Thursday: Relative

Did this Melanesian get the blonde hair from the Denisovian side of the family?

There isn’t much time left before the big day!  Yep, before you know it, the Republicans will have full control of the House.  What, you thought I was talking about Christmas.

Here’s a frightening cautionary tale: The town of Pritchard in Alabama was warned for years that it wasn’t setting enough money aside to pay for pensions.  Right on schedule, the pension money ran out in 2009 and the town stopped sending checks to its retired public servants.  Some of them have since died destitute.  Others have had to file for bankruptcy.  This is what you get when you don’t fulfill your obligations to the employees who deferred some of their compensation for their retirement.  And Congress has no excuse in the future to say, “Oh, we didn’t know.  who could have predicted that not raising taxes on the wealthy would result in a shortfall in Social Security when we decided to cut everyone a 2% break on their payroll taxes in 2010?”  From the NYTimes article on Pritchard:

It is not just the pensioners who suffer when a pension fund runs dry. If a city tried to follow the law and pay its pensioners with money from its annual operating budget, it would probably have to adopt large tax increases, or make huge service cuts, to come up with the money.

We all know what’s coming because this president and his cowardly Congressional Democrats didn’t have the balls to challenge Republicans when they had a chance.  Instead of throwing the drowning Republicans an anchor, they’ve thrown them a cruise ship and their own private island.  Thanks for the coal, Dems.

Speaking of Christmas, you’ll have to put down another place setting for the newest relative on the evolutionary family tree. It turns out that one of our long lost cousins, the Denisovians, was discovered in a cave in Siberia. We’re only distantly related.  The Denisovians left traces of their presence in the Melanesians of the South Pacific and New Guinea where as much as 4% of their DNA can still be found among the island populations.  The Denisovians are from the Neanderthal side of the family.  Really, they’re more like in-laws.  Fascinating.  We’ll have to see what those 4% residual genes are good for.

Ross Douthat, true believer is feeling repressed:

The first is “American Grace,” co-written by Harvard’s Robert Putnam (of “Bowling Alone” fame) and Notre Dame’s David Campbell, which examines the role that religion plays in binding up the nation’s social fabric. Over all, they argue, our society reaps enormous benefits from religious engagement, while suffering from few of the potential downsides. Widespread churchgoing seems to make Americans more altruistic and more engaged with their communities, more likely to volunteer and more inclined to give to secular and religious charities. Yet at the same time, thanks to Americans’ ever-increasing tolerance, we’ve been spared the kind of sectarian conflict that often accompanies religious zeal.

But for Christians, this sunny story has a dark side. Religious faith looks more socially beneficial to America than ever, but the institutional Christianity that’s historically generated most of those benefits seems to be gradually losing its appeal.

{{Snort!}}  Yes, all that sunshine must be positively blinding to the millions of child brides around the world who are benefitting from our Christian brothers who are withholding aid because they may get information about abortion in their health care services.  Peace on earth, good will to men!

By the way, Ross, that altruistic spirit of churchgoers is beaten to a pulp by the Atheists on the Kiva site where the non-believers out raise the Christians by a HUGE margin.  So, you don’t have to go to church to feel empathy for your fellow man or woman.  In fact, it looks like not going to church may lead to a more generous spirit.  But I guess if you have a column in the NYTimes, you can say whatever you like.  It doesn’t have to be true.

Ross continues:

Thanks in part to this bunker mentality, American Christianity has become what Hunter calls a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future. In spite of their numerical strength and reserves of social capital, he argues, the Christian churches are mainly influential only in the “peripheral areas” of our common life. In the commanding heights of culture, Christianity punches way below its weight.

Is he serious???  Where was Ross when Catholic bishops forced American women into Catholicism during last year’s healthcare reform debate?  If that wasn’t the single most successful example of conversion, I don’t know what was.

But it turns out that Ross is partially right.  The number of people rejecting creationism is creeping up.  It must give the fundagelical holdouts the willies.  Soon, in maybe a century or so, we Darwinists will win out and those true believers will be forced to add the Denisovians to their prayer lists.  Bwahahahahah!!!

Actually, if anyone has a right to feel repressed at Christmas time, it’s not the Christians.  It’s people like me.  My ancestors in the British Isles looked forward to the solstices to mark the passage of time and to honor their dead.  To my people 6000 years ago, the winter solstice must have been a frightening thing.  The sun goes south, the days shorten, the nights lengthen, it’s cold, nothing grows.  Oh, sure, the sun always comes back but what if it doesn’t this time?  The return of the sun on the days following solstice must have been a joyous occasion marked with feasting on the past harvest, lighting of fires and gathering up as much greenery as possible.  It was a simple time back then.  No crass commercialism.  No materialism.  And then the Christians co-opt Saturnalia and force everyone to go to church.  They’ve got some nerve.

If the Christians were really playing Christmas straight, they wouldn’t be celebrating in December.  We know that the New Testament writers fudged the nativity story to make the dates fit.  Jesus wasn’t born in December.  And from what I’ve read, he probably wasn’t crucified on Easter either.  All that Hosanna stuff and palm waving when Jesus rode to Jerusalem on the donkey was associated with Sukkot, a Jewish holiday celebrated in autumn.  So, why don’t the Christians come clean about Christmas?  They don’t have any special claim to the dates.  Late December is recognized by many faiths from around the world going back millenia.  It’s a time to gather together, keep warm, enjoy the glow of the fire, taste the fullness of fat on your tongue, the last you might have for months to come, and to await the return of the warmth of the sun on the land and in ourselves.

Jesus would approve.

Thursday: Saddle point

Do you get the idea that we have reached some kind of turning point?  Is there nowhere to go but up or are we sliding sideways into oblivion?  Will the public finally see what the Republicans really are once they take over the House during the mother of all recessions or has the preincubation of visions of GlennBeckistan done its job?  Will the masters of the corporate universe take a look at the balance sheets and finally realize that outsourcing is wasting the valuable productivity time of their remaining employees or will they keep forcing us into smaller workspaces with fewer resources to show that their beautiful management theories work in spite of all of the ugly facts?

Take the 2012 primary, for example.  Yesterday, Matt Bai in the NYTimes just idly speculated whether it was time for the Democrats to consider alternatives.  Predictably, Matt Bai, being from that tiny but vocal minority of the Democratic party that thinks it’s swell for non-viable personal favorites to run instead of people who actually like to practice politics has floated Howard Dean’s name to the top of the list.  Whatever.  The intellectual masturbation post of Bai’s generated 805 comments before the discussion was cut off (soooo not fair for those of us at work).  Russ Feingold also got some attention.  I have nothing against Feingold but he strikes me as a bit of an enigma.  You get the idea that he votes on principle but his principles are a bit quirky for everyday consumption.  I’m not sure the average Joe will *get* Feingold and, unless you’re living in Iran, the votes of the average Joe are still sort of necessary.  Hillary’s name is floated by many, many people who regret voting for Obama.  LOTS of regrets.

Over at Naked Capitalism, there are hints of another Black Swan event on the near horizon. It turns out that when Obama cut his deal, the nitwit forgot to get a guarantee on raising the debt ceiling from the Republicans.  Since the government will run out of money sometime during the first quarter of next year, we can probably look forward to a government shut down.  (Oh, no they woo-ent.  Oh yes, they would.)  Then there’s some stuff about municipal bonds that will be phased out next year, putting some big states at risk of insolvency.  It’s just so thrilling it makes me squirm with anticipation.  The speculation is that these moves are designed to put a huge amount of pressure on a fragile economic system and that Americans will cut loose their public service unions and slit their throats in order to avoid a major collapse of the global financial system.

If I were the president, I’d call the Republicans global terrorists and have them arrested for pulling that shit on us.  But that’s just me because I’m uncouth and rude while also being sanctimonious and pure.  Picture Joan of Arc with a beer gut.  Come on, Barry, you and Versailles have me all confused.  I have no idea what I’m supposed to be.  Just tell me this, am I still a virgin?

And then there are those annoying liberal Democrats who insist on sticking to their core principles.  Like Al Franken, who has the chutzpah to quote the New Testament and he’s not even a Christian.

(see this link for the rest of Franken’s excellent shellacking of the president and the Republicans)

Ehhhh, what does he know.  Today’s Christians don’t mess around with the New Testament.  I mean, if you read THAT side of the bible, you’d think that Jesus was a fricking Liberal or something.  And Franken keeps bringing up carpenters for some reason.  Jesus was a carpenter.  Of course, if Jesus were alive today, he would have just lost his pension to some greedy con artists on Wall Street who sold his pension fund a bunch of worthless tranches.   Good thing he was the Son of God or he’d be eating catfood.

(Hey, did you know that the Atheists community is the biggest contributor to Kiva?  Who knew?  They beat the pants off the Christians.)

But Obama, who kind of implies that everyone should have a faith or they’re worthless human beings, is a different kind of Christian.  You know, the kind that likes to court Evangelicals for political gain but thinks that it’s gauche to get all wrapped up in values and principles.  They would just get in the way of his “accomplishments”.   Jeez, Barry, why don’t you just take up needlepoint or some charming ideas for a painted table or something?

Anyway, Al’s suggestion that you help out someone in need for the holiday season is a pretty good idea.  Why not buy a disadvantaged kid you don’t know a present for Christmas?  (Or, I’m 1/8 Jewish so I’m entitled to one day of Hannukah, right? )  Your workplace may be sponsoring such an opportunity, like mine has for years now.  Take advantage of it and you will make a kid happy for the day.

Podcast for the day: On yesterday’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewd David Sanger of the NYTimes regarding the Wikileaks document dump from the State Department.  Count how many times they mention Hillary’s name.  It’s pretty hilarious.  They keep dancing around the subject of how well the State Department is doing these days and how forceful its response has been to Iran.  They even go so far as saying that the Iranian sanctions are nothing like what Barry had in mind when he was running for president.  They make a passing reference to Hillary calling him *naive* but are careful not to credit her with the harsher sanctions.

It is becoming more clear to me that if the Republicans are allowed to botch the country into third world status, it will be because Whole Foods Nation progressives just can’t get their heads out of their asses.  They would rather let the country die, die, die! before they let some “Blue dog” {{snort!}}, war hawk, triangulating, DLC loving, New Democrat like Hillary Clinton inflict her steely resolve and competence on Washington DC.

So, if we all end up poor and yoked to our billionaire masters of the universe, don’t blame it on Republicans.  Blame it on the self described “creative class” Democrats who want to replace Barack Obama with candidates who are not capable of winning or running the White House.  Yeah, that oughta learn them lousy Republicans.  Take that.

Ok, sports fans, I’m off to buy a Visa check card for Christmas for a 14 year old girl I don’t know.

Go and do likewise.

Christmas Day News and Views

Peace on Earth

Merry Christmas Conflucians! I hope everyone has a lovely day today. News events march onward, of course, despite the holiday season. Here are some stories that caught my eye this morning. Please add your own important and interesting links in the comments.

If you haven’t see in it already, please go read this excellent post at Corrente by Tony Wikrent: How the status quo can kill: the example of free trade

Boy, was this writer’s talent ever wasted on the progs at dailykos! There is really no way to provide an excerpt that will do this piece justice. You really do have to read the whole thing.

A woman leaped over a barricade at midnight mass at the Vatican and knocked Pope Benedict onto the marble floor. Here is some amateur video of the events.

More Vatican news:

NYT: Vatican Defends Status of WWII Pope

In an effort to calm growing tensions with Jewish groups, the Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision moving the wartime pope Pius XII closer to sainthood was not a “hostile act” against those who believe Pius did not do enough to stop the Holocaust.

Really?

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement saying that the beatification process evaluated the “Christian life” of Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, and not “the historical impact of all his operative decisions.”

Moving Pius toward sainthood “is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards the Jewish people, and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church,” Father Lombardi wrote.

That sounds a little odd and hypocritcal to me, but then I don’t really believe in the concept of sainthood. The Catholic Church made Maria Goretti a saint because she supposedly forgave the man who raped and murdered her. That tells me that the Church’s decisions about sainthood actually do send messages.

Amy Sullivan, Time Magazine: No Churchgoing Christmas for the First Family

But there’s one common Christmas practice not on the First Family’s schedule: a visit to Christmas Eve church services.

Why am I not surprised?

Church, in fact, has been a surprisingly tough issue for the Obamas. They resigned their membership with Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in 2008 after Obama renounced the church’s controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. And while the First Family intended to find a local church to attend when they moved to Washington, concerns about crowds and displacing regular worshippers has prevented them from finding a new religious home during their first year here.

The Obamas have attended Sunday services in Washington three times this year — once at the predominantly African-American 19th Street Baptist Church, and twice at St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House.

Three times in a whole year! Amazing, for such a deeply religious man {snort}

At Huffpo, the ever-hopeful Cenk Uygur argues that progs can move Obama to the left! {hysterical laughter}

There are many debates among progressives now on the true nature of Barack Obama. Did he mean anything he said on the campaign trail? Is he really a progressive? Did he ever mean to challenge the status quo or was he using the word “change” as a campaign gimmick? Is he just a corporatist like most other politicians?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! That’s funny. I know Cenk can’t possibly think there’s a chance in hell that Obama actually meant any of the promises he made while campaigning. Come on!

Does he mean well or does he have bad intentions? Come on, don’t be ridiculous. Of course, he means well. But in his own mind, George Bush thought he meant well too (for the most part). I’m positive that Obama thinks that he is doing the best he can to bring about as much change as he can within the limits of this system.

Ooops! I guess Cenk has a way to go before he finally gets all that Koolaid out of his system.

Is he a true progressive or a corporatist sell out? Well, that depends on what you mean. Has he wound up helping corporate America tremendously through health care “reform,” finance “reform,” etc.? Well, Wall Street certainly seems to think so (and so do most progressives). Did he do that because he thought, “I can’t wait to help corporate America and screw over the little guy”? No, I’m sure he thought he had to accommodate the powers that be in order to affect any change at all in this system. But the bottom line has been the same, either way – the system has been tweaked but corporate America chugs along with even more government largesse than before.

I’m sure Obama is a progressive that would help the average American if he thought he could. But apparently he thinks he can’t. He can only bring them a small amount of change because of what he thinks the system will allow.

Uh huh. Keep on telling yourself that, Cenk. Maybe it will somehow make you feel better about being hoodwinked into voting for Bush III.

Paul Krugman thinks that the Heath Care bill will save millions of future Tiny Tims–after 2014, that is.

Krugman scolds people like us who think the bill is nothing but a big mess of corporate giveaways and efforts to control women’s bodies:

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

Oddly, Krugman never mentions either the anti-abortion language in both the House and Senate versions of the bill; nor does he address the shoring up of the Bush conscience rules in the Senate version. How very very strange. I guess Krugman thinks it’s just fine if Congress passes a health care bill for men that allows the government and health care workers to control women’s choices.

The News side of Krugman’s paper isn’t as sanguine as he is.

Health Care Changes Wouldn’t Have Big Effect for Many

what about the roughly 160 million workers and their dependents who already have health insurance through an employer? For many people, the result of the long, angry health care debate in Washington may be little more than more of the same.

As President Obama once promised, “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan.”

That may be true even if you don’t like your health plan. And no one seems to agree on whether the legislation will do much to reduce workers’ continually rising out-of-pocket costs.

Chris Good at The Atlantic: Insurance Industry’s Reaction: Senate Bill Would Raise Costs


And some Christmas-oriented stories:

BBC News: In pictures: Christmas around the world

Longmont Times-Call: The true Father Christmas: Before there was a Santa Claus, there was the generous St. Nicholas

BBC News: Christmas in Iraq: Muslims buy Christmas decorations in a Baghdad market, where both faiths have worshipped side by side for centuries

China View: World pray for peace on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

NYT Op-Ed: Everyone Is Invited

Kansas City Star: Excerpts from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’

Christmas Eve in West Fargo, North Dakota

HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!

Purty Christmas Music – Enjoy!

I’m not a Christian, but I LOVE Christmas music. So, as my holiday gift to you, here are some of my favorites:

O Holy Night“, sung by Dame Joan Sutherland (yes, that is a high “D” at the end! You go girl!)

“Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, conducted by Robert Shaw

Riu Riu Chiu“, Christmas Carol, performed by Capella Gloriana

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” performed by Ella Fitzgerald

and of course:

White Christmas,” performed by Bing Crosby (and written by nice Jewish boy Irving Berlin)

May your days be merry and bright!

Jeebus Was a DFH Moonbat Librul

I was raised in one of those fundie churches.  I’m not gonna say which one, but we thought Baptists were gonna burn in Hell for having too much fun.

I stayed in that church from Pre-K to high school.  I left the church shortly after the preacher’s daughter took me out back and showed me the holy ghost and since then I’ve only been back for an occasional wedding.  But what I learned while I was there is a lot of the reason I’m a liberal.

Continue reading

Saturday: Merry Damn Christmas, MYIQ2XU!

Hey, you fricking Scrooge (;-)), let me tell you a thing or two.  SOME of us grew up with Jehovah’s Witnesses as parents.  We never had a Christmas Tree, presents, weren’t allowed to sing Christmas Carols and were sent to the *library* back in the day when schools used to have Christmas parties in class.  Then, when we got back from break, we had to listen to all the kids at the lunch table tell us what they got.  If that weren’t bad enough, Christmas was the only time we went to see our cousins and grandaparents, who were *normal* people with all of the trimmings.  My cousins would frolic with their toys and presents while my sister and I would sit miserably in the corner like a couple of the Cratchitt kids.  We weren’t allowed to participate.  But we were forced to watch.

Then I grew up and decided the hell with the damn JWs and their irrational fear of pagan solstice rituals .  I would celebrate.  That’s when people started to tell me that “Christmas is for children”.  Well, thanks a lot, all you grown ups who had your fun and were now over it.  Every year, I go out of my way to spoil my kids and I have learned to never expect anyone to know what I want for Christmas because I never get it. Lots of money out because as an adult, it is expected of me.  The giving is fun and satisfying but it will never take the place of all those Christmases I missed.  Even if my parents had splurged a little bit on one fricking present or put up even a cheap aluminum tree, it would have been better than nothing.

No, no, I’m not bitter.  I am PO’d to the max.  I have people on this blog who are actually complaining that once again they are forced to endure carols and decorations and demands on their time.   Shove it, guys. I apologize to all of the Jewish readers, Muslim readers, Kwanzaa readers, Wiccan readers in advance.  You may have to endure the season and you have good reason to resent all of the forced merriment and consumerism.  But for the rest of you lucky people who were at least able to participate in what might have been even a modest way, Zip it, Zip it good.

And now, a Christmas Carol:

For those of you who want to prevent another holiday casualty like myself, consider giving to the Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army comes to my workplace every year and puts up gift tags for children whose parents can’t afford or are too incapacitated to give them presents.  I take one every year and think of spreading that little bit of joy as preventative medicine.

Now, be good.  I’ll be watching.

Conflucian Cocktail Party: We need a little Christmas

Oh, man!  I am all lost now.  WordPress has changed its post page.  All the icons have moved to different places.  Bear with me while I figure this sucker out.

It’s that time of year again.  Time to break out the decorations.  You don’t even have to be Christian to play along, as my mother, the Jehovah’s Witness never tired of reminding me.  Much of the Christmas holiday is grounded in Saturnalia that the Christians copped from the Romans.  That whole holly and ivy thing?  Probably copied from the Celts who had a thing for dragging greenery into the house, as did the Germans with their trees.

This year, I’m a little more excited about Christmas than I have been in the past.  The days got short on me almost without warning.  I don’t know where the summer went while I was blogging and coming home from work in the dark is just dreary.  But right around Christmas time, the days will start to lengthen again and before you know it, the birds will be waking you up at 5:00AM.  It’s something to look forward to, not to mention the smell of Christmas tree, the sparkle of tinsel and the taste of cinnamon and cloves.

So, settle back and join in this first of many Conflucian Holiday Parties.  I hope to see a Hannukah party and a little something on Kwanzaa too.  Rico our bartender with flair is taking the night off.  He’s beat.  I know just how he feels.  But never fear.  We still have cocktails.  Our guest bartender tonight is Alberta Straub, or “Flighty”.  Her special drink for the night is a Date With David Bowie.  Check it out:

I’m sipping a Bulleit Bourbon with middle notes that remind me of Juicy Fruit gum.  Delish!  But you can order anything you like.

Our entertainment tonight is from an American classic, a Charlie Brown Christmas.  Vince Guaraldi’s cool, west coast jazz was a perfect accompaniment to the round headed kid who was the very opposite of cool.  Feel the anticipation with Christmas is Coming:

Or Saturnalia.  Feel your inner pagan.

Ladies and Gents, regulars and newcomers, we run a respectable joint around here.  If you can’t say something nice, leave it with Florence, our lovely checkroom attendant.  The waiters will be circulating with some of the marshmallows we made earlier in the day, some cheddar cheese sticks and piggy back dates.  Please drink responsibly, tip your wait staff generously and join me at 10PM EST for Conflucians Say on PUMA United Radio (PURrrr).

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