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Today in History – Mormon Leader Joseph Smith Tarred & Feathered

March 24th, 1832 – Joseph Smith, prophet of the Mormon church was allegedly beaten, tarred and feathered.

The surface level story is something to the effect that some unfaithful people who didn’t like Joseph because of his religion pulled him out and beat him up.

But some sources suggest that Joseph was targeted by the angry family of a young girl he was “intimate” with. The reports differ as to what her age was some say 12 some say 16, whatever the case it’s an interesting story.

I was reading a thread from 2012 here discussing it: and you’ll notice there are a variety of opinions. Some people are obviously against the church and several are for it.

One other interesting thing that popped up in the thread was the claim that Joseph Smith did not in fact support polygamy. A commenter points to this website: and if you read the “Who We Are” section they are obviously strong believers in the church looking to protect those beliefs. This is a particuarly obvious falsehood especially when you read the long list of wives Smith had:’s_wives

I don’t claim to be a historian for the church but these types of anecdotes are many. There are many people beginning to dig into the actual history around things and find that the account from “prophets” and church leaders are wildly inaccurate.

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Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

Feb 7th 1812 is the birthday of one of the greatest writers of all time – Charles Dickens. Dickens is so legendary in fact that many historians credit him with igniting the festive way modern society celebrates Christmas.

It’s not difficult to see how. The classic story “A Christmas Carol” is a parable about a miserly old man who gets a second chance to be a human being. A better tale of redemption, love and kindness you might never find.

Even the aesthetics of Christmas belong largely to Dickens. “Snow” and the whole concept of a “white Christmas” was portrayed in his work as a reflection of the environment he grew up in. “A Christmas Carol” is the most adapted work of literature in the English language and that picture has been engrained in the minds of many.

The author of “The Man Who Invented Christmas” – Professor Les Standiford claims Dickens is responsible for the version of Christmas we celebrate today.

“He obviously didn’t invent it as an idea, but what he did with A Christmas Carol began the process that led to what we have today.”

Christmas was barely celebrated at the start of the 1800s and December 25 was just a normal working day.

“The holiday was still suffering the effects of the Puritan era and seen as a Pagan enterprise,” says Professor Standiford.

“The publication of A Christmas Carol added an emotional component to Christmas and changed it. We will never know what Christmas would be like without Charles Dickens, but it would never have been quite the same as we enjoy today without him.”

Happy Birthday to Charles Dickens!



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HL Mencken vs. The State of Arkansas

Today (Feb 3rd) in the year 1931 the Arkansas state legislature passed motion to “pray for soul of HL Mencken” after he called the state the “apex of moronia” among other things.

Let’s rewind a bit.

HL Mencken wrote for the Evening Sun in the 1930’s. Around that time he wrote 3 columns about the state of Arkansas. Here are a few choice exerpts:

“No state offers better picking for evangelists. It has a full outfit of anti-evolution laws and other such products of the camp-meeting, and, though moonshining is widespread, there is heavy majority for Prohibition. The enlightened minority is a minority indeed, and it is confined to a few towns.”

“Several years ago I enjoyed the somewhat depressing pleasure of making a tour of the country lying along the border between Arkansas and Oklahoma. I can only say that I came out of it feeling like a man emerging from a region devastated by war. Such shabby and flea-bitten villages I had never seen before, or such dreadful people. Some of the former were so barbaric that they didn’t even have regular streets; the houses, such as they were, were plumped down anywhere, and at any angle. As for the inhabitants, it is a sober fact that I saw women by the roadside with their children between their knees, picking lice like mother monkeys in the zoo.”

“The fields were bare and the woods were half burned. There were few fences. When one appeared, usually far gone in decay, there was always a sign on it, painted crudely with the backward: “Prepare To Meet Thy God.”

“It is a Christian act, of course, to save Americans from starvation. But it would be an even better Christian act, I believe, to try to civilize them. You may be sure, however, that no American statesman will propose it. It would cost too many votes in 1932.”

This level of unvarnished truth was of course met with fierce condemnation by politicians and religious leaders of the time. One of them was former governor Charles H. Brough who responded about a month later. This was a time before television when long thoughtful editorial was published and read widely.

H.L. Mencken
This guy calls it like he sees it…

Mencken did not retreat – “Let Dr. Brough,” he wrote, “as a sociologist, find out why so many of its (Arkansas’) farmers are miserable, exploited, chronically half-starved share-croppers, without reserves and without hope. . . And let him prepare himself for this labor by pasting in his hat the following . . . from the Little Rock Democrat of Feb. 8:

“‘So long as the Arkansas of today remains the Arkansas of 40 years ago, the Menckens are going to make it the butt of ridicule, and millions are going to agree with them.'”

Yes folks, HL Mencken was a literal bad ass… maybe the Jon Stewart of the 1930’s. The Arkansas state legislature finally lost it when Mencken referred to the state as “the Apex of Moronia”. Insulted but to indict or jail him for any crime they passed a motion to “Pray for the soul of H. L. Mencken”.

But Mencken’s writings made many wonder if he believed he actually had a soul. Here are a few more great Mencken quotes – remember this guy was in his prime in the 1930’s. This was a time when it was almost unheard of to be openly atheist.

“We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine.”

“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

“I am suspicious of all the things that the average people believes.”

“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.”

“Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant.”

“The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”

“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”

“If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.”


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Linda Sarsour Sharia Law – Women’s March Retaliation

Linda Sarsour is a Palestinian-American activist and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. There are 2 words in that sentence that instantly make conservatives lose control of their bowels – “arab” and “palestinian.”

I’m writing this because Linda Sarsour helped to orchestrate the 2017 Women’s March which was a huge success. As a result of this success she is now being defamed by conservative media. What are they saying? Oh the typical “she’s a terrorist – crap your pants America” line they always use. What’s great about it this time though is the evidence they’re using – some incriminating tweets! Let’s take a look at them shall we?

Sarsour is a Muslim advocate no doubt. She has fought for the freedom of religion and at times has advocated for Muslim’s rights to practice Sharia in the U.S. – To be clear, she’s not advocating that it become the law of the land, which is what conservatives are saying. She is fighting for equal rights of Muslim’s to be able to practice Sharia if they see fit. In the same way that Judaism or Christianity is free to practice their culture’s religious traditions among their believers.

The extreme right wing blog “The Gateway Pundit” posted this article about Sarsour’s ties to “Hamas terrorists” (spooky!) and her “support of Sharia law” (GASP!!) – So let’s examine these scary tweets. They obviously have this conservative pundit very scared and upset…

This first example pretty much lays it all out there right? “If you are still paying interest than Sharia Law hasn’t taken over America. #justsaying” – that’s obviously blatant support for Sharia Law – or a sarcastic joke that’s poking fun at people who are dumb enough to believe Sharia Law is actually a problem in the United States.

linda sarsour sharia law
Example #1 of Sarsour “Supporting Sharia Law” LOL!

This though is perhaps the most damning evidence of all – “Interest free?” “Sounds nice doesn’t it?” She just said Sharia Law “SOUNDS NICE DOESN’T IT!”

linda sarsour sharia law
The most damning evidence of Sarsour’s support for Sharia Law

As if to show directly how sad and scared they are, Gateway Pundit also uses this as an example of why Sarsour is an extremist:

sarsour sharia law
This is so scary!!!

Women tying hijab’s? TERRORISM!

As if to show that the American right has no understanding for anything that requires nuance or reading comprehension… “Patriotic Rosie” here calls out Sarsour as being a hypocrite for supporting women’s rights and Sharia law simultaneously. I’m sure Patriotic Rosie is an expert on Sharia and knows that elements of it actually already practiced in the UK and *gasp* Israel. The only country that follows it to the letter is Saudi Arabia – a U.S. ally.

Better to live in fear as a scared pathetic tool of racists and xenophobes than to educate yourself on the reality of the world around you.

In closing, if you “believe” that Linda Sarsour is an extremist who is trying to push Sharia Law on America you are either willfully stupid or a liar.


(Linda Sarsour Wikipedia)

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Today in History: The First American Novel “Power of Sympathy” Published

Power of Sympathy
“Power of Sympathy” was the first documented American novel.

The Power of Sympathy: or, The Triumph of Nature (1789) is an 18th-century American sentimental novel written in epistolary form by William Hill Brown, widely considered to be the first American novel. The book was published by Isaiah Thomas in Boston on January 21, 1789. In the story, the characters’ struggles illustrate the dangers of seduction and the pitfalls of giving in to temptation. The book also “advocates the moral education of women” and the use of rational thinking as ways to prevent the consequences of such actions. In other words it’s a story that reinforces Puritanical Christian doctrines by scaring women.

The novel reflects early American interest in the role of women as both the representatives and the safe keepers of the country’s moral health. It show examples sexual temptation, displays the disastrous effects of giving in to seduction, and explains ways for the young girl to avoid this fate. The book is very didactic, (warning against sexual profligacy in both men and women) yet also takes on a sympathetic tone toward the seducer and the fallen woman. It urges the community to view the repentant sinners with compassion.

The book is historic in that it is considered the first novel by an American-born writer in the United States. The book was originally published anonymously. It’s story line is an example of sentimental romance written in epistolary form. Letters between the two main characters are a dialogue. The two young men who both have a love interest; Harrington has fallen in love with Harriot, who is beautiful and virtuous, but poor and beneath Harrington’s station in life, and Worthy is engaged to Harrington’s sister, Myra. Myra and Harriot are also friends, and their exchange of letters communicates Harriot’s dilemma of maintaining her virtue, even though her poverty makes the prospect of marriage to Harrington unlikely.



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NY Times Retracts Editorial Saying Rockets Can’t Fly

”Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.” – Albert Einstein

The New York Times is a respected paper. Some might even call it a beacon of journalism, but that doesn’t mean it’s unquestioningly right 100% of the time. Back in 1851 the Times published one of it’s most memorable errors. Errors will be errors but this one is special not only because of how wrong it was but because of the tone the original author took.

On Jan. 13, 1920 the NY Times published an editorial about how rockets could not fly in space. The NYT opinion writer took to task one Robert H. Goddard, the rocket pioneer. The writer gleefully mocked Goddard as lacking even a basic high school education, here’s the actual quote:

”That Professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”

A correction was issued by the paper on July 17, 1969 just a day after the Apollo 11 launch to the moon. This correction surprisingly contains no reference whatsoever to this launch.

A Correction: On Jan. 13, 1920, “Topics of the Times,” an editorial-page feature of The New York Times, dismissed the notion that a rocket could function in a vacuum and commented on the ideas of Robert H. Goddard, the rocket pioneer, as follows:

‘That Professor Goddard with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to something better than a vacuum against which to react—to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

Given the way journalism is today the Times gets bonus points for issuing this retraction even though it was a full 49 years later. Being able to admit when you’re wrong and correct those errors is an incredibly important part of journalism… one that doesn’t seem to really exist in the new millennium.