Sunday, December 7, 2008

Have Yourself A Merry Little Solstice


Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight...

Have yourself a merry Saturnalia,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away...



People worldwide observe a multitude 0f seasonal days of celebration during the month of December. Most are based around religious holy days, and are linked in some way to the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. On that day, due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis, the daytime hours are at a minimum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a maximum. In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated in December, when the opposite occurs -the longest daylight hours occur. Which is also cause for much celebration.

JPC Artworks has a selection of free solstice cards available in December that you can Email to a friend. See: http://www.jpc-artworks.com/


There are approximately 2.1 billion Christians in a total world population of 6.6 billion, making it the largest religion worldwide, But there are many other cultures and religions holding sacred celebrations during December. Though Christianity is the largest religion, the majority of the Earth's inhabitants ( 4.5 billion) are not Christians.

Remains of ancient stone structures can be found in Europe dating back many millennia. Some appear to have a religious or astronomical purpose; others are believed to be burial sites. One can only speculate on the importance of the winter solstice to the builders, but it obviously was significant. Two examples -At Newgrange, in Brugh-na-Boyne, County Meath, in eastern Ireland. It is perhaps the most famous of the 250 passage tombs in Ireland. It covers an area of one acre, and has an internal passage that is almost 60 feet (19 m) long. The tomb has been dated at about 3,200 BCE; it is one of the oldest structures in the world -- and the roof still doesn't leak after 5,200 years! (They sure knew how to make 'em back in the good 'ol days, huh? Above the entrance is a stone "roof box" that allows the light from the sun to penetrate to the back of the cairn at sunrise on the winter solstice. The horizontal dimension of the box matches the width of the sun as viewed from the back of the passage. Believed to have been constructed by neolithic farmers, one must take into account that the Earth's tilt on its axis has changed from about 24 to about 23 degrees since then. As a result, the sun rises farther south today. The monument is surrounded by a circle of standing stones that were believed to have been added later, during the Bronze Age.

Click Here To See Last Years Winter Solstice at Newgrange in Ireland. (click on "view archive").

My own personal view on this is people should value the range of December celebrations, because it is evidence of diversity of beliefs within our common humanity. We can respect our own religious traditions and those of other beliefs for their ability to inspire.


Religion often borrows existing cultural icons and uses them to promote itself.


Though I myself cannot identify any particular system as my own, (I lean towards Nudism (just fooling; Buddhism, though I would not be seen a classical Buddhist) I hold no claim in any deity, deities, or lesser semi-supernatural beings. That being said, I recognize some humans need the threat of eternal damnation of one sort or anther to lead more ethical lives. The radio personality Rush Limbaugh, for instance, could not understand what prevented an atheist from murdering people. ( I must assume then that Rush wants to murder people and the only thing preventing him is his fear of eternal punishment. Why else would he say this?)




Though religion has been the cause of much of the worst harm humanity has had to bear, it also has done some good too. I like the system of writing music we use today which was derived from Pope Gregory's (or his compatriot's) handiwork regarding notating Plainsong.
Many of the teachings of various religions have positive messages (Peace on Earth, Good will towards men, love one another, etc.) these are sadly often trumped by acceptance of dogma injected for political expedience, personal gain, or ignorance over the years.
But at this time of year let's focus on the positive side. If we see religious diversity as an influence that, if viewed in the light of allegory, is a positive force; then we can all find something to appreciate in these diverse and often beautiful customs and celebrations. Here is a look at some of the Festivities that occur this time of year:

In the Roman Empire Saturnalia had begun as a feast day for Saturn on DEC-17th and of Ops on DEC-19th. About 50 BCE, both were converted into two day celebrations. During the Empire, the festivals were combined to cover an entire week: DEC-17 to 23.

Saturnalia

By the third century CE, there were many religions and spiritual mysteries being followed within the Roman Empire. Many, if not most, celebrated the birth of a god-man near the time of the solstice. Emperor Aurelian (270 to 275 CE) blended a number of Pagan solstice celebrations of the nativity of god-men/saviors such as Appolo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus into a single festival called the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on DEC-25.

The Romans adapted gods from conquered lands and included them in their pantheon.

At the time, Mithraism was the most popular religion. (Christianity was #2). The Emperor Aurelian had declared Mithraism the official religion of the Roman Empire in 274 CE.
Christianity became the new official religion in the 4th century CE when Emperor Constantine claims to have had a dream in which he was told to paint Christian symbols on his shields, he did, and after winning the battle converted to Christianity himself, though his behavior was not particularly Christian. For example in A.D. 326 he killed his wife by having her boiled alive in a bath and then killed his son too.
Ziggurat of MardukAround 2000 BC, the Ancient Mesopotamians marked the Winter Solstice with a festival celebrating the god Marduk’s victory over darkness. The Marduk ziggurat was set within the vast sacred precinct on the southern end of the town of Babylon, surrounded by the river, a canal, a double wall and a processional way. Its Sumerian name was Etemenanki which means "The Foundation of Heaven and Earth." It was probably built by Hammurabi.


Ra
The Egyptians welcomed Ra’s triumph over death which the Solstice symbolized for them.
Ra was the Egyptian sun god who was also called Re-Horakhty, which means Re is Horus of the Horizon. The early Egyptians believed that he created the world, and the rising sun was, for them, the symbol of creation. The daily cycle, as the sun rose, then set only to rise again the next morning, symbolized renewal and so Ra was seen as the paramount force of creation and master of life.

Ahura Mazda

The Persian Zoroastrians dedicated the day after the Solstice to Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom with the Daygan festival.

Maenads prepare to feast on Dionysus

In the Ancient Greek Festival of Lenaea, Often called the "wild women festival", wild women tore the harvest god Dionysus to pieces and ate him, then presided over his rebirth. The lucky guy who got be Dionysus was fortunately replaced with a bull in later times. In Greek mythology, Maenads was the name given to female worshippers of Dionysus, the Greek god of mystery, and wine. The word translates as "raving ones". They were known as wild, insane women who could not be reasoned with. The mysteries of Dionysus inspired the women to ecstatic frenzy; they indulged in plentiful amounts of violence, bloodletting, sex, intoxication and mutilation. They were usually pictured as crowned with vine leaves, clothed in fawnskins dancing with the wild abandonment of complete union with primeval nature.

The Druids

The Druids celebrated Alban Arthuan, (the “Light of Arthur”). They believed that during the 3 days before the Solstice, the Sun God journeys through Annwn, (the underworld), to learn the secrets of life and death.

Shabe-Yalda

Shabe-Yalda also spelled (Shab-e Yaldaa) is celebrated in Iran by followers of many religions. It originated in Zoroastrianism, the state religion which preceded Islam. The name refers to the birthday or rebirth of the sun. People gather at home around a korsee (a low square table) all night telling stories and reading poetry. They eat watermelons, pomegranates and a special dried fruit/nut mix. Bonfires are lit outside.


Inti Raymi - festival of the Sun

Solstices and equinoxes figure in to many native American's spiritual beliefs. In South America, The ancient Incas celebrated a festival called Inti Raymi at the time of their Winter Solstice (June). It celebrates Viracocha, the god of the Sun, Ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholic conquistadores in the 16th century as part of their forced conversions of the Inca people to Christianity. The flogging will continue until morale improves!
Sacsayhuaman
A local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru revived the festival in 1950. It is now a major festival which begins in Cusco and proceeds to the gigantic monolithic ancient site of Sacsayhuaman, a few miles away.




On DEC-8th, or on the Sunday immediately preceding, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day (sometimes called Rohatsu). It commemorates the day in 596 BCE, when the Buddha achieved enlightenment. He had left his family and possessions behind at the age of 29, and sought to find the meaning of life. Particularly, the reasons for its hardships. He studied under many spiritual teachers without success. Finally, as he sat under a pipal tree and vowed that he would stay there until he found what he was seeking, on the morning of the eighth day, he realized that everyone suffers due to ignorance. But ignorance can be overcome through the Eightfold Path that he advocated. This day is generally regarded as the birth day of Buddhism. We celebrate the point in time when the Buddha achieved enlightenment and escaped the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. An idea adopted by many other belief systems.


If there was a historical record of the date of birth of Yeshua of Nazareth (later known as Jesus Christ) it has been lost. There is in the Gospels some indications that Yeshua was born in the fall, but this seems to have been unknown or completely irrelevant to early Christians. By the beginning of the 4th century CE, however there was a drive to choose a day to celebrate Yeshua's birthday. The western church leaders selected DEC-25 because this was already the date recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the birthday of various Pagan gods. Since there was no central Christian authority at the time, it took centuries before the tradition became accepted:
  • The church in Jerusalem began recognizing Christmas in the 7th century.
  • Ireland began recognizing Christmas in the 5th century
  • Austria, England and Switzerland in the 8th
  • Slavic lands began in the 9th and 10th centuries.
According to the Venerable Bede in his History of the English Church, the legendary King Arthur was crowned by St. Dubricius on Christmas Day, around the very time St Augustine came to Britain with his missionary monks from Rome baptizing 10,000 Brits into the faith on Dec. 25th, 598.

Many of the symbols and practices associated with Christmas are of Pagan origin: holly, ivy, mistletoe, yule log, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen tree, magical reindeer, etc. were all part of earlier Pagan traditions. Polydor Virgil, an early British Christian, said "Dancing, masques, mummeries, stageplays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them." And some Christian faith groups do not celebrate Christmas at all for this reason.

Puritans- frowner's on all things merry, including Christmas.

In Massachusetts, Puritans unsuccessfully tried to ban Christmas entirely during the 17th century, because of its heathenism. Ironically after a few years of life in America most colonists began practicing naturalism and Paganism. Hence the burnings will continue until morale improves! At the time of the signing of the declaration of independence between 5 and 7% of the colonists identified themselves as belonging to any religion.

The Reformation brought about by King Henry VIII did not recognize Christmas. The English Parliament abolished Christmas in 1647. Christmas was actually banned.

Anyone found making Christmas pies was arrested and soundly chastised as an example to others.

During this time all the customs began to die out, because anyone found celebrating was punished. Priests were hiding.


Though light and bonfires are a common theme in winter festivals,
Only Puritans and other fanatic Christian groups stuck people in them.
Few people managed to attend the old 'Christe-Masse.' No singing in the streets; people were forced to work on Christmas Day, and there was no feasting or decorating of houses or streets.

After the restoration of the King (Charles II) in 1660, things improved, but after over 100 years of reformation and puritan brow-thumping, many of the old customs were lost. Mostly, it was country people who held onto them, and although there was an element of the 'Christmas of Olde England' in Georgian England, for many townspeople the customs were just gone. It was not until Victorian scholars began to research old documents, and talk to very old people surviving in villages and hidden areas of the North of England, where change came slowly, that the old customs would be practiced again. Sadly, much of the symbolism and reasons behind the Christianized versions of these customs were lost to history, the custom of mistletoe and kissing for instance. (One can appreciate the the work of Dickens a bit more in this light.)

Jews celebrate an 8 day festival of Hanukkah, (which is also called Feast of Lights, Festival of lights, Feast of Dedication, and spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, or Hanukah). It recalls the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. Antiochus, the king of Syria, conquered Judea in the 2nd century BCE. He proclaimed worship in the Temple illegal, and stole the sacred lamp called the menorah, from the altar. At the time of the solstice, they rededicated the Temple to a Pagan deity. Judah the Maccabee took back Jerusalem with a band of rebels. They restored the temple and lit the menorah. It was exactly three years after the flame had been extinguished -- at the time of the Pagan rite. Although they had found only sufficient consecrated oil to last for 24 hours, the flames burned steadily for eight days. "Today's menorahs have nine branches; the ninth branch is for the shamash, or servant light, which is used to light the other eight candles. People eat potato latkes, exchange gifts, and play dreidel games. And as they gaze at the light of the menorah, they give thanks for the miracle in the Temple long ago."
The modern-day celebration of Hanukkah honors the occasion by lighting one candle for each of the eight days the menorah burned. Once viewed as a minor festival, it has been growing in importance, perhaps because of the hype of Christmas.

Most of the midwinter festivities have their roots in light conquering darkness, the return of the sun as days begin to get longer- The winter solstice.

A poem by Robert Frost-

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.









Sources for the article include:
  • Charles Panati, "Sacred origins of profound things: The stories behind the rites and rituals of the world's religions," Penguin Arkana, (1996)
  • B.G. Walker, "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets," Harper & Row, (1983), Page 166 to 167.
  • Mike Nichols, "Yule: Circa December 21," at: http://paganwiccan.about.com/
  • Ramadan on the Net, at: http://www.holidays.net/
  • "Hanukkah: The festival of lights," at: http://www.education-world.com/
  • A. Hirschfelder & P. Molin, "The encyclopedia of Native American religions," Facts on File, (1992).
  • J.W. Mavor & B.E. Dix, "Manitou: The sacred landscape of New England's Native Civilization." Inner Traditions (1989).
  • Stephen M. Wylen, "Holidays mark victory of light over darkness," The Bergen Record, 1999-DEC-2. The essay is online at: http://www.bergen.com:80/

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Repeal Day! - Thanks FDR!


Thank you FDR! Up yours Hoover! Bottoms up America!
Dec. 5th is the anniversary of the repeal of The "Volstead Act," the popular name for the National Prohibition Act, which notoriously passed Congress over a Presidential veto from Woodrow Wilson on October 28, 1919 and established the legal definition of intoxicating liquor providing for enforcement of Prohibition.
Most everyone realizes the Republican president Herbert Hoover's economic policies were disastrous. That prosperity was no more "just around the corner" than Richard Nixon was a great president. Herbert Hoover on prohibition: "Prohibition is a great social and economic experiment—noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose." Right.

Legislating morality does not work. Making a product illegal only creates a black market. (Well black markets are the only true "free" markets - lazy fairy capitalism's only real practitioners).

Spineless politicians thought they could suck up to what we could easily define as "the religious right" of that time who were getting lots of press with "temperance leagues" and such. Somehow these cretins managed to get enough votes to outlaw alcoholic beverages. Prohibition became increasingly more unpopular during the Great Depression. With the election of Roosevelt, repeal was eagerly anticipated. Roosevelt delivered. Within 2 months he signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, allowing the manufacture and sale of certain kinds of alcoholic beverages. And within a year of his inauguration Americans were free to enjoy their libations of choice with the passage of an amendment to the constitution, Upon signing the amendment, Roosevelt made this famous remark; "I think this would be a good time for a beer."

Happy Days Are Here Again!


The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed with ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, on December 5, 1933. No wonder FDR's theme song was "Happy Days Are Here Again"! No wonder he was elected president 4 times.

Celebrate Repeal Day!



Politicians should look at other "prohibitions" wasting public funds being enforced today. One rightfully should inquire who gains from them? Follow the money.

Propaganda poster
(Geez-the kid probably wouldn't have been born if not for alcohol...)
Down the Hatch!
Cheers America!





Monday, December 1, 2008

AMISS, AWRY, & ADRIFT - HISTORY'S BIGGEST BOZOS

Humanity has suffered the witless and the wicked, the rotten and the wrong, the inbred and the inferior, the dullard and the dip. Too long the names and deeds of history's jerks and jackasses lay fallow in the fields of repute! Today we "celebrate" their contributions to humanity's regression and ills. Their stain on the human condition is both onerous and odorous! We salute the vapid and the vacuous with Bronx cheers, in hopes that their history is without repeat . Now, without further trumpery, I give you the gallery of gimps... the moronic museum... the hall of hubris itself! A spotlight on a few of History's Worst Assclowns!

For the sake of expediency we will ignore the contemporary crop of crustacean craniums currently darkening our towels. (George Bush and the like, c'mon -that's just shooting fish in a barrel of monkeys and lawyer's faces, and after all; their exploits are well documented and looped in 24 hour cycles for your viewing displeasure). In no particular chronology here they are...you keep 'em, I don't want 'em.

Worst Wanker #1 --Cosimo Caccini, a self-seeking simpleton who shames the Florentines for having been born in their locale. Caccini became a Franciscan monk and was known for being a gasbag from his pulpit of putridity. He used his position to vilify condemn and denounce. So much so, the (I didn't make the title up folks...though I would have...) Archbishop of Bologna was brought in to reprimand him for creating scandals.

He frequently stunk up the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence with his hateful disdain, which would later be the site of his most infamous blathering. A century earlier, A Father Savanarola had preached there, and the legacy of this monk's oratory skills lived on. Caccini, envious of Savonarola's reputation; soon showed that he had a knack for longwinded balderdash and inflammatory babbling.
Soon after his novitiate he was preaching Lenten sermons (The big show!). His reputation as a verbose snake oil salesman spread like a rash, and he was invited by churches in other cities to perform the same act. Caccini was, however, was nothing more than a pale imitator of Savanarola. A fanatic egotist, his personal ambition for advancement within the Dominican order was the inspiration for his sermons condemning everyone but his bosses. He chose to take the name Tommaso, as he saw himself as the new Thomas Aquinas, the order's (and the Church's) greatest theologian. But in truth, his published works were derivative third-rate crap.

Cacinni would just be another ambitious carnival side show barker, unworthy of mention except for one thing. His shtick, if you will; was condemning anyone who threatened church doctrine no matter how demonstratively wrong it was. Doctrine was absolute and unquestionable. Now right about this time people, Galileo was discovering the four largest satellites of Jupiter. He observed that the planet Venus exhibited a full set of "phases"(like the Moon does). Both of these discoveries supported the heliocentric model of the solar system developed by Copernicus.
(The idea that the Sun was the center, not the Earth).

Galileo

Galileo was the first westerner to report sunspots (Mayan and Chinese astronomers seem to have been 1st) . He argued from the occultation of stars (visible only through a telescope) that the Moon is not a perfect sphere but has mountains. His experiments in dynamics paved the road for Kepler's and Newton's laws of motion. He was also one of the first scientists to use the experimental method. His study of balls rolling down inclined planes convinced him that falling objects are accelerated independent of their mass, and that objects retain their velocity unless a force acts on them. Galileo observed that a pendulum's swing always take the same amount of time, a discovery which made precise clocks possible. Galileo was both an accomplished scientist and a Christian believer. A Catholic. But for publishing his observations, thanks to the self serving sanctimonious swift-boating provided by Caccini. Galileo would be jailed.
Historian Andrew Dickson White wrote:

"The Dominican Father Caccini preached a sermon from the text, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" and this wretched pun upon the great astronomer's name ushered in sharper weapons; for, before Caccini ended, he insisted that "geometry is of the devil," and that "mathematicians should be banished as the authors of all heresies." The Church authorities gave Caccini promotion. Father Lorini proved that Galileo's doctrine was not only heretical but "atheistic," and besought the Inquisition to intervene. The Bishop of Fiesole screamed in rage against the Copernican system, publicly insulted Galileo, and denounced him to the Grand-Duke. The Archbishop of Pisa secretly sought to entrap Galileo and deliver him to the Inquisition at Rome. The Archbishop of Florence solemnly condemned the new doctrines as unscriptural; and Paul V, while petting Galileo, and inviting him as the greatest astronomer of the world to visit Rome, was secretly moving the Archbishop of Pisa to pick up evidence against the astronomer. But by far the most terrible champion who now appeared was Cardinal Bellarmin, one of the greatest theologians the world has known. He was earnest, sincere, and learned, but insisted on making science conform to Scripture. The weapons which men of Bellarmin's stamp used were purely theological. They held up before the world the dreadful consequences which must result to Christian theology were the heavenly bodies proved to revolve about the sun and not about the earth. Their most tremendous dogmatic engine was the statement that "his pretended discovery vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation." Father Lecazre declared "it casts suspicion on the doctrine of the incarnation." Others declared, "It upsets the whole basis of theology. If the earth is a planet, and only one among several planets, it can not be that any such great things have been done specially for it as the Christian doctrine teaches. If there are other planets, since God makes nothing in vain, they must be inhabited; but how can their inhabitants be descended from Adam? How can they trace back their origin to Noah's ark? How can they have been redeemed by the Saviour?" Nor was this argument confined to the theologians of the Roman Church; Melanchthon, Protestant as he was, had already used it in his attacks on Copernicus and his school."
On June 22, 1633, the Roman Inquisition started its trial against Galileo, a 69 years old man who pleaded for mercy, based on his failing health . The inquisition responded by threatening him with torture, imprisonment and death on the stake.
The mockery of a trial forced Galileo to "abjure, curse and detest" his work. He was forced to swear to denounce others who held his prior viewpoint. Galileo did everything the church requested him to do. The threat of torture and death Galileo was facing was a real one. In the earlier trial against Giordano Bruno, he was burned at the stake for holding a naturalistic view of the universe. The Grand Duke Ferdinand II de' Medici asked for lenience regarding Galileo, and it's likely without the Duke's influence, Galileo would have been ignited on a stake as well.

Galileo on trial

Galileo was put under permanent house arrest, Because of a painful hernia, he requested permission to consult physicians in Florence, which was denied by Rome, warning that further such requests would lead to imprisonment. Under arrest, he was forced to recite penitentiary psalms regularly, and his social contacts were highly restricted, but he was allowed to continue his less controversial research and publish under strict rules of censorship. He went blind in 1638 (his petition to the Inquisition to be released was rejected, but he was allowed to move to his house in Florence where he was closer to his physicians). His Dialogue, in which one of the conversationalists suggests the planets and sun do not revolve around the earth was put on the Index librorum prohibitorum, a black list of banned books, until 1822.

Let's hear that Bronx cheer for Caccini and of course again for his cohorts.
Though many were involved in the tormenting and suppression of Galileo, without Caccini beating the war drum he may well have remained unmolested. One must question all those who fight new ideas in favor of mere convention. History has not once revealed them in a favorable light. All progress comes from those who question status quo, not those who defend it.




Worst Wanker #2 --Tennessee Governor Austin Peay

Tennessee Governor Peay

Peay signed the Butler Act into law on March 21, 1925.
Americans, after the turmoil of World War I were generally seeking out the nostalgic normalcy of their prewar society . In rural areas, particularly in the South and Midwest, Fundamentalist preachers preyed on their yearnings by suggesting the cause of turmoil was because people didn't believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly "their" interpretation. These Americans found a degree of comfort and stability in these new religions which sprung from door to door salesmen, hucksters and flimflam men with little or no theological education. This was the era when many Americans lost their faith in more metaphysical aspects of religious philosophy and embraced the one dimensional simplistic fundamentalist religions that required no thinking but demanded blind adherence from their followers. Fundamentalists, who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible, hated Darwin and the theory of evolution referring to evolution as "the most present threat to the truth they were sure they alone possessed" (Sherwin D. Smith, "The Great 'Monkey Trial,'" New York Times July 4, 1965 ) With evolution as the enemy, they set out to eradicate it.

By 1925, Oklahoma, Florida and Mississippi had such laws, and narrow margins determined those in North Carolina and Kentucky. In Tennessee the Butler Law passed in early 1925, for although the governor was not a fundamentalist, many of his constituents were. As he said, "Nobody believes that it is going to be an active statute". And this is why he is singled out as a buffoon. He knew this law was nonsense, but passed it anyway to get votes from the bible thumpers. The ACLU set out to initiate a court case to test the constitutionality of the Butler Law. The entertaining Scopes monkey trial ensued. At least it made for a good Spencer Tracy movie.
The Dayton Monkey Trial
More a festival of opportunism than anything else, the streets of Dayton turned into a small-town fair, with people selling food, souvenirs and religious books. On the side of the courthouse ran a banner blaring "Read Your Bible Daily!" The media came from as far away as Hong Kong, and more than two million words were published during the trial. (H.L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun, known for his caustic wit and cynical observations had much to make hay of.)

William Jennings Bryan

According to "Scopes Evolution Trial" (from Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Summer, 1981)

"Into this media circus meets religious revival rolled two of the greatest legal minds of the time, facing off to battle each other. William Jennings Bryan called the trial a "contest between evolution and Christianity ... a duel to the death". Known as The Great Commoner to the people, Bryan was a three-time presidential candidate and former Secretary of State to Woodrow Wilson. After a few years of retirement, he joined the Chautauqua circuit to rail against Darwin in tent revivals across the country.

Across the courtroom at the defendant's table was Clarence Darrow, with a sharp criminal lawyer's mind and an infamous reputation. To Bryan, he was "the greatest atheist or agnostic in the United States." Darrow himself joined the defense table because "for years," he said, "I've wanted to put Bryan in his pace as a bigot".

From the moment of Bryan's arrival in Dayton, the weight of public sentiment was in his favor. The records of the trial indicate that the townspeople came out for the trial in record numbers, packing the small country courthouse. Cries of "Amen" peppered the trial proceedings until the judge had to ask the observers to lower the noise level. Bryan planned to end the trial with a speech consummating his lifetime of preaching, one he had been preparing for seven weeks. Darrow, however, had other plans. Since the intention was to test the constitutionality of the Butler Law, Darrow wanted the jury to find Scopes guilty, so he could then appeal the decision in a higher court. He did not, however, plan to call Scopes to the stand, for if he were to do so, it might surface that Scopes had, in fact, not even been in school on the day mentioned in the indictment. He was meticulous in his effort to keep the trial free of technicalities. Just one could get the case thrown out with the law itself yet untested. Darrow also planned to call expert witnesses to give testimony about evolution. But when the judge ordered that Darrow could not call the scholars as witnesses, he shifted his plans.

After the judge moved the trial outside because of the 100-plus degree heat inside and the instability of the courtroom floor under the weight of so many spectators, Darrow, in a fantastic gesture, called William Jennings Bryan to the stand. The interchange which follows targets the essence of Darrow's argument and signals the turning point in the trial, which brought public sentiment decisively over to Darrow's side:


Clarence Darrow
"You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?"
"Yes, sir; I have tried to ... But, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was a boy."
"Do you claim then that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?"
"I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there ..."

Darrow continued to question Bryan on the actuality of Jonah and the whale, Joshua's making the sun stand still and the Tower of Babel, as Bryan began to have more difficulty answering.
Q: "Do you think the earth was made in six days?"
A: "Not six days of 24 hours ... My impression is they were periods ..."
Q: "Now, if you call those periods, they may have been a very long time?"
A: "They might have been."
Q: "The creation might have been going on for a very long time?"
A: "It might have continued for millions of years ..."
Darrow had set his trap and Bryan walked right in.

The monkey business, the contempt for intellectual honesty, continues to this day. OK ready? THREE CHEERS (Bronx style) for Austin Paey and political opportunists everywhere!





Worst Wanker #3-- Robert Mugabe In 28 years he has managed to take one of the wealthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and ruin it in a stupefying variety of ways. He annihilated the agricultural sector (once a leading exporter of corn and tobacco) by seizing commercial farms and giving them to cronies who failed to use the land at all. He prosecuted a kleptomaniacal war in the Congo, spending $1 million (U.S.) a day in hopes of stealing enough land and resources from the Congolese to make a profit.
When Zimbabweans have tried to vote him out of office, he has punished them with violence and economic repression. A passage from "The State of Africa," by Martin Meredith, recalls the explanation offered to citizens for cutting off their food supplies: "First you will eat your chickens, then your goats, then your donkeys. Then you will eat your children, and finally you will eat the dissidents."

Zimbabwe's leader gets the razz. Technically he is a contemporary, but because he has been destroying Zimbabwe for over 30 years...I think he is quite eligible and certainly deserving.




Worst Wanker #4 --Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig

The Somme battlefield in northern France is largely a matter of going from one cemetery to another. The graveyards are everywhere, some of them very small, comprising only a handful of white Portland marble stones, many bearing the inscription, A Soldier of the Great War / Known unto God. One sees so many of these cemeteries and so many stones—along with the vast memorial at Thievpal bearing the names of some 70,000 British soldiers whose bodies were never recovered—that after a few hours of it, you are numb. Overwhelmed.

The volume of the battle still stuns one's imagination. The Somme was an epic of butchery and futility alike; a profligate waste of lives and material such as the world had never seen.

On the morning of July 1, 1916, 110,000 British infantrymen went “over the top.” In a few hours, 60,000 of them were casualties. Nearly 20,000 of these were either dead already or would die of their wounds, many of them lingering for days between the trenches, suffering in no man’s land. The attacking forces did not gain a single one of their objectives.

A staff colonel had the balls to write: “The events of July 1st bore out the conclusions of the British higher command and amply justified the tactical methods employed.”

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, chief of staff of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and architect of the battle, agreed. On the day after the debacle, stating that the enemy “has undoubtedly been shaken and has few reserves in hand,” he discussed with subordinates methods for continuing the offensive.

Which he did, with a kind of transcendent stubbornness, for another four months, until winter weather forced an end to the campaign, if not the fighting. By then, Haig’s army had suffered more than 400,000 casualties. For the British, in the grave judgment of noted military historian John Keegan, “the battle was the greatest tragedy…of their national military history” and “marked the end of an age of vital optimism in British life that has never been recovered.”

But Haig was not done yet.

The great commanders of history intrigue us, and we read their biographies looking for insight into character attributes which might have accounted for their success. For instance Napoleon, we might think imagination. In General Lee, we see audacity. Wellington seemed to possess composure. Hannibal exemplified daring. Of course, great generals seem to possess all these qualities to some degree. They are artists in some sense blending intelligence, intuition, courage, calculation and many other traits that allow them to see what others cannot and to act in a rhythmic certainty. In military history, the question of what makes great commanders is an inexhaustible one.

Unsuccessful generals are seldom discussed any more than we like to read about mediocre runners who never won a race or ballplayers who hit .200 lifetime. There is nothing terribly enlightening in the biography of, say, Ambrose Burnside or any of the other Union generals tormented by Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.

But Douglas Haig is the exception to the rule. Because in spite of the multitudes of graveyards and inconclusive, costly battles; some claim he was not unsuccessful. At the end of the war, after all, the army he had almost ruined—was, (victorious may not be the word) on the winning side.

Haig did not merely fail to achieve his stated objectives in the great battles of the Somme and Ypres. He failed in a much larger sense; in the fashion of Pyrrhus, who lamented after the battle at Asculum, “Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone.”

Bronx cheers galore. It takes more than a stiff upper lip to make Haig appear palatable.






Worst Wanker #5 -- Whoever invented this:


I mean why run on a treadmill or run outside if you can run on a treadmill outside?
Why indeed! Well at least it isn't fossil fuel powered and has no beer can holder built in.
(they sell it separately).



Bonus Bozos- Tied for Worst Wanker #6 are 10 leaders of nation who lined their pockets at their countries expense. (I know, it's so common it would be more of a news item if we found someone who didn't rob and pilfer.)
Thieving Corrupt Leaders!
NamePositionFunds embezzled2
1. Mohamed SuhartoPresident of Indonesia (1967–1998)$15–35 billion
2. Ferdinand MarcosPresident of the Philippines (1972–1986)5–10 billion
3. Mobutu Sese SekoPresident of Zaire (1965–1997)5 billion
4. Sani AbachaPresident of Nigeria (1993–1998)2–5 billion
5. Slobodan MilosevicPresident of Serbia/Yugoslavia (1989–2000)1 billion
6. Jean-Claude DuvalierPresident of Haiti (1971–1986)300–800 million
7. Alberto FujimoriPresident of Peru (1990–2000)600 million
8. Pavlo LazarenkoPrime Minister of Ukraine (1996–1997)114–200 million
9. Arnoldo Alem├ínPresident of Nicaragua (1997–2002)100 million
10. Joseph EstradaPresident of the Philippines (1998–2001)78–80 million
1. Defined as former political leaders who have been accused of embezzling the most funds from their countries over the past two decades.
2. All sums are estimates of alleged embezzlement and appear in U.S. dollars.
Source: Transparency International Global Corruption Report 2004.




Worst Wanker #7 -- Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin
When you eat the brothers, they tend to frown on you. ..enough said.


Worst Wanker #8 --Jack Whitehead
The first "King of Strike Breakers" --through the significant numbers of strikes during the 1890s and very early 1900s, strike breaking by recruiting massive numbers of replacement workers became a noteworthy activity. Jack Whitehead saw opportunity in labor struggles; while other workers were attempting to organize unions, he walked away from his own union to organize an army of strike breakers. Whitehead was the first to be called "King of the Strike Breakers"; by deploying his private workforce during steelworker's strikes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Birmingham, Alabama, became quite wealthy. By demonstrating how lucrative strike breaking could be, Whitehead inspired a host of imitators who further "perfected" the art.
Companies lavished money on violent union busters like James Farley and the Bergoff brothers.
By the 1930s, agencies began to rely more upon the use of informants and labor spies.

Spy agencies hired to bust unions developed a level of sophistication that could devastate targets. "Missionaries" were undercover operatives trained to use whispering campaigns (unfounded rumors to create dissension) on picket lines and in union halls. The strikers themselves were not the only targets. Often female missionaries might systematically visit the strikers' wives in the home, making up a sob story of how a strike had destroyed their own families. Missionary campaigns have been known to destroy not only strikes, but unions themselves. In the 1930s, the Pinkerton Agency employed twelve-hundred labor spies, and nearly one-third of them held high level positions in the targeted unions. The International Association of Machinists was damaged when Sam Brady, a veteran Pinkerton operative, held a high enough position in that union that he was able to arrange a premature strike. All but five officers in a United Auto Workers local in Lansing, Michigan were driven out by Pinkerton agents. The five who remained were Pinkertons themselves. Nathan Shefferman committed numerous illegal actions, including bribery, coercion of employees and racketeering. Shefferman built his business on a foundation of lies and deceit. The history of the suppression of labor organizing is dark and loathsome. Violence and murder were no strangers here.



Worst Wanker #9 --Joseph Kony, Commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
Uganda is spotlighted again! Quote: "[The spirits] speak to me. They load through me. They will tell us what is going to happen. They say 'You, Mr. Joseph, tell your people that the enemy is planning to come and attack.' They will come like dreaming; they will tell us everything."

Yes another religious wingnut, this one is a Christian, who during two decades of civil war, killed more people than al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

Kony, a former altar boy, aims to overthrow the Ugandan government and establish a regime based on the Ten Commandments. In pursuit of this goal, the LRA has abducted over 20,000 children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves, often forcing them to kill their own parents.

Have an extra crispy KonyDog, no that ain't ketchup.


Worst Wanker # 10 --Dov Lior, Head rabbi of Kiryat Arba settlement, a Jewish settlement near the turbulent West Bank town of Hebron, and leads the council of rabbis for the West Bank settlements. He has stated repeatedly that the killing of Palestinian civilians is compatible with Jewish law and that the commandment "thou shalt not kill"applies only to Jews. He has claimed "A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail." Lior has also issued a religious ruling forbidding Jews from employing Arabs or renting them property. Nice!
Getting tired of razzing? Use a whoopie cushion.



Last but not least Wanker (for this post) --Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of Hezbollah
who said "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli." Nasrallah and several colleagues formed Hezbollah in the wake of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Since then, the group has become a unique political entity - an Islamist political party, a terrorist militia, and a state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah's 2006 battle with the Israel Defense Forces has surely boosted its prestige. Nasrallah studied Islam at a seminary in Najaf, Iraq, as a teenager and follows the brand of Shiite Islam developed by Iran's late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is a major power broker in Lebanese government. Though Nasrallah has stopped calling for an Islamic revolution and seems willing to work within the state, he has not moderated his stance on Israel, and still calls for the "Zionist entity" to be wiped off the face of the Earth.

Instead of the traditional Bronx Cheer, let's cleanse our pallets with Lennon's vision of a world at Peace...Imagine!