Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE GETTING OF FALWELL: How a bunch of Neopagans and psychic experimenters royally messed up the fundamentalists' march on Washington.

This was many years ago, so the statute of limitations – if you can find a law against this – has long since run out. I was living in Chicago at the time, and my roommate and most of my friends were involved in an amateur psychic research group. We'd gotten to the point of understanding that theater and religious ritual were equally good for arousing that part of the mid-brain where psychic talent is lodged, and we'd formed a Neopagan circle for that purpose. Our chief organizer, my old friend Mary Frohman, dug up the ancient Roman/Anatolian god Mithra for us to use as a patron god, on the theory that nobody in the group had any negative emotions connected to him. Besides, we were all involved in social-justice political causes, and decided that a god of integrity and honorable warfare would suit us well.

Then we heard about Jerry Falwell whipping up a proposed “Million Christian” March on Washington, the next April, for the purpose of pressuring Congress to wipe out all those nasty civil rights laws and Supreme Court decisions about freedom of-or-from religion. Well, how were we going to stop him? This, we decided, was a case for psychic work – or Magick.

The next really big Pagan – and particularly Mithraist – holy-day was the Winter Solstice: December 21st. It was the most psychologically/ritually significant date we could think of before April, and also the best time of the year for getting all our friends together. So we sent out invitations to anyone interested, and anyone who took this stuff seriously, and got started creating our ritual for the event.

Mary took care of the religious/ritual aspects, and I was handed the job of planning the magickal “working”, which would be plugged into the ritual between the invocation of the required gods and the thanking of the gods, after which came the dismissal and closing. Anyone who has ever read Isaac Bonewits' book, “Real Magic”, can readily understand this arrangement. It would put the psychic “working” right after we'd chanted and sung everybody into the right mood.

One of our regular members, Jim Mason, was working in a chemistry lab at the time and arranged to borrow some sensitive lab thermometers, which were all the testing equipment we could get at the time.

What I decided to write was a three-part free-verse poem. The first section called upon the goddess Anahita-of-the-waters, mythologically the mother of Mithra, in her aspect as rain-bringer. The second called specifically upon Thor, as the Lord of Storms. The third part was aimed at Jerry Falwell himself, personified by a black man-shaped candle with his photo stuck on its face. Each line of the poem was followed by a choral line: a classic Responsive Reading. In the first two sections the speaker's lines outlined, one by one, Jerry Falwell's insults to the pagan gods and his threats to their worshippers, and then slipped into requests to drop rain on Falwell's planned march. The chorus lines were “Piss on their parade”. In the third section the speaker's lines enumerated Falwell's sins and proclaimed what would happen to him as a result, and the chorus lines were: “Piss on your parade”.

Well, came the big night and a good 25 people showed up. Jim placed his thermometers: one on the altar-table, one on the floor within the “circle” area, one outside the circle several feet away. We all happily took the ritual bath (an ordinary bathtub filled with water mixed with a tea of appropriate ritual herbs), changed into our ritual costumes (whatever the wearer thought would “feel right” for the occasion), and started the service. There was the expected giggling and shuffling as we started drawing the establishing circles (salt for Earth, sprinkled water for Water, a smoking censer for Air, and a burning candle for Fire), but by the time the third circle was drawn everybody had gotten into the spirit of the thing. Mary chanted the Latin part of the Mithraic Mass (basically ordering out every known Bad Guy in the name of every known Good Guy, and declaring the space “dedicated to the uses of the gods”), which I daresay I could quote even today:

“Incipiamus. Adeste fideles.
Descedant omnes profane
Hic locus sanctus est!
Hic locus sanctus est!
Hic locus sanctus est!”

I noticed that the cats gathered respectfully just outside the circle, watching us intently, and the thermometer which Jim had placed on the altar showed a rise of one degree centigrade in temperature. Jim, as the “monitor” (objective observer), stayed outside the circle – and outside the ritual mood – to take notes. As we proceeded into the summoning of the god the temperature rose again, and kept rising, to the point where Jim felt obliged to go open the windows. Now remember, this was the Winter Solstice – in Chicago, and the house where we were holding the ritual was right on the edge of Lake Michigan, and the wind off the lake came pouring in through the open windows – and we were still hot enough that sweat was running down our backs, even under our light robes (and we wore nothing underneath them).

We proceeded with the sharing of the cakes and wine, the anointing and crowning and symbolic sacrifice of the Winter King, and the dedication of his power to the Working. (This was the point where I felt sweat literally running off me.) We identified the candle with Jerry Falwell (carving it with his name, anointing it with oil while visualizing him, finally sticking his picture on it), then lit it and stuck it in a bowl. Then I picked up my script and instructed the worshippers to “join in on the chorus” (as I usually say when singing for a live audience, which most of those present had been at one time or another). Then I started reading the poem, line by line. After every line the rest of the congregation enthusiastically chanted: “Piss on their parade!” By the time we got down to the third part, the chorus of “Piss on your parade!” was shaking the walls. We ended by pouring water over the candle, with a great cheer. Then the priestess led the thanking of the gods, the dismissal, the closing hymn and the opening of the circle.

The temperature dropped immediately, and Jim hurried around closing the windows while the rest of us, remarkably tired considering how little physical work we'd done, went to the buffet table and filled our plates before dropping onto the thoughtfully-prepared chairs, sofa and cushions to eat, drink and discuss the working. We always finished our ceremonies this way, and this was where Jim and his observations came to the fore. He read off his notes, showing exactly when the temperature rose, and where it was concentrated (in the middle of the altar, not actually among the close-packed bodies of the celebrants as one might expect), and exactly when the temperature had dropped. We agreed that we had raised a lot of energy, and hoped it had been discharged in the right direction – both in space and time. The difficult part, we understood, was that we had placed a “rain curse” intended to work some four months in the future. We simply wouldn't know if it had “taken” until next April. Jim wrote into his notebook: “Results inconclusive: wait for April.”

Well, that April, sure enough, Jerry Falwell and company showed up in Washington DC. He hadn't been able to raise his hoped-for million: only about 20,000. But from the hour that his chartered busses arrived and began unloading in DC, all the way through their march through the capitol, all the way to their rally in the stadium nearby, it rained. It wasn't a hard fast rain that ends in an hour; it was a slow, warm, pissy rain that lasted all day – right up until the last of Falwell's troops got back on their busses to ride home. The media duly reported the march, and forgot it the next day. Congress went on about its business, uninterrupted.

Jim wrote in his notebook: “Experiment successful”.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pity the Poor Palestinians -- Not

Once more, Palestinian fanatics in the Gaza Strip are throwing rockets at Israel. This story is getting old, not to mention obvious.

What can you say about a group of people who shoot thousands of rockets at their neighbor, then cry 'unfair' when that neighbor sends its air force to bomb the sites where those rockets came from – and then howl to the world that the neighbor must be stopped, while they themselves continue to shoot rockets? What should you think about people who shoot at their neighbors from behind human shields of women and children, and then wail 'atrocity' when some of the return fire hits those same women and children? What can you do with people who whine to the United Nations for 'refugee assistance', and then rob the UN staff at gunpoint, take the collected food and supplies and give it to their army?

Although the international media and UN officials have done their best to pity the poor Palestinians, blatant hypocrisy like this has worn their patience thin. Media outlets still go to great lengths to separate 'Palestinians' as a general class from the organization 'Hamas', but they agree that Hamas must be 'leaned on'. Even the government of Egypt agrees, having tightened its border with Gaza and blown up several tunnels by which the Palestinians smuggled weapons into Gaza. Despite the best propaganda that the Islamic fascist organizations can crank out, international opinion is turning, slowly but surely, against the Palestinians.

Right now the media paint Hamas as the only villains, and the opposing Fatah party as the innocent and moderate Palestinian faction, but this isn't entirely accurate. Fatah is, and has been since its founding in 1959, the largest faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It has always supported several militant groups, many of which – such as Black September and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – have committed several suicide bombings and are listed as terrorist organizations by the US. Fatah claims that such groups are 'outlaws' and 'rebels', but it has produced a disturbing number of them.

Fatah was also instrumental in persuading the international community, including the United States, to pressure Israel into giving the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. At the time, nobody mentioned why Israel had taken control of the Gaza Strip, during the Six-Day War, in the first place. Israel seized the Gaza Strip precisely because the Palestinians were using it as a staging-area to attack Israel. It's not surprising that, once the Palestinians regained control of the Strip, they used it to attack Israel again.

Despite Fatah's track record, it apparently wasn't militant enough to satisfy the more dedicated of the Palestinians. Hamas managed to gain political power in Gaza and won the election in 2006, after which it turned on Fatah members and sporadic fighting began. The fighting continued even after Hamas took to firing rockets at Israel, and Israel eventually responded with bombing. It continues even now, with Hamas forces shooting any Fatah members whom they think have 'collaborated' with Israel; such 'collaboration' often consists of simply not fighting the Israeli troops sufficiently. Their own history has shown that the only functional difference between Fatah and Hamas is how soon they want to go to war with Israel, how much they're willing to use their own civilian population to do it, and just how ruthless they want to be.

In the latter two categories, Hamas is the clear winner. Its cynical military use of its civilians as human shields was enough to prompt no less than Hillary Clinton to complain to the UN that Hamas was committing mass child abuse. Perhaps because she called attention to it, the media began investigating her claim. That was when the international community began losing sympathy with the Palestinians.

Possibly one reason for this is the ubiquitous Internet. It's now possible to see, just by searching YouTube, clips of Palestinians using their children as human shields and suicide bombers, propagandizing children as young as five to kill all the 'kufars' – defined as Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and even other Muslims not as devoted to jihad as themselves. Many of these video clips were taken from Palestinian television, and others by civilians with videocams and even cell-phones. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it's getting harder to keep such activities secret. Also, thanks to an increasingly video-sophisticated audience, it's getting harder to manufacture convincing fakes.

These undeniable video images have managed to do what even the revelations upon Yasser Arafat's death did not. Palestinian sympathizers then were willing to overlook the personal fortune that Arafat collected from 'charitable' organizations around the world, and the way his family and successors fought over the money. They could discount written reports of Palestinian suicide bombers attacking school buses and shopping malls. They could deny eyewitness accounts of Palestinians destroying the buildings and infrastructure the Israelis gave them and then whining to the press about their 'oppression'. They could ignore the fact that under Israeli control the Gaza Strip was economically functional, but under Palestinian control it survives mainly by international charity. Ah, but those video clips of Palestinian terrorists abusing their own children: that was something else again. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video clip is worth a million.

It takes truly devoted gullibility to see the Palestinians as innocent victims anymore, and progressively fewer people around the world are willing to make that effort.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


(Understand that I really do hope Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination, which is why I’m sending him this.)

Dear Senator Paul:

I notice that you came in second to Michelle Bachmann, in the Iowa Straw Poll, by only 200 votes – despite the fact that she and her backers out-spent your campaign by millions. I think you would have beaten her anyway if it weren’t for one small problem with your proposed foreign policy.

You seem to have swallowed completely the Liberal idea that all those foreigners couldn’t possibly hate us unless we’d done them some great wrong, somehow. It never seems to occur to you that there really are cultures based on spite – I name no names – that hate any other society which is richer, freer, happier, healthier and more powerful than their own, and is nothing like theirs. They see that as an unbearable insult and hate us for it, not for any actual harm we’ve done them.

In fact, a careful study of real history – not just the interpretations of political pundits – will show that we haven’t done that much harm to the Third World countries who are doing the most complaining. Yes, forty years ago, we backed the Shah in his bid for leadership of Iran – but he was, in fact, the legitimate heir to the throne and he promised (besides faithful anti-communism) to modernize his painfully backward country, which in truth he did. Likewise, for twenty years we had dealings with Mubarik – but he was put in power by the Egyptians themselves, and once he was president of Egypt we had no choice but to deal with him. Yes, we give trade and aid to Israel, but we give far more to the Arab countries; and haven’t we made far more demands of Israel than of other countries? Who else have we pressured to give up land to their open enemies?

We must give up the na├»ve assumption that all other countries, societies and governments think just like us – for there are many that do not. There are all too many governments/countries/societies that want nothing less than to conquer the world and kill everyone they can’t enslave. We can’t give these countries what they want, and we only encourage their hopes by conceding anything to them at all. It’s worse than hypocrisy for them to insist that we harm or wrong them by not giving them everything they demand.

So how are we to deal with countries/governments like these? Our attempts at conciliation, “globalism” and appeasement obviously haven’t worked, so there are only two choices left: outright opposition or isolationism. If we’re going to choose isolationism, then we’ll have to draw boundaries which Libertarian theory won’t approve of. We’ll have to give alliance, aid and trade only to those countries which are proven friends, and refuse it to those who aren’t. At least, we’ll have to slap tariffs on countries that pay their laborers less than the American minimum wage, so as to raise the price of their goods and services to an equal level with those countries which do pay at least minimum wage. Also, we must pass a law insisting that only American citizens or companies can own American land. We’ll have to seriously fortify our borders, and we’ll have to eject all illegal immigrants. We’ll also have to deport or exile everyone acting on behalf of hostile foreign countries – and where better than to Mecca?

In any case, we’ll have to keep intelligence sources in all the other countries of the world, simply to tell when their spite reaches the point where they definitely will attack us – or our allies. Israel, despite the shabby way we’ve treated it, has always been our most reliable ally in the middle-east; what will we do if – or when – Iran drops a nuke on Tel Aviv? What will we do when those spiteful cultures directly attack us? Sooner or later, we will have to declare open and total war on them, simply because they won’t leave us alone otherwise, no matter how carefully we leave them alone. Yes, war with those spiteful countries is, sadly, inevitable – and not through any sins of our own.

Senator, you really have to think hard about this. You have to come up with a realistic foreign policy, and then tell the American public about it. That’s all it will take to bring you in first next time.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

Sunday, August 7, 2011

You Call That Torture?

Never mind how I came to be sitting in my friend Karen’s living room, along with her crusty grandfather, taking notes on a TV special about torture of war-prisoners under the Bush administration. Gramps had been a prisoner of war in World War Two, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and he was keenly interested in anything about the treatment of POWs.

During the segment on Bush & Co.’s legal maneuvering to justify torture, Gramps simmered like a kettle on the fire, occasionally bursting loose with comments like: “Hogwash!”, “Unconstitutional!”, and “No way in hell!” When the program moved on to the military’s means of hiring local informants to obtain supposed Al-Qaeda prisoners, he boiled outright. “Idiots!” he roared at the screen. “Offer an Arab money, and he’ll sell you his grandmother! You don’t get real enemy prisoners that way!”

Karen did some seething herself, and I understood her problem; she was a pacifist, a humanitarian to the nth degree, a vegetarian – one of the Gentle People. I often wondered how she managed to live in the same house with crabby old Gramps. She finally came up with: “How do you get real enemy prisoners, then?”

“You show yourself to the enemy,” said Gramps, his eyes narrowing. “Anybody who shoots at you, you shoot or take prisoner. That’s how you know for sure. Simple.”

Karen had no comeback to that, and I had better sense than to inject myself into the family quarrel, so we watched in silence as the program went on. Finally Karen could stand no more. “Look!” she shouted, pointing to the screen. “Look at what they’ve done! That’s torture, and no mistake!”

“You call that torture?” Gramps shot back. “Cuffing the prisoners’ hands behind their backs? Hell, cops all over America do that with anybody they arrest. Putting hoods over their heads? When you’ve got enemy prisoners at a military base, there’s plenty you don’t want them to see: your numbers and weapons, for instance. Keeping them hooded and tied up while they’re flown to the POW camp? Baby girl, you don’t want enemy prisoners getting loose on a plane in the air! Dressing them in orange jumpsuits? That’s what American prisoners wear. Putting them in a barren, lightless cell for the first few days? That’s exactly what’s done to American prisoners for their first days in the penitentiary. Keeping them in solitary cells? That’s better than the nasty overcrowding you get in American prisons; at least they’ve got some privacy, and no big ugly cellmates trying to rape them. So far, I don’t see these POWs being treated worse than American prisoners here at home. They sure aren’t being starved, beaten and worked to death, like we were.”

Just then the program shifted to a scene of prisoners with their wrists cuffed to bars above their heads, and a narrator solemnly intoning: “…eventually dislocates the shoulders.” Karen pointed. “What do you call that?” she yelled.

“Nonsense!” Gramps shot back. “Yes, that’s over the line – by about an inch. That’s the least of what the Japs did to us. You soon learn that you can stand on tiptoe or hang by your wrists, so you alternate: up and down, up and down. The Japs had us doing that from sunup to sundown, and the worst we suffered was cramps afterward.”

The scene shifted to a segment on waterboarding, and Karen pointed triumphantly.

“Yeah, that’s bad,” Gramps admitted, “Until you learn the trick to it. You take a deep breath first and hold it, and you curl your tongue up in the back of your mouth to block your sinuses. When they stop pouring, you swallow the water and breathe. By the time we were liberated, we could hold our breaths like pearl-divers. It’s no problem, as long as you keep your head and don’t panic. If that’s the worst these guys are getting, they’re lucky.”

“What about the mental tortures? Keeping them awake, the noises, the flashing lights, the humiliations—“

“Honey,” Gramps sounded weary, “In combat, nobody gets enough sleep – and plenty of civilian jobs keep you short on sleep too. Loud music and flashing lights? That’s Disco! Americans dance to it! Getting paraded around naked? American college boys do that for fun; they call it “mooning” or “streaking”. Getting dressed in women’s clothes? That’s called “drag” here. It’s only humiliating if you let yourself believe it is! The ‘torture’ is all in your own mind.”

On screen, the scene displayed SERE training: teaching American troops how to resist the sort of ‘intense interrogation’ we’d just seen. “I helped with that,” Gramps commented, smiling grimly. “After liberation, we told the Army investigators everything the Japs did to us, and everything we did to resist. They learned well from us.”

“So somebody who knows what to expect,” I couldn’t help poking in, “Wouldn’t suffer much – but innocent civilians would.”

“Precisely,” said Gramps, leaning back in his chair. “And the sort of ‘torture’ that Americans are willing to do wouldn’t work on the real Bad Guys. That’s why we shouldn’t do it.

“But Bush and his idiots okayed it, so we get a bad name for it – and nothing useful out of it. That bunch of damn fools! I'm delighted that they’re all out of office.”

And Karen had nothing to say.