Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's That Time of Year Again...

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It's that time of year again, my good friends -- the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

And what would the season be without one of its most beloved traditions: the Phony War on Christmas, or as I now call it, the PWoC? Like I always say, there's no better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than with paranoia, feelings of persecution, and bullying people over imagined slights.

Like Christmas itself, the PWoC seems to come earlier every year. This year's alleged opening salvo already seems to have been fired at, of all places, the PetSmart chain.

According to an "Action Alert" filed by the American Family Association, "Christmas doesn't exist" at PetSmart. The word Christmas, the AFA gripes, "is not to be found anywhere on the chain's Web site." AFA checked out some local PetSmart stores, and "there was no Christmas there, either." (This was, we feel obliged to point out, in early November.) Apparently, all they could find were references to that filthy secular buzzword -- dare I say it -- "Holiday."

While a check on the PetSmart Web site actually does turn up several references to "Christmas," the AFA insists that those don't count because they are "very misleading." When you click on "Christmas," they say, "you are directed to a page containing the same gifts you get when you search for 'holiday.' Of all the items that pop up when you search for Christmas, not a single one mentions Christmas or is identified as being a Christmas gift."

Those heathen swine! How will my Golden Retriever learn about the Nativity of Our Lord if his new squeaky toy isn't designated specifically as a Christmas gift after you click through the word "Christmas" on the Web site? If we're not careful to designate those fuzzy fake mice as Christmas gifts rather than holiday ones, the cat might even turn Muslim! She's already showing terrorist tendencies.

No dispatch from the front of the PWoC would be complete without some mention of Bill O'Reilly. In the PWoC, O'Reilly is like the berserkers of old, ready to throw himself wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth against the nearest adversary.

His latest target was the city of Fort Collins, Colo., whose principal crime seems to be using symbols like penguins and snowflakes in their holiday decorations along with "items such as Christmas trees, crèches, menorahs and other winter holiday symbols," according to the local newspaper, the Coloradoan. Not only that, O'Reilly sputtered, but those Fort Collins commies are using white lights instead of colored ones!

I'm not sure what O'Reilly has against white lights. I'm rather partial to them myself as Christmas decorations. They're pretty. But the white lights in particular seemed to drive O'Reilly and his guest, right-wing Denver talk show host Dan Caplis, utterly ballistic.

"You have this arrogant minority," Caplis said, "that wants to go to the point of stripping away Christmas trees and colored lights. I mean, this sounds like something out of the old Soviet Union." Because we all know how Stalin used to send people to the gulags for colored Christmas lights.

O'Reilly, not to be out-crazied, chimed in with a typically over-the-top persecution fantasy: "I mean, I think you get put in jail now if you go in there and say 'Merry Christmas' in Boulder, right?"

Paranoia over an alleged assault on Christmas isn't new. As far back as 1959, the John Birch Society took time off from issuing dire warnings about Communist plots to put fluoride in the water to warn us that the "godless U.N." was plotting to remove all religious symbolism from American life during Christmas.

"Department stores throughout the country," they warned, "are to utilize U.N. symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations."

Now, I wasn't even born then, so maybe my older readers can fill me in: Did armies of blue-helmeted U.N. troops storm Woolworth's and forcibly replace all the Nativity scenes with the U.N. symbol? If there is a War on Christmas, it's apparently been going on a long time, and it apparently hasn't been very effective.

The hysteria over the PWoC becomes self-sustaining: "Sorry, kids, we can't say 'Merry Christmas' or the ACLU will sue us. I saw it on Bill O'Reilly." So then the story becomes "kids can't say 'Merry Christmas' because they're afraid of being sued," and around and around we go, generating more nuttiness -- and more bucks for people like O'Reilly.

I'm thankful for one thing, though. When you're a columnist on a tight pre-Thanksgiving deadline and you're looking for blowhards and nut cases to make fun of, the PWoC crowd, like PETA, is a gift that keeps on giving. Ho Ho Ho, y'all!

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. He reminds his loyal readers that his three novels "The Devil's Right Hand," "Good Day in Hell," and "Safe and Sound," make excellent Christmas gifts.

Get a Grip, Woman


We have reason to suspect that someone (or a group of someones) might be mobilizing people to attack me through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc., to hurt my sales and reputation...Over the past week there were about fifty bad reviews posted for a book that has gotten the highest reviews for any book I have ever written. If you see what I am saying. Interestingly, this all started right after a Pentagon high official tried to get me to make a pro Bush, pro war appearance on an aircraft carrier and I refused, politely, a photo opportunity to contradict what is in my novel! Not to mention my battle over Ruth Graham's burial. Suddenly, I am getting a barrage of reviews discouraging people from buying my book, though there are some good ones as of today because my supporters are chiming in.
Right now I need my supporters. I am not asking you to write anything you do not mean. But why should hateful people be the only ones heard?
You and your friends can help by reading the book, encouraging others to read it, and posting their feelings about it - honest feelings.With appreciation, Patricia

A few observations:

(1) I have not read Ms. Cornwell's latest book, so I will not comment on its quality. I will leave that to people who've actually read it.

(2) With all due respect, Ms. Cornwell, blaming bad Amazon reader reviews on the Bush Administration and/or the Billy Graham family is bloody insane. You really think the Bushistas looked at all their critics, including your Humble Blogger, and singled out a thriller novelist, however many NYT bestsellers they've had, to destroy, when there are so many juicier targets to go after, rather than, say, Glenn Greenwald or Larry Johnson? I guess paranoia really IS a form of narcissism.

(3) is a site on the Internet. It is open to the public and any old asshole can post there anonymously. Many of them use the cloak of said anonymity to post nasty and hurtful things that would get them punched in the mouth if they said them in person. This is known as "trolling." Troll swarms are an established fact of life on the Internet. If that bothers you, Ms. Cornwell, then may I respectfully suggest that you just unplug your modem, because the kind of screed you posted will only attract more of them, like hyenas gathering around a wounded oryx. Trolls sense weakness, and you just rolled over and showed them your jugular.

I say this in all love and respect Ms. Cornwell: get the fuck over yourself and get a fucking grip.

Yours in Christ,


Update: Tess Gerritsen addresses this topic as well on her excellent blog. She is much nicer about it. This is because Tess is a much nicer person than I am.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Charlotte NC Hellions, REPRESENT!

Tomorrow's the biggest shopping day of the year, so my homegirl Alex Sokoloff and I will be signing books and talking to the Write to Publish Meetup Group of Charlotte at the Borders in the Morrocroft Village Shopping Center . Signing is Friday at 5:00 PM, program's at 7:00 and the public's invited.

After your long day of shopping, drop by, take a load off and listen to Alex being charming and informative while I nod sagely in agreement.

(Hat tip to Stacey Cochran as always for setting this up)

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Off to the in-law's for food and merriment. Hope your holiday is full of the same.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks, Bill Crider!

Bill Crider has some good things to say about SAFE AND SOUND. Bill's frequently updated blog is always worth a look, despite his somewhat unsettling fixation on the Perils of Paris (Hilton).