Archive for October, 2008

31
Oct
08

Get Those Wallets Out – by Mrs. Blue

I’ve noticed a really bad trend lately. Even before the recent economic meltdown, our economy had been going into some unhealthy directions, and clearly, people have felt it in their wallets and purses. I’ve read stories about how churches are having a hard time right now because collections are down (tithes, offerings, pledges, etc.) and have been for a while now. And the church that the hubby and I attend right now is having to consider laying off an associate pastor and possibly cutting back on office hours to conserve its funds.

I admit that the Deacon and I are a bit remiss in our tithing right now. I would love to be giving 10% of our income, but that’s just not feasible right now. But I do make sure to give something every time I go to church. What amazes me are how many people I see these days who don’t even bother to put a few bucks in. They just pass along the collection plate and don’t look back.

I know people, both personally and in my many online venues, who complain about how churches ask for money. They complain that they shouldn’t have to support the church and that it’s just moneygrubbing. They say that God will provide for the church even though they and everyone else around them aren’t giving anything to the coffers. And yet these are the same people that use church services and who advise people in need to go to the church for help.

Just how do they think a church pays for a pastor’s salary, much less all the services it provides? How do those mortgage payments (or rent) and utilities get paid?

Do they think that God just funnels money directly into the churches?

These same people often tell people who are wrestling with the tithe and offering issue that they should tithe their time instead of their money. Which is all well and good, and volunteering is nice, but it doesn’t help the church pay the bills.

It’s not as if a church gets its space and its utilities for free. It’s not as if it can have a pastor and not pay him or her (do you really want your pastor trying to juggle the flock and carry a full-time job outside the church too?). It’s not as if tax-exempt status puts money directly into the coffers.

At a time when people are leaning on churches more and asking them to do more for them, that is NOT a time for us to be pulling away our financial support. You may not be able to give as much as you once did, but give something. And take a look at your priorities. Are there things in your life that you are clinging to and paying for that you don’t really need?

Because churches need money to do their work, and it’s our responsibility to support them.

31
Oct
08

Acts of the Hummus Idol, Trick-or-Treat Edition

I will not apologize for helping to create the monstrous amalgamation of empty rhetoric, blind ambition, bitter scheming and fearmongering that is the McCain-Palin campaign. In fact, I am quite proud of having done my part to propel them into position to help divide your nation and fill many hearts with dread. But I do regret if it has interfered at all with your ability to find time to enjoy one of my greatest evil creations: Reality TV. When this is all said and done, please do remember to tune back into all those shows and let your brains return to complete mush.

Granted, I cannot take credit for McCain directly, because he did his major dealing with Satan, but I did play my part with Palin, at least until she turned on me. Just wait until you see what I have in mind in four years if Barack Obama manages to pull out a win anyway. I worked too hard to crush the American economy as a prelude to my destruction of the first world in preparation for my overthrow of all global powers. I will have victory! But alas, I am still somewhat restrained due to obligations I have here at this damned blog…

I, the great and powerful Hummus Idol, will now entertain your questions and grant unto you the wisdom that only a pile of very angry crushed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and other seasonings can offer. Don’t let the smiling face fool you. I am a fridge-cold killah. Bow down before me, speak your question, and incline your ears or any other convenient part of your anatomy as I spew my advice upon thee.

Q: I don’t get all the complaints about how people are shouting things like “Kill him” when Sarah Palin or John McCain mention Barack Obama at rallies. Or the cries that he’s a traitor or terrorist lover or anything else. This is a free country, isn’t it? Free speech, you know? – Clarence Fudgplunker, Diatribe, Pennsylvania

A: All riiiiiight. Hmmm. OK, let’s try this: You go to an Obama rally and when he talks about McCain or Palin, you start shouting, as loud as you can, “Kill ’em” or “McCain should die”. Let’s see how long it takes you to get rounded up by Secret Service and questioned vigorously, if not put in prison. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the fact we haven’t heard about any of these white folks who are shouting “Kill him”…which is a crime, by the way, no matter who you’re shouting about…getting rounded up shows just how much leeway is already being given to ignorant, perhaps dangerous individuals who have no respect for the democratic process.

Not that I have much respect for democracy, either, but then again, I seek to rule the entire world and enslave all of your souls. But you, theoretically, do respect the process, so start acting like it.

Q: Yeah, whatever. But not only do I happen to agree with Clarence’s question, but I also wonder why John McCain and Sarah Palin are getting slammed for what people are saying at their rallies. Do you really think they can hear all that? – Anne K. Frankenfurter, Bratwurst, Wisconsin

A: Shit, if we could hear it on TV, I bet they heard it too. They certainly seem to hear all the adulation heaped on them during these things. But hey, I’ll play your silly little game. Why don’t McCain…and especially Palin, who is really harping on the nonexistent terrorist-loving track with Obama…why don’t they vocally and immediately repudiate those comments at those rallies and point out how un-American that is? Oh, yeah, because it’s being said by people in the “real America” so that makes it all right.

I love how you humans can be so internally divisive. It is going to be a great help to me in conquering all of you.

Q: What’s so bad about only going to church on Easter and Christmas? Two times a year is better than nothing. – Pickens N. Choosin, San Diego

A: OK, that church is just down the street, right? A fairly quick drive, anyway, even if you don’t live right near it. You profess that God is your poppa, right? And Jesus is your Lord and brother and all that, right? So, let’s imagine your parents, or an aunt and uncle, or someone like that whom you supposedly love, lived a few blocks away from you…and yet, you only visited them two or three times a year for holidays?

Q: We’re having our Halloween party at work tonight, and my wife won’t be anywhere around, and I hear there will be some alcohol-spiked cider and I’ve really been picking up some signs from Maggie over in accounting that she’s got it for me. It won’t be that big a deal if I get her away to an office to kiss her a bit and, you know, maybe let my hands roam and, I don’t know, lock that office door and use one of the condoms I have in my desk drawer if you know what I mean? – Fred Arabalest, New York

A: Fred, I have untold mystical power and an intellect that makes Einstein and Hawking look like pre-K students…I think I can figure out what you mean. But as to whether it’s OK? Sure, what the hell; go for it. You’ll be dressed up in a costume, right? It’s not really you, right? It’s just one night. It’s not like you’ve already premeditated it or anything, right? Or keep condoms around just in case, right? So it’s not like you’re really having an affair. Even though that’s what you really want to do. And are planning to do. And will do.

I’m sure your wife will understand. And if you don’t think she will, just talk to me about a little magical interevention. I’ll just take a little piece of your soul this time. A little sample. And I’ll be around if you need some more help. Don’t you worry, Fred. I’ve got your back on this. I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am male through and through. We guys gotta stick together, right?

(Image by Stewart Butterfield, who is not affiliated with this blog and who doesn’t even know I or my opinions exist, and used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License)

(Hummus Idol does not speak as a representative or agent of Deacon Blue or anyone else associated with this blog. In fact, Hummus Idol doesn’t exist. He is wholly and completely a manufactured character that acts as an angry facade behind which Deacon Blue can hide for petty entertainment purposes and for times when he needs to be extra crusty and get shit off his chest. That said, you can feel free to shower the Hummus Idol with offerings of jewelry, money or fine art…he will make sure it goes someplace where it is needed.) View complete list of Humus Idol entries here.

30
Oct
08

Lying Through Our Teeth

While this post is inspired by some of the shenanigans going on as the presidential campaign winds to a close, it isn’t really about politics or politicians. But it is about lying, and for some of you, politics and lying may actually be synonymous.

But I digress.

When I lie—and really, I’d much prefer not to, as it just feels wrong even if it wasn’t a 10 Commandments kind of sin—I try to do my best to rein it in. To make sure no one gets the shaft. Yes, I might lie to protect myself or someone I care about from a bad situation or an uncomfortable moment, but when I do so, I try to do just enough lying to protect, while not doing so much that the person I am lying to will be harmed, disadvantaged or betrayed in any significant way.

That doesn’t make my lying any more forgiveable, but I think it at least makes the practice more humane.

And yet, politicians, business leaders, shallow lovers, fair-weather friends and lots of other folks seem to lie with abandon, as if there are no consequences. We see it not only on the campaign trail as a politician smears another with lies (Liddy Dole calling her Christian opponent ‘godless’ leaps to mind) but from business leaders who lie about their company’s bottom line or environmental practices or whatever else.

People in important positions frequently lie, and the lies they tell are the kind that can ruin careers, destroy families, tank an entire national economy, and maybe worse than that.

And yet, where is the outrage? We let them tell us lies, and we don’t hold them accountable really. How many lying CEOs or company presidents go to prison for committing crimes that do far more damage than some penny-ante shiplifting or selling of weed or even gross assault sometimes.

Have we reached a point in this nation where we just don’t care anymore?

Are we so beyond being shocked that we just accept this now?

And if so, does that mean that telling the truth is the new sin of secular life?

29
Oct
08

Devil in the Details

So, I wasn’t really going to go political today…and, in a sense, I’m still not going all-out political, but rather a 30/70 political-religious rant.

It’s all the fault of Chez over at Deus Ex Malcontent, by the way, and one of his his Tuesday posts with a quote by former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson. And this is what Jackson said on her blog:

“I don’t want a political label, but Obama bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ and I’m scared to death that un-educated people will ignorantly vote him into office.”

First, I didn’t want to be reminded of what a ditsy whack-job Jackson has become. I had first learned about her blog a few months ago when she was spouting off some religious lunacy related to the election season, and it just twists my gut. For one thing, we don’t need crazy folks making the rest of us Christians look bad by association. People already think those of us who believe that the Book of Revelation will come to pass someday are crazy, but then when folks like Jackson and Sarah Palin start spouting off about the end times certainly-definitely-uh huh yeah coming in their lifetimes, it just reflects poorly. People assume that belief in the Book of Revelation automatically means you’re expecting the Antichrist to pop out of the bushes and that you’re just hoping for the Rapture to come right now.

Frankly, I want the Rapture to come as slowly as possible because there are a lot of people out there who haven’t come to Christ, and the last thing I want is the world coming to a close any time soon. Aside from the fact I do want to see the end of important TV series like Battlestar Galactica and Lost, and the end of the world might fuck with that.

I just want to go on record with my fellow Christians who might be confused on some important points:

  • The Book of Revelation does not really give a description of the Antichrist.
  • In fact, the name/word antichrist doesn’t even appear in that book but in John’s other writings.
  • For the most part, antichrist is a generic term for people who are directly counter to Jesus.
  • The guy who screws things up in Revelation is referred to as The Beast. He’s the big kahuna of all antichrists, so I suppose you could give him a capital-A version of the antichrist name if you really want.

There is a nice overview of the who False Prophet/Beast thing here. It’s not the most complete I’ve seen, but at least it is honest enough to note that we just don’t know the specifics of who, what or when with the Antichrist/Beast. We just don’t. Apparently, it will be abundantly clear, though, when he arrives, at least to those who are born again.

Well, I’m born again, and it hardly seems like a slam-dunk that Barack Obama is going to be the Antichrist, even though in addition to Victoria Jackson, I’ve seen other bloggers claim this and viral e-mails that claim this. For one thing, Obama professes to be a Christian. That means he professes Jesus as the risen Lord. That already make things muddy and confusing. Because the Antichrist/Beast will preach against any kind of worship but worship of himself and a rejection of Jesus and other faiths.

Obama doesn’t reject Jesus.

I don’t care how much you might think the Antichrist will be the ultimate liar, that guy simply won’t be able to get those kinds of words out of his mouth. To lift up Jesus at all or profess that Christianity is a course to salvation would be entirely anathema to any agenda of a servant of Satan ushering in the end times.

End of story.

Please, if you are a religious wacko who insists on painting Barack Obama as the Antichrist, don’t spout your bullshit in my presence. Because I will slap you until some sense returns to your brain.

(There a nice piece dissecting the ridiculousnness of Obama-as-Antichrist here, by the way, too.)

28
Oct
08

Cleansed by Fire, Part 23

For the previous installment of this story, click here

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 5, Blood and Tears (continued)

The captain of Scion’s Dream was doing his level best to look pleasant this morning, just as if the daywatch was going to run smooth as wispsilk—even though that he knew from an informed source that it wasn’t. Showing a scowl now might make his later performances ring false. No sooner had that thought run through his mind than his executive officer approached with a slight frown line between his eyes.

“Sir, we’re picking up a vessel on long-range scans. Looks to be coming from Mars. Some sort of podship moving at high velocity. Has to be unmanned to be moving that fast.”

“Why the concern?” Bartelle D’Onofrio asked his second-in-command.

“The podship is not only moving far faster than most express courier vessels would, but its design is a semi-stealth one. Frankly, it’s a miracle we caught it on scanners. The AI actually brought it to the scancomm team’s attention while she was doing some astrographical pattern scan updates for her nav systems,” Commander Frankes responded. Then he saw the irritated frown on his captain’s face and as Bartelle opened his mouth, the commander sped up his report. “It’s trajectory is straight for a position off the coast of Nova York, sir. No express or emergency courier vessels are expected in the Catholic Union on that course from Mars right now.”

“Can we intercept it?” Bartelle asked.

“As long as we launch within the next 15 minutes, an unmanned interceptor could get in position with an interdictor field and tractor beams and have the podship pulled out of distortion mode—and probably with zero damage—long before it reaches Earth.”

“You’re dead certain this is an unauthorized vessel looking to enter Catholic Union space?”

“AI confirms it, sir. She’s contacted all military and Vatican central systems and no one…I mean no one…is expecting this.”

“Well, if it ends up being something corporate and we twist off an executive, you’d better have all the evidence I need to show that he failed to register a courier run with Vatican Traffic Control,” Bartelle said.

“A package will be on your desk long before we snare the podship, sir.”

“Get it done, Frankes.”

Bartelle kept the scowl on his face for a few minutes longer, even though he was smiling inside. Once again, we’re right on schedule, Nazarene. The only thing that would make me feel better is knowing precisely what it is that you’re setting up Mars to take the blame for.

***

Maree Deschaine was running for her life—well, perhaps just for her freedom, but the two seemed rather synonymous right now. She was certainly glad it was winter. Because if she had been running a couple months earlier here, in what would have been the drenching mid-autumn heat of Texas Province, wearing a bounty coat, she’d be ready to collapse. She was hot enough as it was, but since a bounty coat was essentially a tricked-up trencher favored by bond hunters and contract investigators—and unlike a longcoat was only able to seal from throat to crotch—at least the bottom part of the coat was letting in some cool air. Part of her wanted to open up the torso portion for some extra ventilation, but she didn’t dare.

Seeing the tac-tanks converge on her father’s boat (no damn you he’s nothing to you now just a discarded man named Tobin Deschaine) had filled her with dread. With a templar strike team like that, they were either after Tobin alone to find out where she was, or they already suspected she had met with him and they were hunting for them both. Either way, that meant that every biometric array in the city would be on and monitored by a bloodhound AI. Normally, those arrays weren’t used, since security pylons did a superb job of keeping track of citizens through their IDentipods with a lot less data chaos. Also, constant monitoring of an entire biometric array network quite literally could bore an AI to death. But with that strike team, they clearly wanted Tobin and Maree, and that meant they would be looking for facial recognition of both of them throughout the city.

Sadly, since Maree had wanted Tobin to know exactly whom he was dealing with from the start when he came up from below-deck, her disguise was still in the daysack she had hidden near her escape transportation. And that was still a few kilometers away. If she passed by a biometric array without some kind of disguise to at least slow up her identification—or God forbid if her face was identified by an AI while she was near a security pylon, thus letting the Vatican know whose IDentipod she was now using—she was dry-humped for certain.

As she exited yet another alley and ended up in an open street, Maree realized that the luck that she had experienced in tracking Tobin down so quickly was not with her in the mad dash to get back to her daysack.

Several meters away, she saw a templar watch-truck. She knew there would be several of them somewhere relatively close to shore to monitor the strike team on Alamo Gulf, but she had hoped to avoid encountering one. Two things registered very clearly in her mind at that moment.

First, she could not allow any of the monitoring equipment on the bed of that watch-truck to be trained on her.

Second, a watchteam would have two comm-log technicians and one templar field officer. The chances that all of them would fail to notice a woman running out of an alleyway at breakneck speed—much less that they wouldn’t recognize a former admin officer who had just betrayed the templars—was about nil.

If they had been local constabulary, I might have been OK. No local police force is going to uniformly memorize a face even as important as mine, since they resented the Office Templar in many cases anyway. But every templar in the Catholic Union will have been ordered very strenuously to keep my face clearly in their memory.

Maree didn’t hesitate. As she shifted herself to run toward the watch-truck, she slipped her left hand inside the sleeve of the bounty coat—which was tricked-up even more than most thanks to its law-breaking former owner—shoving a finger into the trigger tube hidden inside and feeling the cool, oily blast of numerous high-speed microsprays from the neck of the coat, forcing dozens of nanospheres into her blood vessels. She didn’t want to use a dose of overhype, especially since there were only six of them in the coat, but she needed all the enhanced sensory and reflex responses, as well as strength, that she could muster right now. At the same time, she drew her slug pistol—a nice three-magazine job that the former owner of the bounty coat had unwillingly bequeathed to her—and thumbed it to the magazine holding the explosive rounds.

As the overhype kicked in, she quickly took inventory of the watch-truck’s crew. Both comm-log techs were outside the vehicle. One was busy monitoring the equipment. The other was looking right at her. Being templar techs and not field officers, neither had a sidearm, but both had holstered stunrods and skeinvests. In the cab of the vehicle sat the field officer, who also was looking right at her. He would be fully armed, lightly armored and combat-trained.

Unfortunately for him, he was also seated in a cramped space and as good as dead, though he did his best to reach for his sidearm and the door nonetheless.

Maree fired one round through the windshield of the truck, and it exploded just as it pierced the transplast. Given the amount of blood and bone that splattered across the remains of the windshield, it was safe to assume that the field officer was now meeting with the Heavenly Host.

She briefly considered firing on the two techs, but she was almost on top of them already and there was no telling how easily she’d be able to find more high-grade ammunition for her guns while she was dodging both the Vatican and Secular Genesis. She holstered the pistol and pounced on the tech manning the equipment, snapping her neck. Maree’s momentum carried her into a bank of equipment and that knocked the wind out of her, but only for a moment, as she was fully in the throes of the overhype now. She disentangled herself from her second templar corpse and jumped off the bed of the watch-truck to face the third and final templar.

This tech had obviously taken basic combat training more seriously than most of his peers, and must have kept up with ongoing training as well. He was ready for her, with his stunrod in hand and poised in a very effective fighting stance. The one thing he had neglected to do while caught up in the notion of an impending battle, Maree noted with some satisfaction, was to open up a channel from his linkpad to his field marshal to report that he was under attack.

Normally, Maree might not have worried about a tech, even a combat-trained one, because techs simply didn’t get much chance to use fighting skills. But then again, normally Maree would have been wearing at least light templar armor in the field instead of a mere bounty coat, and that made the stunrod-wielding tech a far greater-than-normal threat. Still, he wasn’t likely to realize her coat was anything more than a simple trencher anyway.

Maree feinted, sidestepped and let the tech swing to gauge his talent. His moves weren’t bad, which meant she had to finish this quickly. As Maree gathered herself, the tech lunged forward for another strike, aiming the stunrod square for her abdomen. She stepped into the strike and dipped her torso slightly to catch the tip of the stunrod square in the chest. Theoretically, the ceramatin plates of a bounty coat—sandwiched between polymesh, which was further sandwiched between two very stylish-looking layers of black simhide—were enough to keep the stunrod from knocking her out.

In reality, while they did indeed do just that, it still stung like hell. Not that even that pain was going to slow someone on overhype, particularly someone with hours of field combat under her belt.

Maree’s right hand disappeared into her bounty coat’s other sleeve and came out with a buzzrake firmly attached to her fist and wrist. She knocked the tech back with an open-palm left-hand thrust to his chest, then lunged with the buzzrake in her right hand. The vibroteeth array tore into the stunrod, which is exactly what Maree wanted, and sheared the weapon in half. By the time the tech realized he was no longer armed, Maree had backhanded him across the face and gotten a good grip on the back of his vest with her left hand. She shoved him to the ground, face-first into the pavement, and drove the buzzrake into the back of his neck with a quick jab that neatly severed his spinal cord from his skull.

Without another thought, she spun and began to run again, into the next alleyway.

Now all she had to do was get back to her daysack, put her disguise back on and get out of the city of Houston and, ideally, the entire Houston Parish, too. And all this before the overhype wore off in three or four hours, at which point she would begin a gradual but inevitable descent into an eight- to twelve-hour-long coma.

Just another fine morning in the brand-new life of Maree Deschaine.

***

It hadn’t been entirely unexpected that he would be scolded by the Panel of Shepherds in addition to being scolded by Amaranth, though he had hoped they might at least wait a few days. One hour into his morning meeting with the men and women who served as his advisors and as a balance against papal authority in the UFC, he was starting to look forward to death by sudden stroke.

“Peteris, we need to turn Domina xec-Academie over to the Vatican and wash our hands of her before the Popes and the Godhead declare open warfare with us,” asserted Shepherdi Leonid Brahga. “You should never have taken her in without our approval.”

Gregory leveled his gaze squarely on the man who was at least half the time a major thorn in the Peteris’ ass. Some of the other shepherds had questioned his reasons for granting Domina asylum, but so far, only Leonid had been quite so bold as to attack the decision outright.

“Approval?” Gregory said. “A decision on whether to grant sanctuary on behalf of the UFC is a papal decision. Myself or Amaranth. That is one of several items that have always been, and I presume always shall be, the purview of the Peteris or the Paulis. Or both.”

“It may be your right, but we demand that you rescind that asylum now, for all our sakes,” Leonid stated. A couple shepherds nodded in agreement but Gregory noted that most were stonefaced or assiduously avoiding either Leonid’s gaze or his own.

“We, Leonid? You may be the most vocal member of this council, but you aren’t the chair of it,” Gregory pointed out. “Rebekha, does Leonid speak for you now? Did you hand over your seat while I’ve been sparring with the Red Pope’s former steward and trying to dodge her brazen sexual advances?”

Shepherdi Rebekha Graciela chuckled and leaned back in her seat. “No, he doesn’t. But I’ve chaired this panel long enough to know that once Leonid is fired up, it’s best to let you and him pummel each other for a while before I step in. Oh, and I’m sure Domina xec-Academie’s sexual advances have been a terrible burden to you, Peteris,” she added with a wink.

Her tone turned more serious, though, as she leaned forward again and continued. “But while I may not have quite Leonid’s level of indignation, we’re all concerned about harboring someone who probably killed the Red Pope.”

“Amen to that,” Leonid said. “Peteris, I know the Paulis is against this asylum…”

“Based on what, Leonid?” Gregory countered, cutting him off. “She only just got back last night. What did you get? A few moments with her in a hallway where she wondered out loud why her husband gave an entire floor of a candlestand to one of the most notorious and twittered-about chief stewards in recent Vatican history? Amaranth is in the ‘concerned’ camp like Rebekha. That’s all. Oh, and Rebekha, of all the many things I might accuse Domina xec-Academie of right now, possibly the only one I wouldn’t would be killing Pope Tommis.”

“We cannot harbor this woman. It’s too risky,” Leonid said. “And I won’t stand for it.”

“Fine, Leonid, don’t stand for it. Would you like me to leave the room now while you call for a vote?” Gregory asked, with a note of condescension in his tone. “Do you think you can get a majority of the shepherds here right now to move on a no-confidence vote that you can take to the entire Council of Elders? And do you think you’ll get a two-thirds majority of the shepherds, pastors and chief deacons there to override my decision to grant asylum?”

Leonid glowered, but didn’t answer.

“Look, all of you,” Gregory said. “Brethren. The sudden death of the Red Pope and Domina running here to Mars to us was going to give the Vatican every reason to point a finger at us regardless. Had I turned Domina away, they simply would have accused me of ordering the murder and then abandoning my puppet. The Vatican has always looked for excuses to initiate hostilities against us, and this was going to end up being one of those excuses regardless. Having Domina in our hands at least gives us a chance of convincing her to give us what we need to discredit the Vatican when they do start getting ornery with us.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you, Peteris, on a personal basis,” Rebekha responded. “But when the Vatican gets ‘ornery’ with us, people often start to get killed or rounded up. Our people. Our clerics. We can’t just bend over for the Vatican, but we can’t afford to spit in their faces, either.”

“I agree, with you, Rebekha,” Gregory said. “So take the riot guns off of you and everyone else and put a sniper sight on me. Issue a report that the Panel of Shepherds has ‘grave reservations’ about my decision to grant asylum and invite the Vatican to negotiate with all of you on the appointment of a neutral investigator to question Domina. The Popes are neck-deep in carrying out a Grand Requiem and ringing in the new millennium as if it were theirs alone. It will take them days to get started on the process.”

“And even if they manage to get their heads out of their nether regions long enough to do it quickly, I will conveniently be a jag-ass about giving them access to my guest, while all of you continue to publicly wring your hands over my domineering nature,” he continued with an amused snort. “By the time this is all said and done, we will have had at least a couple weeks to keep picking at Domina for information and if I don’t have something from her by then, especially now that my wife is back in-planet, it’s a lost cause. At that point, we can revisit the idea of tossing Domina out on her hindquarters.”

Rebekha looked around the table for confirmation, and got mostly nods. “Agreed, Peteris. We will forthwith redirect all the attorneys, justicars, mediators, reporters and irritated diplomats to you. I hope you’re wearing body armor these days, because some of them may end up being assassins.”

Gregory smiled thinly. “If any of them are, I’m sure Leonid will be the first to weep over my corpse.”

(To read the next installment of this story, click here.)

28
Oct
08

Digging for Manure

Just some random venting for the moment; maybe something else later today that is more spiritual or more entertaining.

There are a couple Christian blogs I frequent that are, let’s say, a bit more conservative than mine. I like them fine, because often on doctrinal matters we agree on most points. But in this political season, I’ve had to limit my visits to those sites because I’m tired of the repeated claims that Sarah Palin (and somehow John McCain, too) are getting savaged by a “liberal media” and “left-wing bloggers” and that Barack Obama is some golden boy who’s getting nothing but love and who “hasn’t been vetted as much as Palin.” I don’t want to let my anger color my attitude toward these bloggers.

Sometimes, people’s ability to go into deep denial and manufacture fantasy scenarios amazes me.

Obama has been campaigning for a couple years now. He’s had Rezko thrown in his face repeatedly (and that’s coming up again) even though he answered that issue quite thoroughly. He had to endure having out-of-context soundbites of sermons by his then-pastor played over and over and used to support idiotic arguments by people who either never bothered to watch the sermons in their entirety or ignored the real message because informing the public about the real message would have messed up their lies.

Obama has had people digging into records to try to prove he wasn’t really born in America (though his mother was a U.S. citizen so that wouldn’t matter anyway) and to try to prove he went to radical Islamic schools and to even question whether he’s really Christian.

He’s had to deal with people trying to make like he’s good buddies with former domestic terrorist (who long ago served his time and is an upstanding citizen these days) Bill Ayers, while completely ignoring that plenty of conservative Republicans have served with this very same man on the same board Obama did.

People have tried to claim Obama has no experience, even though he is a constitutional law scholar, former community organizer in the third-largest city in the country, a former state legislator and a current U.S. senator.

People have dug around trying to find a mythological video of Michelle Obama using the word “whitey.”

And the list goes on, I’m sure, but I’m exhausted to think about it anymore.

And yet, poke around about whether Sarah Palin had any real major duties as mayor of little Wasilla, point to her own pregnant teen girl as possibly evidence that her abstinence-only stance is flawed or that her family values maybe aren’t so tight, or mention that she’s only been a governor for two years and in a state with less than a million people, and she’s being treated unfairly. Catch her flip-flopping on issues like the “Bridge to Nowhere” and people are being mean. Discover that her husband once had a DUI, and that’s getting personal. Mention that she has associations with scary pastors and churches, and that’s out of bounds. Point out that her husband and she have recent direct ties to an Alaskan secessionist group, and that doesn’t matter.

I know of at least one Christian blogger who believes that all the negative stuff about Obama is something that has to be “dug up” with lots of research because the media won’t cover it, while Palin is being gleefully destroyed.

Forgetting that actually, all the crap and lies about Obama have been circulated quite widely, and often by mainstream media. A lot of the stuff being dug up on Palin isn’t lies but truth…and the stuff that might be questionable (like whether she should be held accountable for what her pastors say) is either equal to what Obama has had to deal with, or gets dropped from media coverage far more quickly than any of the Obama stories did.

Forget also that Obama actually knows the issues and Palin can only spit out soundbites. Ignore the fact that while people try to smear Obama’s wife, Cindy McCain has never really been hounded about how she avoided jail for stealing drugs though her position with a non-profit to feed her habit, or the fact she keeps passing off other people’s copyrighted recipes as her own family fare.

No, let’s continue with the myth that Obama has been getting an easy ride and ignore the fact that it is actually McCain, through most of his campaign up until recently, who has been handled with hero worship and kid gloves my a mainstream media that has loved him for years.

Because why deal with reality when we can wrap ourselves in comfortable lies?

I know that Obama isn’t a saint. I think he’s a pretty upstanding guy and I respect that he has a pretty together-looking family life. I like that he succeeded on hard work and talent and not handouts and legacies. I like most of what he stands for. But I know he’s a politician and someone with his own ego and agendas, like any politician. But it’s amazing to me that everyone has to dig so hard to find even rumors and innuendo about this man, and often come up with flat-out made-up stories instead, while it is so easy to find ugly truths with the members of the Republican ticket, and yet somehow Obama is the one who hasn’t been vetted enough.

It’s madness. Look, if you don’t want to vote for him because he’s black, or pro-choice or whatever, just admit it already, damn it. Stop trying to make a fictional case for some vast media conspiracy to tar and feather McCain-Palin and give Obama-Biden a ride.

This is the Internet age. This is the era of blogging. Shit is dug up and disseminated in an instant. There is no privacy.

And the fact is, most of what’s getting dug up on Obama for two years now is easily proven false or misleading. Yet what is coming out now, only in the past few months or weeks, on McCain and Palin that is scary is actually, in most cases, true. Obama may have skeletons in his closet, but if so, he hides them better than any other politician running for president ever has. And if he’s that good, maybe we really do need him in charge. But chances are that he just ain’t that dirty.

Sorry, conservative conspiracy theorists. In this case, at least, you’re the ones with the loony notions. Get back to reality please.

27
Oct
08

Name Game

Hawa shamlessly stole this idea from another blogger because she didn’t have any other inspiration for the day herself on October 24.

Now I’m going to even more shamelessly steal it myself out of sheer laziness. 😉 It’s of those kind of days…still catching up on work and not enough time to do deep-thinking kind of things. I do have another installment of Cleansed By Fire ready, but to avoid overloading people (especially those who don’t follow it), I’ll keep that one in my pocket until tomorrow or Wednesday.

1. Your rock star name (first pet, current car): Jerry Sentra

2. Your gangsta name (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Cookie Dough Loafer
Second choice would have been Neopolitan Sneaker. Which also doesn’t sound very gangster.

3. Your Native American name (favorite color, favorite animal): Khaki Wolf

4. Your soap opera name (your middle name, city where you were born): Douglas Fridley

5. Your Star Wars name (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of your first name): Bouje

6. Superhero name (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Blue Ale
Favorite drink? I don’t see how that could make ANY decent superhero name. Yellow Milk? Red Tequila? Green Pepsi? I suggest, instead, that instead of “favorite drink” it be “the first kind of weather, natural disaster or ecological feature that springs to mind.” In which case I would be Blue Earthquake.

7. NASCAR name (the first names of your grandfathers): Joseph Alphonse

8. Dancer name (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Patchouli Reeses
I’m not sure this works for guys, you know…I suppose this could be the name of the stripper that I will max out my credit card for to keep getting lap dances.

9. TV weather anchor name (your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Banchero Boston

10. Spy name (your favorite season or holiday, favorite flower): Autumn Orchid
Works great if you’re a woman, but I can’t see this ever generating a masculine name. So for us men, this category should generate the name of our lover if we were a spy. For men, I suggest the following for a male spy name…First name of an actor you really like, then the name of the first nation that comes to mind. In which case I am Harrison France, I guess.

11. Cartoon name (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Raspberry Boxers
Does this mean I have to start dating Strawberry Shortcake?

12. Hippie name (what you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree): Raisin Bran Oak
Of course, it won’t sound very hippie if you ate any kind of meat for breakfast and choose that…Bacon Yew, anyone? Sausage Maple? Ham Willow? Steak and Eggs Pine?

13. Movie star name (first pet, first street where you lived): Jerry Essex
Couldn’t tell you what street I first lived on. Essex is the first one I remember, though.

Feel free to join in on the comments with your own names, folks…

26
Oct
08

It’s a Pink-er World Now

If anyone is wondering why Miz Pink failed to show up for her regular Saturday posting and you got a brand new installment of Cleansed By Fire instead, that would be because she finally jettisoned Mini Pink Model 3, much to the relief of all the internal organs the child was pushing out of their normal spots.

I have it on good authority that they ended up with a girl, which shifts the hormonal balance of power in the household back to the ladies. Sorry, Sir Pink. Your house is about to get a lot more pink and frilly probably. Mommy and child are doing great. I think we can safely say that there will be no Two-fer Tuesday this week, as I’m sure Miz Pink would prefer to rest and bond and all that good stuff.

No, I don’t know how much the little bugger weighed or how long she is. I’m a guy. We don’t ask these things, and we actually don’t care unless it’s our own kid we’re talking about.

Congrats, Miz Pink. You sure you and Sir Pink don’t want to do this once more? Twice? Three times? Don’t let the Duggars hog all the glory…

25
Oct
08

Cleansed by Fire, Part 22

For the previous installment of this story, click here

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 5, Blood and Tears

Tobin Deschaine had taken to sailing almost nonstop in the years after he retired from his templar duties, all the better to avoid having to run into or deal with anyone from his past in law enforcement—not that he had spent much time fraternizing with childhood friends or associates in the Secular Genesis movement, either, except for a select few he met with a couple times a year.

He had often thought about simply heading out to sea for Europa or Oceana, but the chances of being caught trying to flee the Catholic Union were always too high. He had avoided exposure all those years as a templar field officer and then a quiet retiree to put Maree into position in the templars, and leaving the Union would have drawn attention to her immediately.

Not that it mattered much now. He wasn’t of any particular use to Secular Genesis himself anymore, and now his daughter was on the run. Ever since he had received a message yesterday about the events in Astoria, he had fully expected to come up from below-decks and see some armed someone waiting for him, either from the rebel movement or the templars.

What surprised him this morning wasn’t that his expectation had come true but that it was Maree standing there with the gun. But Tobin hardly missed a beat. “Tell me, Maree, was it Michelle or Cowen you worked over to find out where I’ve been sailing?”

“Both,” she said simply.

“Might I ask if you let them live?”

Maree ignored that question. “Dad, I need you to point me in the most promising direction to find Stavin.”

“Why? They won’t take you back. You’re too toxic now. Why did you do it, Maree?”

“Secular Genesis was just using me—and passively at that. Throwing away all the hard work you and Grandfather laid out to get me where I was. And they don’t even stand for what they used to. I was serving a petty, vindictive bunch of children. But I guess I shouldn’t expect you to take my side over The Cause.”

“No, Maree. Not that. The murders of your cousins and their kids.”

“I did what I had to and I tried to keep them away from it. And incidentally, I don’t want to know where Stavin is so I can beg my way back in like you think…”

“…Burning them like that…”

Maree paused, realizing they were having two different conversations.

“What? What do you mean? You think…” she sputtered.

“Burning them like Salem witches. You should have joined the Office Inquisitorial instead of the templars. What did they know? What did they see that made you do that to them?”

“Stavin fucking burned them! Not me. It’s my fault they’re dead, but precious Stavin put them to the torch, Father.” She had fully expected that the Office Templar and the media might jump to a conclusion that she had killed family to cover something up, but her own father?

“You expect me to…”

“Stavin, Daddy. Stavin! I broke ranks and challenged him. He told me he’d burn them if I didn’t sit pretty in the tower and play like a templar Rapunzel. I didn’t do what he said and it wasn’t enough to hunt me down. He damn well kept his word and burned them. He would have burned all of them if I hadn’t arranged for them to be rounded up for questioning.”

“That’s…How…Why…” Tobin seemed to be deflating before his daughter’s eyes as he tried to reconcile the conflicting roles in his life; she hated him for it because it was something Grandfather never would have done. His anger at her had turned into confusion instead of an epiphany. But most horrifying to Maree was when she saw a calm acceptance rise to the surface, watched him straighten up and square his shoulders again, and heard him say: “It’s horrible. But not so unexpected. You backed him into a corner. He can’t make a threat like that and then back down. The cause first, Maree! The price is too high. A few lives are nothing. Not even kin. But still, those are lives that are on your head.”

The five blackened corpses inside Maree’s head seemed to be on board for that final accusation, but not much else that her father had said. The blood vessels in her scalp were thrumming like quad-drums. Grandfather knew how to separate his personal life from his life in Secular Genesis; my father gave up one for the other.

“Tell me, Dad, when exactly did you stop being Grandfather’s son and start being a tripslut for the movement?” Maree spat. “He always told us there would be innocent deaths. He never gave us noble fairy tales. He made sure we understood we would do horrible things for a larger purpose. But do you think Grandfather or any of those fellow founding conspirators he called friends would have threatened the family of a member of the movement, much less actually kill those people simply out of spite? Would he have turned the terror against his own?”

“Times have changed. The stakes are…”

“The stakes have been the same for the past 300 years or more. The same. Secular Genesis is just the latest in a long line of rebellions. Maybe it’s finally the one that will succeed. Trouble is, the people in charge of it now just want to put a new tyranny in place. A secular one. Because we all know that secular evil is so much better than evil in the name of God.”

“Maree, don’t ask me to…”

“I’m not asking you to do anything, Tobin Deschaine,” Maree said icily, “except to give me a lead on Stavin as one last show of respect to your dead parents, especially your father; your dead wife; and me, the woman who used to be your only daughter.” She disengaged the safety on her weapon. “A few collateral casualties are always to be expected, Tobin. You won’t be the first or the last. And Secular Genesis will go on just fine without Stavin. You can console yourself with that. I won’t demand any more of you than how to find him.”

***

More than an hour later, three people watched from the shore of Outer Houston, in three entirely different places—each with very personal emotional investments—as three tac-tanks bearing the insignia of the UPA’s Office Templar dropped from the sky and set themselves down in hover mode, lightly churning the otherwise calm early-morning waters of Alamo Gulf, as they surrounded Tobin Deschaine’s modest yacht. Moments later, several lightly armored templars boarded the ship.

The owner of one of those intrested sets of eyes on shore remained unsmiling, but very satisfied at the spectacle. Cautiously hopeful.

The owners of the other two sets of eyes, for different reasons—but at almost exactly the same moment—simply said, “Shit” and began to run.

***

As Peteris of the UFC, Gregory Dyson was accustomed to waking up at his own pace in the morning—except when Amaranth was in-planet. This morning was no different in that regard, albeit with some extra-hard jamming of fingers into his ribcage.

“Amaranth, I am certain the wakechime I set isn’t to go off for at least 10 more minutes,” he mumbled as he adopted a fetal position and attempted to put as many pillows as possible between him and his tormentor.

Not that it made any difference. She was poking him even harder through the pillows.

“Actually, it won’t go off for another 30 minutes, Greg, but get your flat ass out of bed now anyway. I’m off soon to the medtechs to get my old self back. I know I won’t be able to get everything I need from you in terms of debriefing until later today but give me the high points now.”

Gregory groaned and heaved the two largest and densest pillows at his wife’s head. After rubbing a bit of sleep from his eyes, he yawned and looked at her with only half-feigned distaste. “It’s not fair that you know martial arts and I don’t. Because I ought to give you a good thrashing for denying me 30 minutes of sleep.”

“Out with it, Greg. I have to leave in a few minutes.”

“Well, for a start, Isis is pregnant. With a boy. Though she hasn’t told Mahbi yet that it is, since he wants to be surprised at what parts his first child will have.”

Amaranth’s face broke out in a huge smile and a couple small tears welled up in the corners of her topaz eyes. “Our first grandson. Oh, his cousins will be waiting to put their old dresses on him right away, I know it! Have you arranged for all our children to get together here for a little celebration?”

“Yes. Tentatively anyway. I reached Darlah, Rubi and Glenn all by late yesterday. I’ve left notes on a flexsheet on your desk.”

“And Gavin?”

Gregory was silent.

“Greg. Gavin is our son. Our eldest child. I assume you at least told him. I don’t expect you to invite him.”

“Gavin is our son,” Gregory repeated. “Yes. That’s true. But he isn’t family. He chose his family when he took vows to the Vatican Red. He can find out from someone else. You. One of our girls. Glenn. I don’t care. But it won’t be me.”

“Greg…”

“Amaranth. I’m going to be a grandfather again. You’re back home alive and in one piece, even if you are temporarily discolored and sporting a hideous nose. Please. Don’t ruin my mood.”

The Paulis of the UFC nodded her head slightly and put her hands palm-out in a gesture of surrender. Then she frowned. “Gregory, as wonderful as that news is, I can’t help but notice you deflected my original aim. You know what I was asking about when I woke you up. The lethal tart you’ve given such generous accomodations to.”

Rolling his eyes, Gregory responded, “Generosity was hardly my aim. Domina came to trade information to me for asylum. She confirmed that Pope Tommis didn’t die naturally. She insists she had nothing to do with killing him—which, incidentally, I think might be the truth. She told me that Tommis hadn’t had his cognos uploaded to the Godhead the last two scheduled times and left me with the distinct impression that he had to die before the public upload scheduled for the Fourth Millennial Celebration. Which makes one or both of the other popes the prime suspects in my mind.”

“She tell you anything else?”

“Not really, no.”

“And that’s worth giving her an entire floor of Candlestand 33?”

“Amaranth. I got what information I did by granting her asylum. But she’s holding something back. A lot of something. I’m sure of it. By being here, she already makes it look like we had something to do with the Red Pope’s death. I need her to give up the rest of what she knows.”

“And letting her have an entire floor of a candlestand is your way of applying pressure? Coercion via coddling? If you were an inquisitor of the Black they’d drum you out of the order.”

Gregory let out a short growl. “Ammie. She’s a political and religious refugee. I’ve taken her in. Promised her asylum. Yet I am summarily denying her freedom of movement on Mars. If I give her anything less than the entire floor of a candlestand, it will look like I am keeping her prisoner instead of keeping her safe. Do you really want MarsGov to start wondering if they should reconsider our charter?”

Amaranth closed her eyes and sighed. “Point taken. But this bitch has been indirectly or directly responsible for a lot of the shit I’ve stepped in for the past six years when I go out on the wander. If I find out she gave you any sugar to get those accommodations, you’re going to be celibate for a long while. So, when do I get to see the vids?”

“Vids?” Gregory’s face was awash in confusion.

“Security vids. Footage of what she’s been up to. Covert crap.”

“Amaranth, I don’t have any vids on her except what monitors the common halls and every potential way off the floor.”

The look in Amaranth’s eyes precluded the need to swear or even say “What?” Her displeasure was clear.

“What kind of man do you think I am? I’m going to put spy-eyes or spyflies in her refresher? Her bedroom? Or anywhere else? Just what do you think I’m into?” He winked.

His attempt to lighten the mood worked, but not as well as he had hoped. “I know precisely what deviant tastes you have in your vid viewing—and what you like to record of our activities, Gregory,” she said with some good humor, but then the razor edge returned to her voice suddenly, “but what leave did you take of your senses to leave her unmonitored?”

“The entire floor is monitored. And guarded. Just not her movements in her private areas. I’m interested in her staying put, not recording her life. And frankly, if I did, I suspect any vids of you would have some serious competition.”

“Don’t try to get me in pleasant humor again, Gregory. This is deadly serious. That woman is as lethal as a wyvern, no matter what she looks like or how much she tries to lure you out of your trousers. You’re an idiot for not having cams on her every moment.”

“MarsGov would have our asses if they found out, Amaranth. That’s clear violation of the Conventions of Asylum and you know it. Unless I’m ready and willing to make a case that she should be a prisoner—and then we might lose her to MarsGov—I can’t screw with that kind of thing.”

“Damn the Conventions, Gregory!”

“You can play fast and loose sometimes in the field, Amaranth. You’re the Paulis. It’s your job. I’m the Peteris, and I have to hold shit down here and be a good diplomat, theologian and politician. This isn’t a rule I’m willing to break right now.”

Amaranth scowled as she put on her daycloak and prepared to leave for her appointment with the medtechs. “This will be continued, Greg. Your dedication to rules of good conduct could get you killed.”

“Domina is hoping so, I’m sure,” Gregory said, blowing a kiss to his wife as he headed to the refresher to clean up.

(To read part 23 of this story, click here.)

24
Oct
08

The Unpatriotic GOP Faithful?

I just read a comment at Monroe Anderson’s blog, and I’ll just post a little snippet here to give you a taste.

I find it to be somewhat perplexing for those who profess to adhere to the Judeo-Christian values on which this country was founded to condemn the concept of “sharing the wealth.” I also find it somewhat puzzling for those who are seeking the highest elective offices in the land to view paying taxes as a punitive practice and not a patriotic privilege.

I highly recommend you click here and read Dr. Woods’ comment in its entirety.

And let me add my “Amen!” to the chorus.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

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