December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

This is a remarkable holiday.

I am a secular humanist both by rearing and by my own choice as a grownup. And yet, I get to celebrate Christmas.

This is the remarkable nature of Christmas, its awesome universality. And, in fact, if you look a little into the history of Christmas, you discover that this universal message is what saved the holiday's life.

People didn't always cherish Christmas, you know. Oliver Cromwell's England tried to outlaw it. They called it "Catholic" and worse. It was restored with the rest of the "restoration," but English clergy were still fishy about the whole thing. By the 1800s, the English were again weary of the holiday.

Then this guy wrote this book. Something about these three spirits coming to visit this mean dude, and the visits really stopped him from being such an asshole. The story doesn't center on the Jesus Toddler, but it does emphasize Christ-like values, no? Generosity? Neighborliness? Good will? Spirit? All that crap?

A Christmas Carol was the realization of the universality of Christmas, the first expression of the idea that it was about more than the Toddler Jesus, and that it can be for anyone.

It was in this spirit that Christmas came to these shores as well.

As much as your reason-for-the-season pals might like you to believe otherwise, Christmas is not an intrinsically American event, at least, from the historical perspective. Some states would fine you for celebrating it. By revolutionary times, Christmas just seemed so damned English and was not generally celebrated here. George Washington in fact used the Germans' love of the holiday as a tactical advantage to kick ass at Trenton. You can bet that Washington never asked anyone for some goddamn figgy pudding.

Then this guy wrote this book.

A collection of stories, actually, called The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, by a fellow named Washington Irving. Some of these stories describe old traditions around the holiday, and their publication revived American interest and, again, put forward the more universal theme.

There are some things humans seem to arrive at universally. We all need to eat. We all seem to gravitate toward belief in a higher power. And societies as well seem to need to recognize and celebrate the winter solstice. It makes sense, especially in a formerly agrarian society. When there is no planting and no harvesting, it is a good time to spill your cornucopia and rejoice. The ancient Romans had Saturnalia. Pagans have Yule. America, it seems, has nearly universally gravitated toward Christmas.

I am fortunate personally to celebrate Christmas with family, specifically, with PB and clan. We have a bespangled Christmas tree. An enormous turkey is in the oven. PB says this one has a nice fat back on it, so it should be quite delicious. PB and I were up until 3 in the wood-shop putting the finishing touches on one mighty amazing gift. Later, he and I will cook an outstanding Christmas dinner, and we will cast a resplendent table.

Not much mention of the Jesus toddler, you’ll notice. Our approach to Christmas is as a generally secular event. This is as it has been in my family since as long as I can remember. Tree. Presents. Santa. No Jesus.

This isn't weird. Check out this here poll numbers here:

More than nine in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas — even if they’re atheists, agnostics or believers in non-Christian faiths such as Judaism and Islam, according to two new surveys.

But the surveys also indicate that while most call Christmas a holy day that’s primarily religious, their actions speak volumes to the contrary.

p>Many skip church, omit Jesus and zero in on the egg nog, according to the polls done by LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research organization, and USA Today / Gallup Poll.

So. No matter how many exaltations go out about the over-commercialization of it and the complaint that every year we allow Baby Jesus to languish in his crib, guess what? We're still a bunch of fucking idolators anyway.

Lifeway President Ed Stetzer, who is on the record that Christmas is an excellent time to prosthelytize, considers the poll results to be "alarming."

And yet, as we've discussed: It is the very secular and broadly inclusive nature of Christmas that once saved its life and in fact that brought this holiday to us. And, as I've argued here before, it's not actually we seculars who kick up the dust about an alleged "war" on "Christmas." I for one like Christmas just fine and would gladly have all Americans comfortable with "Merry Christmas" as a solstice greeting.

Look. When somebody sneezes I say “God bless you.” I don’t do so because I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will then appear from the vapors and will magically seal your pie hole so that demons won’t enter your bronchial system and cause you to shit mustard. I say it because I speak English. Because I’m an American. Because that’s what you say when a person sneezes.

So it is, or so it should be, with Christmas. But then you have these folks who insist on wringing hands in the public square about the Jesus Toddler, and that makes everyone act weird. I’m telling you, this national awkwardness about Christmas is the fault of the reason-for-the-season folks. Not us. We’re pretty much a live and let live crowd around here.

One more thought, and I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t help but have this cross my mind this morning. I couldn’t help but wonder: I wonder if these fellas are having a nice Christmas today…

Merry Christmas.

August 1, 2010

Who Remembers Judith Miller?

I am fairly certain that this Wikileaks hysteria is just … you know… hysteria. Nothing new has been revealed… at least not anything new to anyone who has been paying any attention at all in the last seven years. We learn that we are killing civilians, alienating the Afghans, fueling a corrupt government and losing the war. Has anyone thought otherwise? Clearly the government has an interest in whining about leaks in general, because the government has spent a lot of time and effort trying to control all the information we get from over there. No surprise the Obama wants to keep as many secrets as Busch… a disappointment, but not a surprise. The best debate in the whole thing is the discussion of who should get leaked stuff and who should not. The government says no one should get it. One New York Times reporter insisted that only members of the Fourth Estate should get access. That's a funny one. The argument is that the Fourth Estate is somehow superior to everyone, and eminently responsible, and would never publish anything that was contrary to our national security interests. They being all wise and smart and everything, we should just rely on the Fourth Estate to tell us what to believe. Just like we should rely on the Pope to talk to God for us. I suspect the Times Reporter has specific notions about who in the Fourth Estate is worthy of getting this swell assignment to have the hot story and protect the people, and I'm pretty sure they are not including anyone from Mother Jones in the mix. Still, the big joke is that the Times is the same institution that put it's imprimatur on the Iraq War by making credible the lies of the Busch monkeys. Thus, on the subject of information, I am a Calvinist. Give me the raw data and I will figure it out. I don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.

July 29, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Votes

It is fitting that on the day that The Howard Stern Show reveals the results of its I.Q. challenge (and it's neo-conservative douchebag Scott Depace by a point) that E.J. Dionnemustard asks:
Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?
Poor, unfortunate nail. You've been hit square on the head by Mr. Dionne. Go read it here. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Leftblogistan: Newshoggers on the bleak job market. Tom Tomorrow's Bizarro World looks mighty familiar... Russell King writes "an open letter to conservatives" that is so comprehensive that we may consider linking to it as a permanent resource. Yet another open letter from BlondeSense. Good news: Shirley's going to sue The Scum Breitbart. Alicia Morgan faces the Grayson. Rude Pundit spies a billboard...Kingfish is alive and well in sunny Louisiana. China's Growing Pains Want to know how obsessive tax cuts can affect an entity's finances? Look no further than Arizona.

July 27, 2010

Would the ADA Pass Today?

Jonathan Cohn asks this question in the New Republic. I says hell no it wouldn't. Cohn notes that the Act passed the Senate in July 1990 with a comfortable margin, passed the House on a fully unanimous voice vote, and was gladly signed by President George H.W. Bush. Can you imagine the rhetoric that would be employed to defeat it today? It would probably be pinned as a Commie-nist plot. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "Conservatives" are no longer conservatives. Barry Goldwater would have been tied up and body surfed out of the 2008 Republigloat Convention, and, as much as they uttered his name in reverence, Ronnie Raygun would be made to sit in a corner wearing a funny hat. These people are not conservatives. They are Bizarro-Utopian Anarchists.

The Bottom Line On Racism

I just wanna say this because it boggles my mind. Racism is more than just one guy calling another guy a bad name because of his hue. Racism is the power that insult hurled has because of the history and because of the institutionalization that makes that power possible. Racism is 400 years of black people allowed to be owned and another 100 years of black people allowed to be sorely mistreated. It's a society that would not allow black people to learn how to read, to dine with the rest of us, to worship with the rest of us, to live with the rest of us. These conditions did not happen between individual people. These conditions happened because powerful institutions colluded to make it so, on purpose. So here's the fact that I wish all people could understand about racism: Black people cannot be racists. Let me say this again in another way so that you might understand it better: If you are a black person in this country, you cannot possibly be a racist. Because when white people mount up with the armor of racism, it's a powerful mace indeed that they grasp, and it's one that no African-American can even reach out to touch. Sorry, white people, but "honky" just isn't drenched with hundreds of years of oppression and terror like that other word is. So. The next time you hear Buchanan or any of these other jive turkeys on the television, and they're accusing Shirley Sherrod—whom I am officially applying today to adopt as my third Grandma—or the NAACP or the Rev. Al Sharpton or whomever of being a "racist?" They're putting their stupid white foot into their stupid white mouth.

July 26, 2010

Profiles in Courage?

Recently one of the more familiar NPR voices whose name I can't remember honored Dan Schorr as a "courageous cranky monument to a courageous cranky profession. " I will give them that Dan Schorr was courageous and cranky and a monument to what journalism should be. Dan Schorr was hated by Noxin, shut out of Russia by Khrushchev, fired by CBS for leaking a document that CBS would not allow him to report about. His contract with CNN included a clause saying the company would not interfere with his reporting, and CNN put him aside and let the contract expire when they figured out what he really meant by that. Dan Schorr was courageous and cranky and a true hero to anyone who believes the Fourth Estate should be something more than a political tool or a trivial entertainment. Courageous and cranky. I will not give the shills at NPR the right to take the title for themselves or for any other journalist who has not specifically earned it… and there are damned few of them. Rachel Maddow, Ellen Smith, Helen Thomas, Eugene Robinson. The McClatchy newspapers deserve some credit for not caving in to common wisdom on Busch's phony Iraq war. There may be other honest and upright journalists out there, but they are rare. For every Dan Schorr there are a thousand Judith Miller's, willing to sell their soul to the high and mighty for an opportunity to get a front page byline and a mention on 60 minutes. Lies and deceit and bullshit bought and sold by the media have accounted for much of what might rightly be considered our decline. The Whitewater fraud could have been uncovered and exposed. Lazy reporters preferred to take crap they were fed and report it as gospel, even if it made no sense on its face. The real scandal of the Lewinski saga was not that the president got a blow job in his closet but that it was a part of a "vast right wing conspiracy" that was determined to cripple and destroy if possible a moderate presidency. It goes without saying that the fools in the press never seriously questioned the "elections" of The Moron George W. George Busch, never held Congress' feet to the fire on investigating his crimes, and only when it was so obvious the television camera could not miss it was there any serious discussion of his gross incompetence. No member of the Fourth Estate raised any fuss when one of their own bloviators built his reputation and his career on hatred of immigrants, even though most of his claims were false or wildly exaggerated. Bob Woodward wrote two worshipful books about The Moron before he discovered the winds of conventional wisdom were changing and wrote a third to correct the record. Although most press outlets have begun to admit up front that the President's Birth Certificate is real, many still maintain that there is a genuine issue raised there. The Press stood by and watched a brilliant and capable leader, Van Jones, get railroaded out of office by the right wing lie machine. Not one journalist ever investigated the record and came to his defense (neither did the Obama Administration.) The press always found false claims of voter fraud to be reasonable, especially when ACORN was involved, and accepted at face value Andrew Brightfart's lies about that most valuable and innocent organization. Now we have the spectacle of another of Brightfart's lies being accepted from coast to coast and costing an honorable public servant her job, all without a modicum of skepticism from the news media. Courageous my ass! Cowards and whores and mountebanks have only the courage of their ambition.

July 22, 2010

Watch and Laugh

A Special Special Comment

For a long time, our man Keith did everything he could to wear out his signature bit, the "special comment." I suspect that his handlers were impressed with the ratings they bore and egged him on, to the point where for a while he was making a nightly "quick comment." Either at that point, or at the point where he dedicated an entire hour to a "special comment" on health care reform, or at the point where it was nearly successfully lampooned by Ben Afleck on Saturday Night Live, the thing really jumped the shark. You've got to remember how awesome the original Special Comment was. We were in the throes of the stupidest war ever. And the Secretary of God-Damned Defense had just come out and said that anyone who disagreed with the administration's stance on this stupid war was somehow um, morally or intellectually confused. Keith tore the living hell out of that, and a star was born. Luckily, the K-Man has given the Special Comment a bit of a respite as of late, at least comparatively. That is the right move. That "Special Comment" logo should only be dragged out when you've written something truly inspiring about something that's truly and legitimately pissed you off, brother. How to tell when that occurs? You'll know it when you've written it. Like last night. I was concerned when the man started by comparing this Shirley Sherrod thing to the Dreyfus Affair. But man what the hell happened after that was really something. In case you missed it:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

He tears Fox "News" a new asshole of course, though he isn't dishonest about the thing; he agrees that media in general failed on the Sherrod incident. He also rips into the White House, as they deserve. The killer is the ending, which I'm not giving away for you. It's lovely. And of course, Howard K. Kurtz is in the fucking Washington Post today inexplicably apologizing for Fox "News." Kurtz claims that Fox "News" actually did its homework on this thing actually actually. Howie. Baby. We've seen the tape dude. Does Murdock sign your checks as well?

July 21, 2010

Nip It In The Bud, Bud

A lot of liberals are coming down pretty hard on the White House for its knee-jerk response to the Shirley Sherrod story. I agree with the criticism to a large extent. But I think the critiques do not consider a certain specific perspective. This is a President who was a candidate who in both capacities has seen too often the deleterious effect of a negative story that sprouts legs and walks on its own. The Rev. Wright story. The health care reform town halls. ACORN. This is also a White House that may be running on fumes regarding its own momentum, and yet one with a still ambitious political agenda. It may very well be a White House that doesn't want another damned story to sprout legs and start boogyin'. Little did the Administration know that at mid-afternoon, the tide would change completely on this story, that the farmers Sherrod helped all those years ago would do the decent thing and come swiftly to her defense. Who could have guessed such a thing would have happened? By day's end, all the air had been sucked out of that sucker and Ms. Sherrod was sitting pretty. Yes, for sure, the White House's reflex when it comes to this thing has become absurdly well-honed. The President's staff would do better when this shit hits the fan to take a step back and consider the source. Andrew Breitbart is not a legitimate news source and he probably farts a lot, and a ten minute Google search might have saved them the embarrassment of having to resolve things with Ms. Sherrod now. (Because they do have to do that now.) But. I can certainly understand the impulse. By the way. Three cheers to The Washington Post for successfully burying this story's lead all the way to friggin' China in this morning's edition. The story's resolution; the full context of Sherrod's story and the Spooners' dash to her defense, should have led that story, you numb-nuts, instead of appearing way in the last paragraphs. Shame on ya.


At 3:15, Congressman Grayson at last says what I previously said needs said. Senate Republigoats AND BEN NELSON fought long and hard to withhold munny from you that you've already paid in. Once again, Grayson kicks ass and takes names.