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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.

60 Responses

  1. That’s weird. I’m not done editing this post.

  2. And … who knows?
    By 3012 we just might elect a woman as Chief Executive. 🙂

  3. Crap! I’m so confused …. is today Monday? (sobbing) I think I slept through Christmas!

  4. Apparently the desperate Obama apologists are pushing a relentless meme this week: OBAMA’S AMAZING COMEBACK!

    It’s everywhere, and pathetic. Reminds me of the “fly” episode. Anything he does or doesn’t do that is remotely salvageable for trumpets blaring is seized upon.

  5. Gillibrand, as a freshman Senator, gets more done that O in her first year:

    In Late Flurry, Senator Gains Her Foothold

    Her efforts have won grudging admiration from critics, adulation from national liberals and gay rights groups, and accolades from New York politicians across the political spectrum, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who once shopped for potential candidates to oust her.

    Richard Socarides, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and founder of Equality Matters, a gay advocacy organization, said he was initially wary of Ms. Gillibrand, thinking she was courting gays for purely political reasons as she sought to broaden her appeal statewide.

    But she won him over with her fervor, strategic thinking, fearlessness and litigator’s tenacity. “If she has decided she’s going to get something done,” he said, “don’t get in her way, because you will get run over.”

    “To have gone from a virtual unknown to being a major player on some landmark legislation in such a short period of time just shows what Kirsten is capable of,” said Ilyse Hogue, director of political advocacy for MoveOn.org.


    • Excellent. Just like her predecessor from that seat. Hopefully there won’t be a Kristen Gillibrand Syndrome created by all the pathetic losers out there like Obots or wingers to slow her down.

      • I remain disgusted with Gillibrand. Like all the other so-called “pro-choice Democrats,” she voted for the Stupakian health insurance bill. Do you think her predecessor in that seat would have done the same?

        • The Obots had the same reaction about Hillary’s vote for the IWR and we ended up with Obama. I can swallow the healthcare bill vote but consider selling us out in 2008 as unforgiveable. As Nucky Thompson said, “we all have to decide how much sin we can live with”.
          Some sins are bigger than others. Losing your right to vote is the biggest sin there is. So, I will gladly cast my vote for Gillibrand if she decides to run for President someday. Obama can go jump in a lake for all I care. I don’t care what the Big Dawg coaches him to do. I will NEVER vote for Obama.

          • Gillibrand has been a tireless supporter of women and children’s health care–just like HRC. You are throwing the baby out with the bathwater IMO. She has very limited resources and leverage at this point, but is starting to accrue it. To expect her to stand alone in the face of the juggernaut is a bit unrealistic. Her overall record is laudable and she’s shown courage on several stands. I think she’s just getting started.

            & ditto re: an O vote. That goes without saying for me. I can’t even look at or listen to him, so voting for him is and never will be on my radar. He lost my vote when he decided to steal it the first time around.

  6. hey, if anyone is into open source drug discovery, check out this potential target for the AIDS/HIV:
    Discovery suggests a new way of preventing HIV from infecting human cells Researchers at the University of Minnesota have figured out how APOBEC3F works with respect to HIV infection.
    AND there’s a structure of it available at RCSB. It might not be the latest one but it’s a good starting point. Some enterprising geek could make a lot of money if she’s interested.

    • Unfortunately, the Vif-APOBEC3F complex is not published. 😦 I guess the motivated entrepreneur will have to figure it out from the structures separately.
      Sounds like fun!

      • I can’t believe no one is jumping on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

        • Um, wouldn’t that be you? Let me know if you need help with that venture.

          • I’m not sure my current employer would like me moonlighting like this but I’ll check on it. OTOH, if I find something, they may have to pay my company big bucks to buy it off of me.

          • I can design the logo for you…. other than that I guess I could empty trash cans.

  7. The blocking of Reproductive Care to Third World countries got its biggest boost under Bush II and yet, they claim to be to dumb to see the connection between lack of family planning and poverty. (((shaking head))) The women and children bare the brunt of lack of access to family planning and yet they wonder why countries continue to be in poverty and often war too.

  8. Katie,

    Did you get the video (message about it) of MS?

    • I don’t think so — was it an email? or Link?

      • *Chronic Lyme Disease and CCSVI*

        The medical community is now using CCSVI to treat both Chronic Lyme Disease and MS. Funny, thing but this guy sent this to me via youtube and I don’t remember asking nor do I subscribe, but my family member was first diagnosed with MS, then supposedly Lyme Disease (((surprise??))). Any hoo, they are now using it for both and some have been diagnosed with both.

        Have you heard about this new development?

  9. post is updated with sad, but all too predictable story from alabama.

  10. The New Testament writers didn’t “fudge the dates” to make the nativity story coincide with the winter solstice. The NT doesn’t assign any date to Jesus’ birth, nor did anyone else for a couple centuries. The earliest Church fathers who touched on the subject at all tended to favor a date in April or May, consistent with the “shepherds abiding in the fields” passage.

    They did, however, tenttively fix a date for the crucifixion–March 25– though they didn’t settle immediately on the year. A tradition arose that Jesus had been crucified on the same day of the month on which he had been conceived, so the Annunciation was also assigned to March 25. December 25 is nine months from March 25.

    Once Christianity became dominant, pagan customs attached to the Winter Solstice were adapted to Christmas–not, I suspect, by the Church itself but by Christians who refused to give them up. (Of course, many of them also refused to give up their own gods, so that the two sets of beliefs often ran parallel or intermingled at least down to the Reformation.) The Church, however, did subsequently co-opt not just Solstice but all the solar quarter feasts as celebrations of Jesus or of male figures closely associated with him, so that Spring Equinox became Easter; Midsummer the feast of John the Baptist; Autumn Equinox, Michael the Archangel; and Winter Solstice, of course, Christmas. The Goddess’ cross-quarter days were likewise re-assigned to Mary.

    • You’re right. My mistake. I was going too fast this am. The new testament writers fudged facts about Jesus’s birth. The constantinian christians adapted those fudged facts to coincide with saturnalia. So, what we have here is a propagation of error.
      They still have no right to camp on my ancient relatives’ holiday and call it their own.

      • I’d say even that is giving up a bit too much. The NT writers apparently had at most half-a-dozen facts about Jesus’ birth: mother named Miriam, father named Yosef, one or both of whom may have claimed Davidic descent; possibly born in Bethlehem, but if so, Bethlehem-Galilee, a few miles from Nazareth, more likely than Bethlehem-Judah; birth year sometime between 4 BCE and 6 CE. Because Matthew’s Gospel is aimed at a Jewish audience, its nativity story is costructed around OT prophecy. Luke’s, targeted to a Hellenized popoulation of “God-fearers’ or “God-lovers”

        • Oops, hit submit by mistatke.

          , reworks the official, imperial myth surrounding the birth of Augustus.

          At this point, I don’t think anyone has a right to call Winter Solstice exclusively their own holiday. It’s pretty much universal, both across cultures and through time.

          • Good point. My reading of my fav, Joseph Campbell, shows a lot of commonality in solstice celebrations. It’s quite amazing when you see all the mythological components humans had in common as we developed even very disparate cultures.

            OK, no joining hands and singing…. stop that… 🙂

          • Didja know his real name wasn’t even Jesus? (“Gee-zus” and Hay-soos” are both wrong)

            It was probably something more like Yeshua

          • Yeshua–“Joshua.”

            Actually, his “real”–ie., Aramaic, not- Greek–name, as well as those of his brothers, gives us one more possible fact about him. They’re all, like his mother’s and father’s, associated with Is—-ite “nationalist” heroes. It’s quite possible that his family was anti-Roman and he was a revolutionary from the git-go.

          • Yehoshua was the Hebrew name for Jesus. The minister of the church (cult) in which I was raised had been an Old Testament professor and required that congregation members use the old Hebrew, Greek or Latin names. They went so far as to have hymn books printed using Hebrew names. Even though I escaped from the cult many decades ago I still remember the Hebrew names.

            Yehoshua is a rare Hebrew surname that is presumably derived directly from the English translation of יהושע, which means roughly “YHWH rescues” or “YHWH is salvation”.

          • Welcome, Syl, to the blog of cult escapees! Myiq and myself were raised in similar cults and managed, through sheer ornariness, to survive pretty much unscathed. So, what was your first clue that the members of the congregation were on religious autopilot?
            I was about 4 when my mother was baptized Jehovah’s Witness. In fact, it was at her baptism that I saw what she was getting us into. My secret campaign of subversion started right there and then in a natatotium in Cleveland, Ohio.

          • Northern Hemisphere Edition, that is.

            Remember, half the planet is 6 months out of phase with all of this (“Summer in December? That’s crazy talk!”)

        • Ok, but the virgin birth, choirs of angels and present bearing astrologer kings were more likely to have attended obama’s birth than Jesus. I suppose they were just jazzing up a boring story for the followers. Little did they know how much tinsel would be sacrificed because of their literary license.

  11. @ Dandy:

    “O Solstice Tree, O Solstice Tree,
    How faithful are your branches.”

    Campbell and Jung(ians) go well together. We’re looking at archetypes, here, and their development through interplay of the Unconscious and the environment.

    • Absolutely. I’m a fan of Jung as well. As was Campbell for that matter.

    • Um, wasn’t Jung the guy who turned off his friend Freud and tuned in to Hitler? I think there was an In Our Time podcast on it.

      • Jung did break with Freud.

        He also called Hitler “possessed” and a man on “the road to perdition” Jung also said, “you couldn’t talk to this man . ..there was no one there.” (slightly paraphrased.) That doesn’t sound like “tuning in” to me.

        • Are you sure Jung didn’t speak with a forked tongue or was at least willing to overlook a lot of nasty stuff to stay on the Nazi’s good side?

          • Do you have any evidence that he did?

            From the Gale Dictionary of Psychoanalysis:

            “Jung’s most controversial episode occurred in 1933. He replaced Ernst Kretschmer as president of the German Society of Psychotherapy and immediately made it into an International Society, so that Jewish members could retain membership. He remained president until 1940, which meant he had to work closely with the Nazis. Some of his statements during this period have been construed as anti-Semitic, and those who have wished to discredit his work seized upon them as a pretext for their dismissal. This issue has surfaced periodically for the past fifty years, but there is no definitive evidence that Jung ever was a Nazi sympathizer.

            “On the other hand, we do know that he warned repeatedly against the dangers of mass movements, and that in 1936 he published Wotan, an uncompromising analysis of the psychological, and specifically archetypal, reasons for Nazism and of the risks it represented for the individual.”

            A number of sources also credit him with working with the OSS on the psychology of Hitler and Nazism.

            Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/carl-jung#ixzz18yuG5Dvv

          • That’s also my understanding okasha from one of my teachers who was a student of Jung’s. Oh the stories.

          • Oh, the stories, indeed. I once had the pleasure of being on the same faculty (but diferent department) with two scholars who had travelled with Joseph Campbell in their misspent youth. Extraneous students and faculty would sit in on their lectures just for the pleasure of it.

  12. OT: After both Fortune (a year ago) and Marketwatch (recently) named him CEO of the decade, Financial Times names Steve Jobs person of the year:

    A rebuttal of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s much-quoted aphorism that there are no second acts in American life does not come more decisively than this. When Steven Paul Jobs first hit the headlines, he was younger even than Mark Zuckerberg is now. Long before it was cool to be a nerd, his formative role in popularising the personal computer, and Apple’s initial public offering on Wall Street – which came when Mr Jobs was still only 25 – made him the tech industry’s first rock star.

    Now, three decades on, he has secured his place in the foremost ranks of the West Coast tech titans who have done so much to shape the world around the turn of the millennium

    • I love Steve. He’s a self actualized guy. There aren’t too many people like him. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. But he’s definitely not a follower. We need more of his kind.

  13. OT: great sculpture work time lapsed. And the fun part, he’s holding an iPad at the end:

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