the story to a number of magazines but from the feedback I received they kind of didn't know what to make of it. It's satire rather than comedy, and imitates the structure of a Lovecraft story until the twist at the end.

I personally think the ending is hilarious, but that likely has something to do with my encountering a bunch of overly serious "Lovecraftian magicians" on the Internet back in the 1990's who treated the fictional Cthulhu Mythos as a totally legitimate dark and scary system of magick. The whole thing never made much sense to me. Even if you're operating from the perspective that the Cthulhu Mythos is "real" in some macrocosmic sense, why would you ever want to conjure entities whose only goal seems to be to drive humans insane and/or eat them?

At any rate, if you're interested in checking it out you can preview about half of the story for free. The Cthulhu Unbound ebook also includes a preview of the prologue to my novel Arcana and links to order the ebook edition if you decide that you like my fiction and want more.