Monday, November 28, 2011

Praise for GALLOWS POLE From Robert Gregory Browne

"J.D. Rhoades's Gallows Pole gets the adrenalin pumping from the very first page. Rhoades not only gives us a tight, suspenseful plot, his prose style is economic and full of quiet confidence, and you know you're in good hands the moment you start reading."

-Robert Gregory Browne, author of THE PARADISE PROPHECY , which was one of my own favorite books from this year.

Thanks, Rob!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Phony War On Christmas Begins Again

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With Thanksgiving now behind us, the holiday season begins in earnest. And no American Christmas season would be complete without the annual gripe-fest known as the Phony War on Christmas (PWOC).

After all, as I always say, there's no better way to celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior than with paranoia, unwarranted feelings of persecution, and bitter, deathless grudges over imagined slights.

Every year, it seems like the Christmas Warriors have to search harder and harder to find something to be upset about. Their usual MO is to take some small incident, omission or otherwise innocent phrasing (using "holiday" instead of "Christmas," for example) and spinning it up into an outrage on the level of burning believers at the stake.

This year, however, material has apparently been scarce, so they've gone right to outright lies and distortions.
First, there was the claim, circulated in a blast of indignant emails, that the Obama White House had decreed that the 2011 White House Christmas trees would be called "holiday trees" and that no one should send ornaments with religious themes.

"This isn't a rumor," one email insisted. "This is a fact." The message stated that the original sender had a "a friend at church" who was a "very talented artist," and who'd been invited "for several years" to send painted ornaments for the White House tree. This year, however, the letter supposedly said that "they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called 'holiday trees.' And, to please not send any ornaments painted with a religious theme."

The letter ends on a typically portentous note: "Just thought you should know what the new residents in the WH plan for the future of America. ... This should confirm that [President Obama] plans to take us away from our religious foundation as quickly as possible."

Problem was, none of this was true. The White House released a statement: "There is no truth to this, and the letter referenced in the email does not exist. No letter has gone out yet from the White House pertaining to Christmas tree ornaments. The trees in the White House will be called Christmas trees, and the tree on the Ellipse will be called the National Christmas Tree. There will be no name changes."

Here's a handy tip for the future: When one of these spammed emails starts off with "this isn't a rumor, this is a fact," it's a rumor, and most likely a lie.

Then there was the hullaballoo around the supposed "Christmas Tree Tax." Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began a program calling for a 15-cent-per-tree fee to be paid by large Christmas tree farmers. Right-wing media immediately exploded in indignation. "Grinched by the Government," blared a banner on Fox News, while alleged "news person" Gretchen Carlson reported on the "tax," with her usual look of breathless, wide-eyed outrage.

Blogger and Fox News regular Tammy Bruce, whose greatest political accomplishment seems to be organizing a write-in campaign for Bristol Palin on "Dancing With the Stars," did her own part to man the Yuletide barricades with a story on the wingnut website NewsMax. Headlined "Obama's War on Christianity," Bruce's story called the fee a "tribute," analogous to a "tax levied on non-Muslim citizens in the Islamic world."
Problem is, the fee wasn't ordered or requested by the president. It didn't have anything to do with religion. It had actually been requested by the National Christmas Tree Association, and was meant to be paid by the members of that association.  Its purpose was "to fund promotion and information programs to encourage American consumers to buy farm-raised Christmas trees," according to a press release from the Association itself. 

Unfortunately for them, the USDA caved - again - to the raging loons and shelved the program, much to the dismay of the NCTA. 

Ah, the holiday season, when certain members of the nation's dominant religion, the faith that plays a controlling role in our national politics, take to the airwaves to tell themselves and everyone who'll listen that they're an oppressed and voiceless minority. Because aren't rampant drama-queenery and strident declarations of victimhood what Christmas is all about?